Private schools expecting solid growth well into 2021

Private schools expecting solid growth well into 2021

In February, ABS days revealed that private school enrolments have grown at their fastest pace in more than a decade, despite the massive impact that COVID-19 has on Australia’s education sector.

According to the data, private schools saw a 2.6% growth in full time equivalent enrolments – the sector’s highest since 2008. In 2020 alone, student numbers grew by nearly 15,000.

Today, private schools educate one in six Australian students, and enrolments are increasing at a rate of 2.1% per year, according to Independent Schools Australia’s (ISA) newly released Independent Schools at a Glance 2021.

ISA’s annual At a Glance collection of the latest key facts and figures, also identifies that the sector’s highest student growth is in low fee schools and that Independent schools are now contributing $7.9bn in salaries to the Australian economy.

“While it is still too early to accurately assess the effects of the pandemic, we have no reason to expect any lessening of enrolment numbers in the second half of this year,” ISA CEO, Margery Evans, told The Educator.

“In the face of the challenges imposed by COVID-19, Independent schools have shown themselves to be agile and able to respond quickly and innovatively to changing circumstances”.

Evans said private schools were able to rapidly deploy online learning, communicate effectively with families and respond proactively to financial issues that their communities might have been facing.

What does the year ahead hold?

Evans said COVID 19 has shone a light on a number of underlying issues affecting not just Independent schools, but society more broadly.

“First among these is student and staff wellbeing and the responsibility we share in caring for others. In a similar vein, issues of acceptable behaviours, respect and equity have come to the fore over recent months”.

However, Evans said there is still much work to be done in this space.

“School leaders are facing the challenge, and opportunity, of addressing how they educate genuinely respectful, resilient and positive young men and women that will take communities and society forward with, as Aristotle once talked about, ‘practical wisdom and civic virtue’,” she said.

“This will require school leaders honestly taking stock and having some difficult but necessary conversations around students, staffing and school cultures”.

Evans said private school leaders across Australia have shown they can respond to complex challenges with innovation, nimbleness and a sense of collaboration both within their leadership teams and outward into their communities.

“The best realise their role is as a major resource and thought-leader for change rather than as a fixer and enforcer. The events of the last 12 months present a compelling opportunity to build even better schools”.

The release of ISA’s Schools at a Glance 2021 report also coincided with the announcement that the organisation has completed a major rebranding with a new logo and visual identity.

Last year, ISA launched a “review, reflection and reinvigoration” that began with a change of name to Independent Schools Australia. Evans said the new rebrand marks the culmination of that process as well as being a significant milestone in the organisation’s 50 years of existence.

“The rebrand has been implemented to better reflect ISA’s national structure and approach as an organisation working to promote the contribution and diversity of the Independent school sector,” she said.

 “At the centre of ISA’s new visual identify is a mobius strip - a continuous surface that simultaneously faces inwards and outwards. When rotated three dimensionally the mobius strip offers different perspectives to the viewer signifying the diversity and choice that characterises the Independent sector”.