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You pays your money, you takes your choice… Fee charging education in Ireland. May 29, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Education, Irish Politics, Social Policy.
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We’ve been talking about public sector reform a bit here, and it’s an interesting discussion. Yet an area that would surely be well-served by reform would be the payment by the Irish state of teachers wages in fee-charging schools. The current debacle at Alexandra College where a Junior Cert student was ejected from the school – whatever the somewhat murky details which seem to be not entirely clear – points up a couple of realities about the nature of private education.

The Irish Times report is fascinating:

ALEXANDRA COLLEGE has moved to defend its controversial decision to remove a Junior Cert pupil over non-payment of fees.

The move came as the National Parents’ Council requested the immediate reinstatement of the pupil.

It also follows an RTÉ interview with the mother of the pupil in which she accused the school of using “Dickensian” and “very cut-throat” methods to victimise and humiliate her 14-year-old daughter in front of her classmates.

It continues:

Last night, the school refuted several of the charges made by the mother in the interview. It said it felt compelled to provide further clarification because of the parent’s decision to go public and the intense media interest.

The school said the the outstanding debt “spanned two academic years, and the college engaged in exhaustive exchanges and proposed a series of compromises to address the arrears of fees, with a genuine desire to reach a solution.

“Regrettably, we reached a situation in March where it became necessary to issue a final ultimatum that in the event of the successive proposals by the college to resolve the matter not being acted upon, it would be necessary to discontinue the provision of educational services.”

Fabulous… and what of that keyword in our contemporary societal climate – transparency?

The statement came after a special meeting of the governing school council last night.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill – who is the ex officio chair of the council – attended the meeting. The school yesterday refused to disclose the full membership of either its school council or its board of management.

But this is a new age, and where once such matters would have been concealed behind a deftly pulled curtain of silence where the child would have walked away with no further words the parent has, understandably, gone to a higher court of appeal than a School Council.

Enter the media!

The mother of the pupil – named only as “Marian” – was interviewed on 2FM’s Gerry Ryan Show on Tuesday.

The mother said she had attempted to make the payments on a phased basis but this was unacceptable to the school. She explained how she was separated and was coping with the collapse of her business. She claimed the school authorities handed her daughter bin bags and told her to “pack all her stuff and clear her locker out”.

Alexandra College begs to differ…

Last night, the college said it was “saddened to hear these serious allegations . . . which are far removed from the reality of what occurred.

“Media reports of how the pupil was removed from a class, that some teachers discussed her family’s financial situation with her and that she was asked to pack her belongings in a black plastic bag, are incorrect.

“Alexandra College regrets that the focus of its history, ethos and child-centred approach to education has been overshadowed by some recent media coverage of a fee issue that we held to be confidential.”

The student’s family owed in the region of €20,000. Annual fees for boarders are over €16,000. The school has stressed that the pupil will be allowed to return to sit her Junior Cert in Alexandra College next week.

Which is big of them, not least because by my rough calculation they’ve already gained the best part of €50,000 off the parent across three years.

Nor does it end there…

The National Parents Council post primary (NCPpp) asked that the student be reinstated “so she can sit the Junior Cert exam without undue stress”.

In particular and in the context of the Oireachtas Committee on Education the schools actions are a revelation. We’ve heard no end about the special ethos of the fee-charging sector, and in particular about the Protestant schools within that sector. This most certainly is an excellent insight into that ‘ethos’. It is indeed special. Very very special.

Actually, it’s interesting to compare and contrast with the statements at the Committee on Education, for example:

The trustees of Catholic fee-charging schools are very aware of their obligation to address the issue of inequality. Many different approaches have developed. Some schools have established bursaries and scholarship schemes which are available to support a percentage of children in the school. In addition, fee reduction and waiver schemes are in place to support families who find themselves falling on tough times.

