BISHOP Michael Burrows has welcomed the announcement that Kilkenny College will stop charging tuition fees from September.
The college, which is the largest and one of the oldest boarding schools in the country, made the decision following lengthy talks with the Department of Education and Skills. From September, the college will cease to charge fees for tuition although it will continue to
charge students for the cost of boarding.
“Kilkenny College has had a long and close association with the diocese of Cashel Ossory and Ferns whose young people it largely exists to serve. As Bishop of the diocese I welcome the imaginative and careful work which has led to this announcement. The future of the college as
an accessible place offering a broad curriculum which permits every student to realise their full potential has been safeguarded. I would want to pay tribute to Minister Ruairi Quinn and his officials who have worked tirelessly with representatives of the college to bring us to this point.
Kilkenny College will enter a new chapter strengthened in its commitment to excellence in the education of Christian citizens,” said Bishop Michael Burrows.
From the start of the new school year, Kilkenny College will receive all state grants which are given to schools in the free scheme and will be eligible to apply for building grants. Teaching salaries will become the responsibility of the state. Notification of the new boarding charge
which will cover all services and activities will be issued in the normal way after Easter. Boarders remain eligible for the grants to help with this charge. Day pupils will not have a tuition fee. As in other schools, charges will remain for the very extensive and growing optional range
of after school programmes, meals and travel.
The agreement between Kilkenny College and the Department of Education recognises the distinctive Church of Ireland ethos of Kilkenny College which is under the patronage of the Incorporated Society for Promoting Protestant Schools in Ireland. The governance and
management structure of the school will remain the same. This agreement secures the long term future and traditions of our College as it works towards its quincentenary.
Headmaster Mr. Ian Coombes confirmed that the announcement would not affect staffing levels at the school. “Most significantly our staff are retained to continue developing the broad curricular and extra-curricular range while access for pupils will be greatly enhanced by
the reduction in charges,” he said.
“The new understanding with the Department of Education and Skills is one of the most significant and positive developments in the long history of Kilkenny College. “It enables us to press ahead with curricular developments and our building development plans. It allows us to
maintain and add to the team of people whose skill, experience and dedication contribute so much to the success and happiness of our pupils,” Mr. Coombes added.
Protestant fee-charging schools have been excluded from the benefits of the free education scheme since 2008. That resulted in a withdrawal of support and building grants and an ever reducing allocation of teachers. Kilkenny College set up a strategy group to plan for the future in
2010. Although fees have been maintained at 2008 levels, falling incomes and rising taxes has made it increasingly difficult for families to send their children to the only Church of Ireland secondary school in Kilkenny and the South-East.
In a statement issued by the college it said that their priority has always been to provide affordable access to a high quality education to Protestant and other families who choose their ethos and approach. “To do this, the college have striven to maintain a broad curriculum to the highest academic standards along with a high level of pastoral care and a vibrant extracurricular programme delivered by experienced staff. The agreement reached after very detailed negotiations over many months, enables the College to fulfil these objectives,” concluded the statement.