Catholic schools are a vital part of Australia’s education landscape; from humble beginnings almost 200 years ago, Catholic schools have grown to become the nation’s largest provider of education outside government serving some 765,000 students and their families.
Today, Australia’s 1750 Catholic schools educate one in five students and employ more than 96,000 people, making Catholic education a key partner in the delivery of quality schooling with the government and independent sectors.
Catholic Education's national priorities
The key issues for Catholic Education nationally are:
- finalising the detail of the federal government's school funding model for 2020
- affordable school choice
- increased capital funding
- prioritising early childhood education
- religious freedom in schools
In 2017, Catholic school communities funded almost 90 per cent of the capital works in their schools – nearly $1.3 billion – while the federal and state governments jointly provided $152.2 million across our 1746 schools. To put this in perspective, the NSW government is spending 10 times this amount - $1.5 billion each year - on capital works in its 2200 schools.
With the rising cost of land, construction and classroom technology, Catholic schools cannot continue to rely on parents and the rest of the school community to shoulder the burden of increased capital costs to the same extent into the future.
The federal government must help to ease the burden on parents if Catholic schools are to meet the needs of future students.
Catholic Education is also increasing its focus on the delivery of early childhood education, a vital component of each child’s development. Catholic schools are well placed to meet this need, with many new preschools being built next to existing and new Catholic primary schools. This will make life easier for families with young children and puts our pre-schoolers at the heart of our school communities.
Catholic Education will seek a significant increase in dedicated capital and recurrent funding to deliver quality early learning centres for our families.
While school funding arrangements have now largely been settled for the next decade, Catholic Education will seek to clarify details on key elements of funding particularly around maintaining the choice of low-fee Catholic schooling for Australian families.
The facts on school funding
Funding for all schools in all sectors is calculated using the same needs-based measure – the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). Each school’s SRS is calculated according to the needs of its students, starting with a base amount - $11,343 per primary student or $14,254 per secondary student plus extra funding for six types of disadvantage.
So a primary school educating many disadvantaged students may have an SRS of more than $17,000 per student, while another educating highly advantaged students may have an SRS of less than $12,000 per student. The SRS is a funding target and was introduced in 2014. For many state and territory governments, it represents a big jump in their school funding commitments as they are the majority funders of public schools which educate two-thirds of all students. Meeting the SRS is therefore being phased in over several years with federal assistance.
THE COST OF A SCHOOL EDUCATION
The true cost of a school education in Australia is much higher than most people realise. The Federal Government calculates the basic cost at $11,343 per primary student and $14,254 per secondary student for 2019. That would be a huge cost for most Australian families, especially if they have two or more children. This is why state/territory and federal governments provide some funding to all not-for-profit school sectors.
WHO PAYS THE SRS?
In public schools, the SRS is funded solely by state/territory and federal governments; parents are not required to contribute. In Catholic and other non-government schools, state/territory and federal governments fund 20-90% of the SRS base amount according to a means test of the school’s parents, who are expected to make up the shortfall. The more parents can afford to pay, the less public funding a non-government school attracts.
Catholic school communities, on average, contribute almost 30% of the cost of educating their students. The remainder is covered by a combination of state/territory and federal government funding. Without this government funding support, Catholic systemic schools would need to charge parents the full cost of educating their child. This would put a Catholic education out of reach for most Australian families, forcing them onto the public schools sector which is already stretched.
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