Surge in private school enrolments as parents ditch public schools

A new report has shown a surge in private school enrolments, suggesting parents aren’t fazed by exorbitant fees and students achieving the same academic results as those in public schools.

The Productivity Commission report, released today, has revealed a 10% surge in enrolments for private schools while their public rivals continued to stagnate.

However, the executive director of the Association of Independent Schools (AIS) of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, played down the reports, attributing the spike in enrolments to the lower-fee end of the sector, such as schools in outer urban growth areas.

"There's also been a significant growth in the low fee Anglican schools and the Christian schools," Newcombe told the Sydney Morning Herald.

The AIS director pointed to burgeoning Islamic schools as the biggest contributor to the spike in private school enrolments.

"The single biggest growth has been the increase in the number of Islamic schools as well as their enrolments."

Still, the report, including data up to 2013, found that overall government funding for private schools had increased at a faster rate than for public schools.

Sholto Bowen, principal of Huntingtower co-educational boarding school, denies that the Government’s funding increase has favoured private schools, saying that the data did not factor in the various expenses that private schools must foot.
“We cannot have a balanced debate about funding when those with a vested interest in reducing funding to non-government schools do not present an honest picture.”
“Non-government schools have had to increase their fees because government funding does not keep pace with the education index and teachers’ salaries and other expenses go up every year,” Bowen told The Educator.

Trevor Cobbold, national convener of Save Our Schools (SOS), argues that there is a gross funding imbalance between the two sectors, saying increased funding to private schools was putting the country's future economic prosperity at risk.

"At the moment there are huge achievement gaps between low income and high income students, which means we have a lower skilled workforce than we could have," Cobbold said.

"If we don't address the funding disparity, these achievement gaps and the lower skilled workforce are going to continue."