Many Disadvantaged Govt Schools Get Less Govt Funding than Private Schools

One of the most remarkable revelations from the school financial data on My School 2.0 is that many disadvantaged government schools get less government funding than many more privileged private schools. As well, some private schools serving low income communities get more funding than some government schools serving similar communities.

These cases destroy the myth promulgated by private school organisations that all private schools get less government funding than government schools. In addition, there are many instances of well-off private schools receiving similar levels of government funding to disadvantaged government schools.

My School 2.0 shows that some well-off private secondary schools on Sydney’s north shore get more government funding than some disadvantaged government high schools in the western suburbs. For example, Mercy College, a high SES Catholic school in Chatswood, got $10,943 per student in government funding (federal and state) in 2009 compared to $8,692 per student at Rooty Hill and $8,778 per student at Quakers Hill HS. St Leo’s College at Wahroonga got $602 more government funding per student than Rooty Hill [see Table 1 below].

Mercy College and St Leo’s have 40-50 per cent of their enrolments in the top socio-economic status (SES) quartile and less than 10 per cent in the lowest quartile. Their SES ratings by the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) are 1141 and 1120 respectively. Rooty Hill and Quakers Hill have 43-51 per cent of their enrolments in the lowest SES quartile and only 13 per cent in the top quartile. Their ICSEA values are 965 and 981 respectively. The national average is 1000.

St Mark’s College at Stanhope Gardens with an ICSEA value of 1093 got $11,171 per student compared to $8,778 at nearby Quakers Hill. St Francis de Sales in Leeton got $11,279 per student and Wollemi College in Werrington got even more government funding at $12,797. Wollemi College received $4,105 more government funding per student than Rooty Hill HS.

This funding advantaged is exacerbated when private sources of income are taken into account. For example, total income for Mercy College was 76 per cent higher than for Rooty Hill.

There are many other examples of lower SES government high schools getting less government funding than higher SES private schools. For example, in NSW Macquarie Fields HS and Colo HS both received less government funding than the above private schools.

There are innumerable examples of disadvantaged government schools in Victoria with less government funding per student than more affluent private schools. For example, Craigieburn PS with an ICSEA value of 966 got $7,249 per student in 2009; Courtenay Gardens PS (962) got $7,381; Cranbourne West PS (949) got $7,311; Iramoo PS (927) got $7,234; Melton PS (958) got $7,587; Melton West PS (945) got $7,500; and Sunbury Heights PS (968) got $7025 per student. Two very disadvantaged schools in North Geelong (Corio South and Corio West) with ICSEA values of only 915 got less than $9,000 per student.

In contrast, high SES private schools received significantly higher levels of government funding. All Hallows (1147) received $9,710 per student; Emmaus Mt Clear (1105) $10,932; Our Lady of the Southern Cross PS (1053) $13,732; Our Lady of Lourdes Prahran (1131) $8,973; Our Lady of Victories Camberwell (1155) $10,422; and St. Joseph’s School Elsternwick (1169) received $9,434 per student.

In Queensland, there are some instances of very stark disparities in government funding for private schools serving more affluent communities and for disadvantaged government schools. For example, Brisbane’s Seton College at Mount Gravatt received $20,854 per student from the federal and state governments in 2009. On the Index of, Seton College scores 1040, above the national average of 1000. In contrast, Helensvale HS, with an ICSEA score of 994, got only $8,612 per student. Wellington Point HS, which has an ICSEA score of 989, received $8,901 per student.

In addition, many other very high SES private schools get similar levels of government funding to disadvantaged government schools. For example, in NSW Marist College North Shore with an ICSEA value of 1133 received a similar level of government funding per student as the highly disadvantaged Rooty Hill HS (ICSEA value – 965) in the west of Sydney (see Table 2 below). Other very high SES schools such as St. Mary’s Cathedral College in Sydney, St. Columba Anglican School in Port Macquarie and the Riverina Anglican College in Wagga Wagga also received similar levels of government funding to Rooty Hill HS.

It is outrageous that medium to high SES private schools are getting more government funding than disadvantaged government schools or even similar government funding. It is the result of the “no losers” guarantee that no private school would be worse off by joining the SES scheme.

All this shows that government funding of schools is a shambles. Government schools struggling against the odds are being denied adequate funding while private schools serving well-off families are funded well beyond what they are entitled to by their SES score funding rate.

The Gonski review must do an overhaul of school funding. Schools should be funded by need, not greed.

Trevor Cobbold

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