Private schools brace for mass exodus

An expected casualty of the COVID-19 economic meltdown are Australia’s private schools, which are bracing for an exodus as financially strapped households tighten their purse strings:

State school principals are expecting an increase in student numbers as financially stretched families turn away from private schools…

Some private schools have already offered fee cuts and deferrals, and asked alumni to help pay the fees of students at risk of quitting due to family money pressures.

Beth Blackwood, chief executive of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia, said parents “may be delaying responses given the uncertain financial circumstances”…

Emma Rowe, senior lecturer in education at Deakin University, said Australia had some of the highest costs per student for private secondary school education.

What a shame then that funding for Catholic and independent schools grew far quicker than public schools over the past decade, according to school funding data from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority:

Public schools also enroll a disproportionate share of students with learning difficulties, disadvantaged family backgrounds, special needs physically or emotionally and in remote areas. Those students cost significantly more to educate.

The fact of the matter is that the Gonski needs-based funding reforms were aimed at better balancing school funding by giving more to those that need it most and less to those that do not.

The stronger growth in non-government school funding is a clear policy failure that contravenes the intent of Gonski.

Leith van Onselen

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