Independent school growth fastest despite Covid-19

independent school growth

Australian independent school growth defied the Covid-19 downturn to grow at twice the public and Catholic sectors’ rate.

This growth came despite predictions parents would withdraw children because of the financial pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost two-thirds of the nation’s schools are government-run schools, 20 per cent are Catholic, and 15 per cent are independent.

Nationally, the independent sector grew by 2.6 per cent last year, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show. This was ahead of government schools’ 1.3 per cent growth and Catholic schools’ 1.2 per cent.

Independent Schools Australia said the system’s strongest growth was in schools that charged below $6000 a year.

Between 2016 and 2020, the independent sector’s market share grew by 9.5 per cent. Independent growth was faster than both public schools (5.9) and Catholic schools (1.5).

Enrolment growth in Catholic system schools has been slowing over the past 10 years. The Mitchell Institute has argued that migration could be a factor, as new arrivals are more likely to attend a government or independent school.

Catholic leaders have also blamed fee rises in some dioceses and the abuse scandals within the church.

Catholic education celebrated its 200th anniversary this week. The head of the Australian Bishops’ Commission for Catholic Education, Archbishop Anthony Fisher, wrote to parishioners acknowledging the damage caused by the scandals.

“This damaged many children and families, as well as the credibility of church institutions, including schools, in the eyes of many,” Archbishop Fisher wrote. He said trust was being rebuilt as the failings were corrected.

The chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW, Dallas McInerney, said Catholic schools now taught more students than at any other time in its 200-year history. 2020 enrolment growth in the sector was the strongest since 2015.

“We’ve successfully bounced back in recent years. We are expecting even higher growth in 2021 with many new and upgraded schools. We have invested $173 million in 2020 in high growth areas across Sydney,” he said.

In the state of Victoria, independent school growth was four times faster than in the Catholic sector in 2020, official figures show.


Sydney Morning Herald

The Age

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