And:

The vast majority of the intake of the schools with which I am familiar is of students from middle earning families. These include many public servants such as gardaí, teachers and nurses who would not be considered to be in the lower socioeconomic group by any means. However, if one or both partners lose their jobs, the couple will find it has a different economic status which would not have come to our attention on their application. This is now coming to our attention as they warn or forewarn us that they are in difficulty.
The 10% figure refers specifically to students who are in receipt of bursaries. An increasing percentage of them could be finding themselves at a disadvantage and may ostensibly appear to be reasonably well off. Perhaps that answers the questions.

Hmmm…

Actually one can go to the Alexandra College website and one will learn no end of fascinating things

In our Mission Statement, the purpose and the ethos of the College is clearly stated. We endeavour to remain true to that characteristic spirit in everything we do in the College.

Alexandra College is a private, all girls, secondary school with an enrolment of 620 students. It is also a boarding school with a capacity for 170 boarders.The diverse backgrounds and nationalities of the students creates a wonderful web of relationship which lasts a lifetime.

And what does the Mission Statement tell us?

Mission Statement
Alexandra College is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in
all areas of education. Our aim is to generate and maintain an
inclusive climate of learning within which every pupil is enabled
to develop and fulfil her own unique potential.
It is our hope that every student who leaves this College will
be equipped not only to make her own way in the world but
also to make her particular contribution to society and at the
same time to continue her lifelong learning process.
ETHOS:
From the Quaker inspiration of Anne Jellicoe who founded the
College, and from the Church of Ireland dedication which supported,
enabled and still maintains the foundation.
we have inherited our commitment:
• to learn to think independently
• to tolerate and value diversity
• to respect ourselves and each other, and
• to be responsible for ourselves and to society
We aspire to fulfill this commitment by fostering an atmosphere
of respect, understanding and encouragement between
all who teach, work and learn in the College, so that the development
and contribution of every individual can be acknowledged,
and all can work together to benefit personal
growth and the common good.

The Alexandra College Association Constitution is also a good, if remarkably short, read:

AIMS
MEMBERSHIP
SUBSCRIPTIONS
COMMITTEE
The association is to be called the Alexandra College Association
of Parents and Teachers
1. To promote and develop the aims of Alexandra College.
2. To promote and develop communication and dialogue between
parents, teachers and Board of Management.
3. To provide representation on committees and a channel of
communication with the Board of Management.
4. To support the Principal, Deputy Principal and teaching staff in
the provision of a high standard of educational, intellectual and
social development for the pupils of the college.
5. To support the Board of Management in the provision of
educational facilities of a high standard.
6. To promote student welfare.

One will also read in the “History” section that:

Alexandra College was founded in 1866 to give a new sense of purpose to the education of young middle-class ladies in Ireland. The prevailing system did not provide young ladies with any opportunities for real academic involvement; nor did it prepare them for any engagement in public, social or academic affairs.

Educating women for a domestic role was regarded at the time as the essential objective of a “good” educational system. The system was largely in the hand of governesses who themselves lacked a grounding in mathematics, history, classics and philosophy.

Anne Jellicoe decided to address that inadequacy and put right the prevailing inequality against women. Her first idea was to open a College to educate governesses. This gave way to wider plan to provide a liberal education for young ladies that would sharpen their academic consciousness, and encourage them to take up ideas and issues that exercised the minds of the thinking men of the time!

….

Laudably honest in its position on social class – eh?

And not a word about such unpleasantness as the ability to pay the fees across the educational lifetime of an individual student. Or, indeed, what happens if a family falls on hard times.

I’m genuinely sorry for the girl at the centre of this but on one level it is difficult not to feel that, hard-hearted as it may appear to be, the school is entirely within its rights to eject her, whatever the details. These are fee-charging institutions. They make no pretence that they’re in this for love. No indeed. It’s money. Otherwise why charge the fees?

