Readers of the Irish Times may have picked up an amicable exchange between a Governor of The King’s Hospital school and Ivan Hammond, Chairman of Belvedere Social Services. Ian French, defending Protestant schools from the label of elitism, protested that nearly 10% of their pupils receive a means-tested Government grant. Ivan congratulated Ian on his success in getting such a grant, and explained that Belvedere, in order to offer similar scholarships to the 10% of its pupils from disadvantaged families, has no such government grant and has to raise over half a million euro a year to fund the scheme. Read his letter below:
Madam, I congratulate Ian French, governor of the The King’s Hospital, for having a scheme where 10% of the school’s pupils from less well-off families are funded by a means-tested Government grant which was available to Protestant schools. This contrasts with fee-paying Catholic schools which wish to do exactly the same. Take for example Belvedere College S.J., where 10% of the pupils are also from disadvantaged families, but in contrast the school has to raise over half a million euro per annum to fund the scholarship scheme. However although this is not easy, especially at present, it does help to satisfy the school’s programme for social justice and enables these pupils to advance equally with their fee-paying colleagues to third-level education. I am pleased that the Government has restored free third-level education because this will enable these scholarship pupils to continue their education, which they would not be able to do if this grant was removed. However I feel it should be means-tested so that more can be given to those who need it most. Ivan Hammond.