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‘Significant sacrifices’: Private school parents worry about high fees

APC President Shelley Hill said the results showed the private sector was more sensitive to funding changes than many people realised.


“Higher than expected fee rises would have an enormous impact on hundreds of thousands of families, who have chosen to send their children to non-government schools, and put enormous pressure on government schools,” she said.

All schools in Australia are having their funding adjusted over the next decade according to a cross-sector, needs-based formula introduced under the Gonski reforms, known as the Schooling Resource Standard.

Private schools will be brought to 100 per cent of the School Resourcing Standard and state schools to 95 per cent by 2029. The deadline was originally 2027, but was extended in the recent deal between the federal and state governments.

Public schools are under-funded, but many non-government schools are over-funded and will lose money. A recent report from the NSW Teachers Federation found 30 of the state’s highest-fee private schools were being over-funded by $1 million and $7 million each in 2018.

Parents who responded to the survey were concerned about the fairness of the funding changes. “From parents’ perspectives, are they getting a fair slice of the government dollar?” Ms Hill said.

Ms Hill called on private schools to give parents a better indication of how their fees might rise over the next five years.

“The single biggest thing that we saw is parents wanting to know more about the impact on their school fees,” she said.

“It appears that not enough has been done at a school level to allay the fears of non-government parents on the likely impact of this change.


“Parents make a 13-year investment in the life of the child, and it’s fair to think that the parent of a non-government school child would like to see what the fees would look like over the next five years.”

However, Dr Geoff Newcombe, chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, said it was unrealistic to expect schools to estimate fees more than a year ahead as there were so many variable factors, such as staffing costs, enrolment fluctuations and utility costs.

Changes in public funding were a major factor, but “current funding arrangements are actually less predictable now from year-to-year than they have ever been, making it particularly difficult for schools to budget with any certainty more than a couple of years in advance.”

NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron said he hoped parents did take their children out of private schools.

“They shouldn’t be in private schools anyway, they’d get a much better education in a public school,” he said. “There’s not a study in existence that shows sending your kids to private schools is in any way an advantage academically.”

The survey also found fewer than 5 per cent considered NAPLAN results when choosing a school.

Continue the conversation at our SMH Student Facebook group.

Jordan Baker is Education Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald

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