And we could also argue that the plight of the mother, now separated and ‘coping with the collapse of her business’ is nothing more than a contemporary morality tale. After all, no-one forced her to send her child to the school. This was her exercising her ‘choice’, a choice that was possible to her and not to many many others because she had the disposable income at the time to spend on education.

And in that context one could reasonably ask of the mother, what else did she expect? When education becomes a commodity, to be bought and sold, then it is entirely contingent on the ability of a purchaser to have the wherewithal to purchase.

That said, it’s a tad more complex than that. Justice would suggest that a child should sit her exams without stresses and Alexandra College has, as best one can judge from the reports handled this with a degree of sensitivity so lacking in common sense that you can only gaze in awe from the sidelines.

Beyond that though, the fee-charging schools, as seen at the Committee, make strenuous efforts to avoid any implication that pecuniary matters are at the heart of what is essentially a transaction – heaven forfend! It’s a service they provide, a service that is – so they imply – undifferentiated to that available elsewhere in the education system. Indeed this service is a vital additional element, although how and in what respect is never clearly articulated.

But our present woes are throwing up some of the contradictions in this stance. Here, after all, is a young child whose educational future, once so bright, is now clouded by the possibility that she will no longer attend a fee-charging institution. Now, if everything elsewhere is so rosy, if there is no particularly differentiation, other than – perhaps – some near intangible ‘cultural’ aspect one could reasonably enquire as to why … by the way, why am I slipping into a near 19th century style of ironic communication – it’s going to be prithee this and prithee that next… the parent is so exercised. Sure, her child will miss Alexandra College, but there’s a whole voluntary non-fee charging secondary sector out there to explore.

This is going to happen again and again and again, and a telling point made in the Irish Independent some years ago reveals some of the problems that lie ahead:

Enrolment at fee-paying schools has risen since the abolition of third-level fees, with parents who had previously set aside funds for college ploughing the money back into their children’s education at second-level.

Figures released by the Department of Education last year showed that the number of new pupils in south Dublin’s state schools had declined whilst enrolment in the area’s fee-paying schools had steadily risen.

As I say, I understand entirely the motivation that parents, any parent, brings to the feast as regards education. The wish for them to do as well or better is very powerful indeed and can overwhelm rationality (after all, €20,000 for a years fees? Precisely what sort of outcomes is that going to ‘guarantee’, even in the more nebulous area of social standing?). Parents often have been to the institutions they put their children through, there’s an acculturation process there.

But I have the feeling that just as with housing – and Conor of Dublin Opinion made this point elsewhere, that there is a delusion that people can essentially ‘bet the house’ on the market – the idea that it is possible to ‘invest’ on an individual basis in education and the facile idea that we – or those who can afford to – can all make ‘choices’ that have no down-side is being superseded by events.

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Comments»

1. Hugh Green - May 29, 2009

I posted my own thoughts on this on my site. http://tr.im/mLEf

David Quinn has an interesting declaration on ‘ethos’ in today’s Independent. He says:

Ludicrously, some politicians are even using the Ryan Report as an excuse to try to change the Employment Equality Act which quite rightly allows denominational schools not to employ teachers who don’t believe in their ethos. The Church of Ireland was among those who campaigned for that exemption. Doesn’t that count for anything?

I’ve always been very suspicious of the use of the word ‘ethos’ in the context of educational institutions. It tends to get brandished most by those institutions intent on excluding some group (children of the opposite sex, working class children, children of a different religion). The schools cite this ‘ethos’ as though it were an expression of some universal set of liberal, loving principles, albeit with sometimes with a religious grounding, when in fact it is all to do with particular, private interest.

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2. alastair - May 29, 2009

These are fee-charging institutions. They make no pretence that they’re in this for love. No indeed. It’s money. Otherwise why charge the fees?

