Fee-paying schools have seen a growth in the number of students this year, in a context of still strong demand for places.
almost half of the schools have increased their fees for the current year as a result of the competition.
Although the fee increases have been modest, they reflect a buoyant market for private education.
Overall, enrollment in 50 fee-paying secondary schools across the country increased to 26,706 in 2021/22 – against 26,018 last year, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Education.
Three years ago, registrations in this sector stood at 25,403.
Most of this year’s fee increases are for schools in the affluent southern suburb of Dublin, which has the highest concentration of private schools.
The industry was hit in the financial crash ten years ago, but has steadily recovered. Many parents with the resources are willing to pay for perks that money can buy, such as smaller class sizes and, often, a greater choice of high-class subjects and sports facilities.
Many also appreciate what they see as the benefits of social networking of sending their child to schools traditionally dominated by families in elite professions.
While domestic demand is strong, many schools are also enrolling growing numbers of international students, a trend accelerated by Brexit.
Although enrollment is on the rise, compared to the current growth in the number of secondary school pupils in general, the proportion attending fee-paying schools is declining. Many schools are at or near capacity, but the competition for places is evident in the application data released by schools under recent admissions legislation.
At Gonzaga College, which costs € 6,600 per year, in South Dublin, there were 252 applications for 96 freshman places in 2021/22.