How much does private secondary school cost in Ireland in 2023?

Whether your children are in primarysecondary or third level education, chances are you are counting the costs. If you have children in private school, then you have an additional expense which we will focus on in this article.

Since 2018, Zurich has carried out in depth research into the cost of education in Ireland. During those six years we have amassed a large volume of data on the cost of primary, secondary and college education in Ireland, and each year, we have provided valuable insights for parents to help them plan and save for their children’s education.

We also provide parents with useful calculators to help them work out the cost of secondary school and college education, and this year we updated our cost of secondary school calculator to include the additional expense if sending children to private school.

In this article we are going to cover: 

  1. Understanding the private secondary schools sector in Ireland.
  2. Type of fees and expenses.
  3. What is affecting the school fees?
  4. Average private secondary school fees.
  5. The costs of private secondary schools in 2023.
  6. Planning and budgeting

Understanding the private secondary schools sector in Ireland

There are around 50 private or fee-paying secondary schools in Ireland, with more than 28,000 students attending these schools*.

Fees can vary from school to school but can be a considerable expense for parents each year in addition to the cost of things like grinds, books, uniforms and transport.

The Irish Independent detail the cost of sending a child to a fee-paying school and found that this expense has risen for many parents. They also highlight that the most expensive private day school in the country is St Columba’s, in Rathfarnham, Dublin, where fees are €9,632, up from €9,147 last year**.

Demand for places in private fee-paying schools remains high and parents are motivated by a number of factors when deciding to send their children to private schools in Ireland. For some parents the appeal of different teaching approaches, more variety when it comes to specialist subjects and smaller class sizes are the main draws. For others it is due to them having attended a specific private school themselves and now they want their own children to attend the same school. A major factor however for parents is that private tutored students have a high rate of progression to university, and in particular for high Central Applications Office (CAO) point courses such as medicine.

Type of fees and expenses

As mentioned, the fees for private schools can vary ranging from €4,000 to over €9,000. But this isn’t the only cost when sending a child to a fee-paying secondary school in Ireland.

The Zurich Cost of Education Survey 2023*** highlights other secondary school expenses parents can expect to pay. Here's a list of expenses you can expect to pay each year and the lifetime cost of putting just one child through secondary education.

The highest spend items for parents with children in secondary school are grinds (€929), lunches (€452), books (€393) and transport (€352). Zurich's Cost of Education report also finds that in order to fund their children's education, 28% of parents have taken out a loan to help pay for their child’s/ children’s secondary school costs, and that is up 9% on last year’s figure.

What is affecting the school fees?

There are a number of factors that dictate how much fee-paying schools charge each year for attending students. An obvious one is the school’s reputation. If a particular school is reputable then it can charge higher fees. The location of the school, the facilities and specialist subjects on offer can also be other factors that drive up fees. Private schools are also being impacted by inflation, and this could be another reason why fees have gone up in the last number of years.

Planning and budgeting ahead

The good news is there are some measures parents can take to reduce the cost of sending their children to secondary school, such as providing packed lunches, walking to school and availing of book rental schemes. Other solutions to minimising the financial burden of children's education is early planning and financial saving.

Looking specifically at parents' saving behaviour, the Zurich Cost of Education research found that parents that have a savings account say their top saving priority is to cover their children's education costs. 

With the cost of education increasing year-on-year, it makes sense to plan ahead and build up your savings. With a Regular Savings plan you can gradually build up the funds necessary to successfully support your children's education.

The table below illustrates just how much regular savings can grow with a Zurich LifeSave Savings Plus plan. For example, if you saved the Government child benefit of €140 per month for five years (as of July 2023) from when your child was born, by the time they started school you could have built up savings of €8,784 in time to fund this crucial stage in their education.




Regular contributions of €140 per month into the Prisma 4 fund*



Lump sum of €10,000 and regular contributions of €140 per month into the Prisma 4 fund*



*A gross investment return of 4.6% per annum is assumed for the 5 year savings fund and 4.6% per annum for the 12 year savings fund in the Prisma 4 fund. We have assumed that on death, encashment, partial encashment or assignment of the policy or on each 8th policy anniversary, tax is deduced on the gains made at the current rate of taxation, being 41%. A government insurance levy (currently 1% as at September 2023 and may change in the future) applies to this policy. The contribution amounts above are inclusive of this levy. No surrender penalties apply. An annual management charge of 1.35% and an allocation rate of 101% apply. The information contained herein is based on Zurich Life's understanding of current Revenue practice as of September 2023 and may change in the future.

Calculating the costs

Our Cost of Secondary School Calculators are useful tools to help you work out how much you need to save to cover  the costs of putting children through secondary school and then on into college. 



** Irish Independent

***Zurich Cost of Education Survey 2023

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