I never attended a fee-paying school, but I doubt that many of the staff would have shown up if their wages were taken away from them. Alexandra College (like most of the fee-paying schools) pre-dates any provision for state-funded education, and at some stage were presumably faced with the option of shutting up shop because they were no longer needed, or keep keeping on a fee-paying basis.
Unless there’s evidence that there’s undue profiteering at play, that it’s about the money shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone – that’s what keeps the place open and operating.

16 grand per annum each from 160 boarders doesn’t seem like crazy money if you’ve a decent school to run (though I wouldn’t buy into it myself).

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3. Garibaldy - May 29, 2009

Doesn’t state primary provision stem from the 1830s? I’ve no idea if Alexandra college has always been secondary, or included/includes primary education.

It’s clear that the school acted in a ham-fisted and inhumane way, but that it was also within its rights. WBS is right. The main problem here is that education is a paid-for service, with all the rules that that implies. Personally, while I have sympathy for the child I have no sympathy for aspiring parents who send their children to private schools and then find out they’ve over-stretched themselves. And it’s a bit rich of them to demand public sympathy when this happens.

You see this a lot in the British broadsheets, along with complaints about discrimination against public schools. Recently Durham came under attack for operating a points system. My favourite quote on this issue came from parents who complained that they spent £250,000 on private education, and that discrimination meant there was no guarantee of a place at Oxbridge. My heart fucking bleeds.

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4. Crocodile - May 29, 2009

Not often I line up with David Quinn, or even Alastair, but here goes. My mother suffered so much at the hands of the nuns that she swore no child of hers would go to a school run by the RCC, even if this meant paying fees to one run by the Church of Ireland – which it did. This is where ethos does mean something: nobody laid a finger on me in six years of secondary school and I have nothing but positive memories.That’s why I worried when the Adelaide was being merged into Tallaght and that’s why I don’t like the idea of the new super children’s hospital being run by The Sisters of Mercy. It’s not ethos that’s the problem – it’s particular ethoses, if there’s such a word.
And of course Alastair is right in that schools like Alexandra, however naive their approach to PR,don’t make a profit and have no capacity to carry bad debt. Nor does the fee income pay the teachers. Every business has a percentage of customers who are bad payers and in a recession I’m sure that people pay school fees last, on the principle of ‘hit me now ,with the baby in me arms’.

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5. Fergal - May 29, 2009

Crocodile,
Interesting take on the topic.Would your mam have sent you to a secular state school that didn’t batter children if one existed?This is what parensts tend to do;look out for their children.
Hugh,
The Employment Equality Act allows schools not to employ teachers who don’t follow their ethos?Who pays the teachers,even in so called private schools,it’s the taxpayer through the Dept. of education.Surely it should decide?
Garibaldy,
My “fucking heart bleeds” for those parents too but so does my wallet to finance confessional/religious/sectarian tripe.I

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6. Garibaldy - May 29, 2009

Crocodile,

When did the culture of beatings stop? It was gone by the time I was at school (in the north). Corporal punishment was still legal when I was at primary school, but not for the whole time. So I remember the strap etc, but it was hardly ever used.

Fergal,

Mine does too. Which is one of the reasons why I’d happily ban religious schooling. Alliance reckons separate provision of public services due to sectarianism costs £1bn per annum in the north. Outrageous.

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7. Hugh Green - May 29, 2009

Crocodile:

It’s not ethos that’s the problem – it’s particular ethoses, if there’s such a word.

Fine. I guess that then raises the question as to why the state should be providing funding for schools subscribing to all types of different ethos(es?). That is, shouldn’t the basic legislation on education make all the necessary provisions so that ethos becomes superfluous, the sort of thing for morning assembly, rather than a basis for pleading all manner of exceptional circumstances?

Fergal,

I had no idea schools could refuse to employ someone who does not ‘believe in’ the school’s ethos, as Quinn puts it. I agree that the state should determine suitability criteria. And at any rate, in many cases even the people who run the schools themselves do not ‘believe in’ the school’s stated ethos, cf. Christian Brothers.

