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School Funding

School Funding Debate

  • In April 2013, the NSW and Commonwealth governments signed up to the National Education Reform Agreement (NERA) enshrined in the Australian Education Act 2013.   The National Plan for School Improvement contained in the agreement was based on the Gonski review report. Not all state governments signed up to the agreement at the time, 27 separate agreements were signed with some states and school authorities.  
  • The agreement was for the years 2014 to 2019, 6 years which is 2 years beyond the normal cycle which is costed into the government forward estimates.  The bulk of the funding was slated to come in the last 2 years of the agreement.  
  • Labor lost the government in 2013 and Coalition Prime Minister Tony Abbott agreed to fund schools for the 4 year period only and not the 6 years promised by Labor.  A Senate Select Committee on School Funding was convened and the government responded in its report Equity and Excellence in Australian Schools Report.  
  • The Coalition government under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on 2nd May 2017, a 10 year plan for school funding that promises to increase funding by almost $19 billion.  
  • The stated objective being to standardise the Commonwealth contribution to school funding: to 80% for non-government schools and 20% for state schools.  
  • Allocation to schools is based on a Student Resourcing Standard which is based on the amount it takes to educate a student in a high achieving school.
  • The bill to amend the Australian Education Act was passed in the House of Representatives on 29th May and will be tabled in the Senate on 14th June.  
  • The National Catholic Education Commission has made a submission to the inquiry on behalf of Catholic education.

The Issues

  • under the proposed schools funding plan, funding to Catholic school systems to be delivered on the basis of socio-economic status (SES) of individual schools and not on the system weighted average currently used
  • this will result in overall fewer dollars to Catholic school systems and places additional pressure on their ability to redistribute the funding on a needs basis
  • the SES model was identified as inadequate by Gonski in the 2011 Review
  • the promise by the Minister of Education Simon Birmingham for the Catholic school system to maintain its autonomy to redistribute funds to its schools based on its own methodology yet the Minister writes directly to schools to advise them of their funding allocation
  • a Funding Estimator website showing the allocated funds for each school leading to confusion and misunderstanding since funds go to the Catholic school system for redistribution and not directly to schools 
  • these figures do not include state funding and do not match MySchool figures further confusing parents
  • the possibility that some Catholic schools face the prospect of significant fee increases to maintain their current level of service delivery or else be subsidised by Catholic schools in lower socio-economic areas
  • a threat to the sustained existence of low-fee faith-based schools across Australia ensuring parents have the right to choose Catholic education
  • the inadequacy of the methodology of determining funding for students with disabilities which may lead to funding decreases in some places

If you value Catholic education for your child and all children, then contact your federal MP and bring these issues to their attention so that Australia can continue to have a strong provider of low-fee, faith-based schools accessible to those who choose them.

Catholic schools have provided quality education for Australian children since 1806

Funding Figures: Report on Government Services Productivity Commission (2016) 

Government Expenditure per student - Government and Non-Government:

        Source: Report on Government Services, Productivity Commission

Government expenditure per student in non-government school as % of student in government school

Source: Report on Government Services, Productivity Commission

Changes in Catholic school enrolments (2009-2014)

*Full-time equivalents. Source: Commonwealth Department of Education and Training

Funding in NSW

In NSW there are:

  • almost 600 Catholic schools, 
  • educating more than 251,000 students (or one in five NSW school students).

NSW Catholic schools are funded by:

  • Commonwealth (57.5%);
  • State Governments (19.7%);
  • parental fees and other private fundraising (22.8%).

Source: ACARA , MySchool data 2012

Catholic schools receive less public funding than state schools. Unlike state schools who receive the bulk of their funding from the state government, Catholic schools receive the greatest proportion of their funding from the Commonwealth government. After that the next largest chunk of funding is from fees from parents, followed by state government funding followed by private funding from other sources. This may include fundraising activities, donations etc.

Based on our Catholic ethos, Catholic schools strive to keep fees low so that schools remain accessible.
No child is ever denied a Catholic education because of their family’s financial situation.

For more information on funding including fact sheets for school communities click here.

Funding Policies

Quality Schools Quality Outcomes

May 2016 
Coalition government released its education reforms based on the following:

  • quality teaching
  • school leadership and autonomy
  • engaging parents in education
  • strengthening the curriculum
  • funding 

Students First

November 2013
Installation of the Abbot government with plans for education reform in
funding and curriculum were announced;

December 2013
Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced the Senate Select
Committee on School Funding to inquire into & report on the development
and implementation of the new national school funding arrangements;

May 2014
Report by the Senate Select Committee released Equity and excellence in
Australian schools;   

October 2014
Australian Government response to the Senate Select Committee on
School Funding Report.               

Better Schools Plan

The Australian government under Gillard devised the Better Schools Plan as part of the National Plan for School Improvement to improve educational outcomes for all Australian students. The main platform of the plan was for school funding to be calculated according to the needs of each individual student enrolled in a school which had been a recommendation of the Gonski Report. 

Per student funding was to be based on a benchmark amount augmented by loadings for students from low socio-economic backgrounds, indigenous students, students with limited English skills and students with disability as well as extra funding for small schools and schools in regional, rural and remote areas. The loadings plus the base amount were referred to as the School Resource Standard. Individual states and school systems were invited to sign up to the Better Schools Plan at the end of 2012 for a six-year period.        

Senate Select Committee
on School
Funding Report

(4.4 Mb pdf)

Australian Government Response
(1 Mb pdf)











The Gonski Report                       

April 2010
Former Minister for Education, the Hon Julia Gillard MP, announced that a comprehensive review of school funding arrangements. 
The aim of the review was to have a new national system for funding of all schools, government, Catholic and independent which was to take effect
from 2014;

2010 - 2011 
Chaired by David Gonski, the panel received more than 7000 submissions, 
visited 39 schools and consulted 71 key education groups across Australia;

December 2011
The panel for the Review of Funding for Schooling delivered its final report
to the Minister for School Education;

February 2012
The Government released the report, along with its initial response                                                      


   (3.94Mb pdf)