When choosing a private school for their child, affordability almost always factors in to a parent’s decision.
A study published in January showed that by the time a baby born in 2015 graduates from high school, many parents who choose private schools will have spent more than half a million dollars on their child's education.
Recognising that finding a ‘right fit’ school which has affordable fees can be hard work, one organisation has set out to help make this process a lot easier – and cheaper.
School Places, which began as an online start-up company in Melbourne last year, is offering parents discounted enrolment fees at up to 92 private schools across the country.
Natalie Mactier, CEO of School Places, told The Educator how her service is providing the private schools who sign up to her service with greater exposure, and parents with more choice and value when choosing a school for their child.
“The people who come to us are actively looking for an enrolment and we match that demand with the supply of vacancies, so it’s a highly targeted marketing tool that a lot of traditional media don’t offer,” Mactier told The Educator.
“From speaking to parents every day and looking at the consumer insights we regularly commission, we know that two of the key drivers around school choice are individual fit and affordability.
“School Places provides parents with transparency around vacancies and fees, so parents can view a range of available options in their local area and determine which suits their budget before exploring further.”
Creating a school profile and listing vacancies is free. Participating schools only pay a small commission fee when confirming an enrolment.
Since April 2014, School Places has delivered $21.7m in potential enrolment revenue to its partner schools.
The organisation’s partner schools advertise places as soon as they become available. Places range from early learning to Year 12 and discounts between 10%-30% are offered for children aged 1-6 years.
Mactier said the short term discount that schools apply to the tuition fee encourages the parent to fill the spot quickly, but also helps make the transition to a new school more affordable for the family.
Initially starting with 11 schools in Victoria, School Places has now expanded into NSW, Queensland, the ACT, TAS and SA. The organisation’s services are expected to launch in WA soon.
Mactier said that a 'sweet spot' for School Places is parents who might want to make the transition from public to private. She said the short term discount her service offers incentivised parents to make the switch.
“The majority of parents who come to School Places are mums, aged between 36 and 45 years, with at least one child in a public primary school, who are looking to move to an independent or Catholic school at some time in the future,” Mactier said.
“Feedback from these parents shows that the short term discount incentivises this segment to either make the move from the public education system earlier than planned or, in some cases, to contemplate a school that wasn’t previously on their radar or they’d heard of but never considered.”
Mactier said parents who came to the site with children already enrolled in an independent school were largely families relocating to a new region and used School Places as a starting point.
“Without knowing what options are available in their local area, they use School Places to fast track the research process by assessing availability and affordability upfront,” Mactier said.