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8. Crocodile - May 29, 2009

I was a sixties kid and got no corporal punishment after primary school, though I think it wasn’t outlawed in the republic until 1982. We lived in the countryside and there wasn’t a school within commuting distance – in the county, actually – that wasn’t run by the RCC.My mother left school 60 years ago and still crosses the street if she sees a nun coming – though they’re less easy to recognise these days.
Funnily enough, one of her best friends went to Africa as a missionary nun and they corresponded for many years. It was the institution, not the individuals. It always is. That’s why ethos does mean something and is not just exclusive.

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9. Garibaldy - May 29, 2009

I think that for corporal punishment, it’s the institution (although it’s hardly like 60 years ago that beatings weren;t common everywhere on these islands). On the sex abuse, I think it’s individuals with pathologies facilitated by the institution covering things up.

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10. Fergal - May 29, 2009

Garibaldy,
You could always let the religious pay for their schools in full,that way they might actually go bankrupt!Banning them might give them ammunition from a civil liberties point of view.The religious could also pay some retrospective monies towards the decades paid for out of state money.Then a universal system of secular education could be launched.
The religious are very good at spinning myths especially in education.
I’m open to correction here but I think the hedge schools didn’t teach religion.This form of popular education while not necessarily “republican”(in the Tone sense of the word)wasn’t particularly loyal to the crown,so what happens?National schools arrive in Ireland first as a guinea pig for what was then the rest of the UK but also to indoctinate the natives, to get rid of any subversive leanings,a system that is welcomed by all churches.They’re so good at brainwashing that thousands of Dubs line the streets to see Queen Victoria!
Another myth is that the religious helped working class suburbs in Dublin get secondary schools with O’Malley’s “free” education”The snag here is that these schools predated O Malley’s scheme by 10 to 12 years.Areas like Crumlin,Clondalkin had secondary schools built in the 50s for the local middle class and not the the “great unwashed” who turned up en masse after 1967.And so on!

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11. Crocodile - May 29, 2009

‘Then a universal system of secular education could be launched’.
If only. This state is not interested in universal systems of anything.

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12. Garibaldy - May 29, 2009

Fergal,

I still prefer banning them. The French model (or the French model in theory) seems to me to be the way forward. Only the state should provide education, and the state should be completely secular and separate from religion. North and south.

I’d agree with your characterisation of the national schools. And with Crocodile’s lament for the southern state. Not even interested in having everyone pay the taxes they are liable for. What sort of state is that?

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13. sonofstan - May 29, 2009

I have a certain sympathy with Crocodile and/ or his mum: I too swore that no child of mine was going near a Catholic school – we were lucky in that, living where we do in the NIC, we had an Educate Together primary school and a free. nominally C of I, but in practice non-denominational comprehensive within commuting distance for our (singular) offspring. I wonder, though, what we would have done if we lived almost anywhere else in the country? Which do we hate more, private education or Catholic education?

What we wanted of course, is precisely what this state should, but won’t provide; free, non- religious state schools.

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14. Fergal - May 29, 2009

Gairbaldy,
I agree,the French model of totally separating church and state seems the most logical and sensible.One thing that was often not mentioned during the Islamic veil affair was that the ban included all “ostentatious” signs of religion in state schools,including Christian,Jewish ones etc.This is what actually happens-a good friend of mine teaches in France and reminds any child with a crucifix on his neck that “this is a school not a place of worship”.I remember another friend commenting that France had a tiny Jewish population so the law didn’t really apply!Appartently France has one of the largest Jewish populations outside if Israel and the US(600,000).
“what sort of state is that”- one that licks up to the boss class while running a quasi theocratic state-Connolly’s carnival of reaction.
Isn’t this something that all strands of the Left,north and south,could fight for..secular education.The thing is, what do the “people” want?
To what extent is the religious provision of education in the north the outworking of British multiculturalism?Schools for all religions(except atheists)and who cares if kids of different religions never share any neutral ground..all this on top of class differences

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15. Garibaldy - May 29, 2009

You would think that all self-defined left parties could unite behind secular education Fergal. But one need only look at the actions of the parties in the north to see that that is not the case. Can’t see Irish Labour doing anything about it either, nor any of the Dáil parties. The mantra of parental choice is the cloak to hide behind.

