Private schools in Sydney receive donations from parents and alumni

David Cross, executive director of think tank Blueprint Institute, said given that some private schools have a larger proportion of wealthy people in their communities, it’s not surprising that proportionally more donations went to those schools.

“Parents should feel free to donate money in any way they see fit. However, as private school fees soar to increasingly stratospheric heights, schools should not pressure parents to donate,” he said.

“Too often, schools where parents are rescheduling their homes to keep their children enrolled pressure parents to donate more on top of fees so they can build redundant infrastructure that has little educational value.”

Private schools are raising fees by about 3 to 7 percent this year; Eight schools are charging more than $40,000 for 12th graders.

Scots College principal Ian Lambert said donations to the 130-year-old Bellevue Hill school had increased as the school enlisted the support of parents, alumni, staff and members of the congregational church.

“The majority of our donations support vital infrastructure projects and indigenous education grants. The costs of maintaining historic buildings and building 21st-century learning spaces cannot be met by our school fees and government funding,” he said.

Scots, which has received around $53 million in donations over the past six years, is transforming its Stevenson Library into a new student center designed to resemble a Scottish nobleman’s castle with a rooftop terrace.

Cranbrook recently unveiled a new $125 million building and water center supported by major donors, while SCEGGS Darlinghurst raised more than $500,000 for new buildings and grant programs on its fundraising day in November.

A spokesman for King’s School, which is planning a new sports pavilion and STEM building, said the overwhelming majority of donations would come from old boys and their families.


“Benefits have contributed significant sums that have contributed to the purchase or construction of many iconic facilities at the school,” he said. “Income [also] supports an extensive grant and scholarship program.”

Simpson said Australians tend to favor their old schools over their universities in decision-making, which is the opposite of the practice in the United States.

“However, over the last several decades, universities have been very successful in attracting impact philanthropy, which is usually associated with research or applied results,” he said.

David Hetherington, executive director of the Public Education Foundation, said independent schools were locked in an arms race over infrastructure spending.

“It’s a competition, and some schools have developed sophisticated fundraising models to collect tax-deductible donations,” he said.

“In a way, they’re starting to borrow from the models that universities are using, particularly American universities that have pioneered the development of sophisticated alumni relationships.”

As fees and donations rise, private schools also face losing tens of millions of dollars in government funds as funding levels adjust over the next seven years under the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).

Verity Firth, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Technology Sydney and former NSW Labor Minister for Education, said the amount raised by some school communities to help fund their school was far greater than the amount covered in the current SRS -Formula will be predicted.

“Private contributions at this level should be part of the assessment in determining government funding,” she said.

“At a time when the education gap between higher-income and lower-income students continues to widen, the funding system must ensure government funds are directed where they are needed most,” Firth said.

The NSW government spent $2.7 billion on new schools and upgrading infrastructure in the last financial year.

The Morning Edition Newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here. Private schools in Sydney receive donations from parents and alumni

Callan Tansill

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