A state secondary school in Melbourne has come under fire from the Victorian Education Department after asking parents to pay a non-refundable fee to enrol their children in the school.
According to one parent, Northcote High School’s online enrolment form read: "your deposit is used to secure your place at Northcote High School”.
Lobby group Our Children, Our Schools, which is an alliance of Victorian community education campaigns, slammed the idea of public school fees, calling them contradictory to the ideals of public education.
The group’s president, Cate Hall, told the ABC that one of her members was asked to pay $270 to enrol her child at Northcote High School, despite government schools being obliged to provide free education.
"The parent noticed from the online form that you can't really proceed without giving over your credit card details and making this payment," Hall said.
"She said it actually stated on that online form that it's non-refundable. This is concerning because obviously it should be free education.”
The Victorian Education Department is now contacting every state school to warn them against the practice. Hall said that any state schools charging a fee must clearly explain what the money is for.
"We understand that throughout the year there are certain fees for extras, but this was a non-refundable fee just for enrolling with no specific information about what the money is actually for,” Hall said.
"It's totally wrong. It's against what they should be doing."
The school’s principal, Kate Morris, has since ordered the removal of online payment requirement for new enrolments.
"That message is not in line with what we should be doing," Morris said, adding the money was for essential education items, school camps and sporting activities.
Those who could not afford the fee were encouraged to contact the school, she said.