In the north, the reality is people like religious education. It long predates multi-culturalism – which again is bollocks. Assimilation is key, and the British don’t aim at that. So there are major obstacles to all of this, north and south alas.

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16. Fergal - May 29, 2009

Garibaldy,
pretty depressing stuff all the same but there’s always hope.In the south those who are atheists/non religious are the fastest single growing group according to the most recent census.I would imagine(hope!)the same is probably true in the north?
There are integrated schools up north and what’s called Educate Together in the south.Do these schools teach religion? because this is my bugbear, any form of religious instruction from mad Christian brothers to lovey dovey New Age Hindous has nothing to do with education and should only be dealt with in History/Art or Science Fiction classes.

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17. sonofstan - May 29, 2009

There are integrated schools up north and what’s called Educate Together in the south.Do these schools teach religion? because this is my bugbear, any form of religious instruction from mad Christian brothers to lovey dovey New Age Hindous has nothing to do with education and should only be dealt with in History/Art or Science Fiction classes.

from my daughter’s experience in an ET school, there was a little bit of comparative religious studies, but a homeopathic dose. Sometimes I slightly regret the fact that she is so ignorant of xianity – just in terms of getting literary or historical references.

Weirdly, they had so many trips to IMMA, and so much ‘Art’ in so many forms that she has a grudge against the visual arts and associated ideology that nearly matches my grudge against the whore of Babylon…..

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18. Garibaldy - May 29, 2009

Fergal,

You have to remember that atheists are awarded a religion in the census on the basis of address and name. Schools are used in job applications.

All UK students do religion until GCSE level (up to 16). There is also legislation for an act of worship every day, but it is overwhelmingly ignored. I agree that religious education in schools should be banned. It’s up to each religion to provide its own education separate to that from the stae in my opinion.

I sympathise with SonofStan’s point about cultural references, although the same could be said for Latin and Greek etc. I also sympathise with his daughter. I’d rather be dragged to mass than IMMA.

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19. Fergal - May 29, 2009

Sonofstan-As the fascinating Ivan Ilich put it, maybe the really worthwhile things are learned outside of schools and not in them.I’m sure your daughter will learn about the old Xianity if she wants to!

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20. Fergal - May 29, 2009

Illich even!

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21. WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2009

Crocodile, I fully appreciate your parents rationale, and I think it’s very reasonable (although I’m guessing you didn’t got to Alexandra C – or maybe you did!). That said, I’d wonder how many people in the contemporary period would feel it necessary to do likewise, corporal punishment is now a thing of the past, there is a larger number of alternatives, etc.

Given my choice I’d shut the whole rotten system down and restart on a universal/secular basis… There is an argument that the VEC is not too far from that, albeit the schools remain with St’s names. Indeed I know from personal experience of how staff at one in the quite recent past wanted the name changed to Connolly and met with some resistance.

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22. Crocodile - May 29, 2009

you’re right, WbyS, Alex’s discriminatory entry policy ruled me out – being a bloke and that – but then the fees would have too.
I’d start again from scratch, too, but since that’s not going to happen I suggest mildly that there are all sorts of fee-charging schools, and that we recognise a media Aunt sally when we see one.The Gerry Ryan show? Now there’s a way to humiliate your child.

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23. WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2009

:) Re Alex’s discriminatory entry policy!

Yeah, that’s a good point re the GR show…

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24. Conor McCabe - June 1, 2009

Re: comment 2: “Alexandra College (like most of the fee-paying schools) pre-dates any provision for state-funded education”

Leaving a comment to point out that this is wrong, is a bit like leaving a comment to point out that the world is not actually flat, but there you go.

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25. Garibaldy - June 1, 2009

Conor,

say something with enough conviction and people will believe it though, right?

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26. alastair - June 1, 2009

Leaving a comment to point out that this is wrong, is a bit like leaving a comment to point out that the world is not actually flat, but there you go.

Do you know when state-funded secondary education began in this country? 1878- and then only to a very limited degree. That’s 12 years after Alexandra College opened it’s doors, 18 year after Blackrock opened, 46 years after Belvedere opened, etc etc.

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27. alastair - June 1, 2009

say something with enough conviction and people will believe it though, right?

Alternatively, you could just check for yourself.

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28. Garibaldy - June 1, 2009

Shame you said state funded education and not state funded secondary education then isn’t it Alastair?

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29. alastair - June 1, 2009

Pedantry isn’t really getting the point. The schools provided a service ahead of state subvention. That’s just the facts of the matter. Some of them predate primary state subvention too, if you really insist.

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30. Garibaldy - June 1, 2009

You’re not above getting into specifics yourself Alastair. Pre-public education, nearly all schools were fee-paying, from hedge schools to institutions for the offspring of the elite. So what?

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31. Conor McCabe - June 1, 2009

True. Fee-paying schools such as Alexandra College simply couldn’t survive without state funding. But then, neither could Ireland’s private health care system, or Ireland’s private pensions schemes, and so on and so on. But all these free-marketeers like to make out that they’re some kind of breed of rugged individualists who “take risks” and are “more efficient” than the so-called state sector. Yeah? Well stop taking our fucking money then, see how that works out for you.

Part of this myth-building of course is the Run Burgundy school of historical TRUTH! which slops about this mush about private enterprise leading some quarantined existence from the State and State funding. Absolute bollicks. Anyone can turn lemons into lemonade when the tables and glasses are provided for free.

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32. alastair - June 1, 2009

So what?

So – the earth isn’t quite so flat.

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33. Garibaldy - June 1, 2009

ah ok. more sort of slightly curved

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34. Conor McCabe - June 1, 2009

Re: comment 26: “Do you know when state-funded secondary education began in this country? 1878- and then only to a very limited degree. That’s 12 years after Alexandra College opened it’s doors, 18 year after Blackrock opened, 46 years after Belvedere opened, etc etc.”

Re: comment 29: “Pedantry isn’t really getting the point. The schools provided a service ahead of state subvention. That’s just the facts of the matter. Some of them predate primary state subvention too, if you really insist.”

I don’t know where to start with these. Alastair, you really, really need to sit down and read up on the Irish education system of the nineteenth century. you’re taking a 21st century educational structure and slapping it over a nineteenth century reality. Also, the argument you are putting forward, that Irish education in the nineteenth century was driven by supply and demand – i.e. “The schools provided a service ahead of state subvention. That’s just the facts of the matter” – reveals a profound ignorance of the development of the Irish educational system in the nineteenth century, the forces that shaped it, and the methodologies and philosophies behind it.

Of course, you don’t have to know the history of Irish education – it’s not a requirement in everyday life – but you definitely need to go at least SOMETHING about it if you’re going to start using that history to make your point. Normally I try to avoid “flat-earth “debates”, but you seem so confident that you know what you are talking about – “that’s just the facts of the matter” – when really your comments are up there with Gillian McKeith prodding for inflamed intestines.

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35. alastair - July 14, 2009

Alastair, you really, really need to sit down and read up on the Irish education system of the nineteenth century. you’re taking a 21st century educational structure and slapping it over a nineteenth century reality.

Nope – I’m pointing out that, contrary to your claim, Alexandra College (like most of the fee-paying schools) pre-dates any provision for state-funded education. The reality of all education (state sponsered or private), in 1878 was of a nineteeth century system, it being the, eh, nineteeth century and all.

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36. WorldbyStorm - July 14, 2009

But Alexandra College isn’t equivalent to ‘state education’, is it?

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37. alastair - July 14, 2009

No – but then state funded education isn’t the same as it was when it was introduced either. Education has moved on for both the privately and publically-funded schools. Teaching was effectively co-opted into a state-funded system for all after a time in any case.

My point was that the private schools were educating kids before state-subvention, and were faced with the choice of shutting up shop or continuing to do so once a state-funded alternative appeared. Nothing more.

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38. Conor McCabe - July 14, 2009

“Nope – I’m pointing out that, contrary to your claim, Alexandra College (like most of the fee-paying schools) pre-dates any provision for state-funded education.”

That’s just idiotic. Six weeks later, and you haven’t even bothered to read up on the subject. It’s one thing not to know the facts, but to persist in ignorance of them is simply moronic.

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39. alastair - July 14, 2009

That’s just idiotic. Six weeks later, and you haven’t even bothered to read up on the subject. It’s one thing not to know the facts, but to persist in ignorance of them is simply moronic.

Is there an actual point amongst the name-calling? Can you deny that the private schools in question were operating ahead of the provision of state-funded secondary, and in some cases primary education, or not? If not, then what’s your problem?

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40. WorldbyStorm - July 14, 2009

I think that’s a very benign interpretation of it alastair. Education was/is a class issue, social pressures generated a demand amongst those who would never send their children to state schooling, etc. They certainly weren’t an alternative to or for the vast majority of children. Nor was state funded education an ‘alternative’ to them in any meaningful sense, again because those who used them wouldn’t want their kids to be educated by the state.

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41. alastair - July 14, 2009

They certainly weren’t an alternative to or for the vast majority of children.

True. But I didn’t claim they were. Obviously their costs limited access.

Nor was state funded education an ‘alternative’ to them in any meaningful sense, again because those who used them wouldn’t want their kids to be educated by the state.

I’m not so sure of this. Are you saying that those who couldn’t afford access to private schools didn’t see state-funded schools as an alternative (in a very meaningful sense)? And the two strands of schooling evolved into essentially the same contents in two different packages over time.

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42. Conor McCabe - July 14, 2009

Alistar, you’ve already rejected the points I’ve made with a “rhubarb rhubard rhubarb” response – i.e blandly repeating the same uninformed nonsense about government funding and state-funded “secondary” schools – and you’ve rejected the reason why I would put “secondary” in inverted commas, which is that to talk about “secondary” schools in the nineteenth century as “secondary” as you mean it with your linear view of history and schooling, is an anachronism, and any attempt I’ve made to point this out to you has also been rejected with another “rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb” response.

You have no idea of the complex situation regarding schools and “funding” in the nineteenth century, the purpose of schools and of your “secondary” schools, of why the “private sector” as you call it agitated for funding for so-called “secondary” schools because of the demise of career civil service subjects for the Empire within the national school system, the role of religion and nationalism in the Irish education system, the pursuit of a state-funded national school system from the 1830s onwards as an act of identity formation on the part of the nationalists, and appeasement on the part of central government – all of this you have no idea about, and you have shown that you simply don’t care about even finding out about any of this

Man, you’ve GOT to be baiting.

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43. Conor McCabe - July 14, 2009

“Can you deny that the private schools in question were operating ahead of the provision of state-funded secondary, and in some cases primary education, or not? If not, then what’s your problem?”

What’s so funny about this is the fact that you do not see what is wrong with it.

I take it back. You are not baiting.

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44. alastair - July 15, 2009

Man, you’ve GOT to be baiting.

I’ll take that as a no then.

Glad to see we’re both agreed that the private schools predate state-funded schools.

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45. alastair - July 15, 2009

I’ll go out on a limb and assume that “funding”, “secondary” and “the private sector” are closely related to funding, secondary and the private sector. Is that “alright” “Conor”?

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