The next government should limit enrollments in private schools

The next NSW government can and should act.

It should end its own underfunding of public schools and overfunding of private schools. With so many families in financial distress, the responsible course of action is to provide additional school places needed to meet population growth in the public sector, where they are accessible to all. NSW should also pay its own full share of public schools’ funding entitlement and get the Commonwealth to remove or increase its current 20 per cent funding ceiling at their expense.

Avoiding harm to students must be a fundamental condition for further, much-needed reform.

Cutting public funding for most non-government schools — where government grants support teachers’ salaries — would disrupt the education of their current students. But the fact that public funding cannot be withdrawn from all private schools does not mean that it should not be withdrawn from all.

Students would not be harmed if government funding were removed from non-government schools, where private revenues – from high fees and parental contributions – are twice (or more) their basic service standards. The main effect of this funding is that more private funding can flow into non-educational facilities such as underground car parks.


Commonwealth and state funding for Catholic and independent schools has long outgrown the per-pupil voucher mechanism to provide its share of public funding. Why fund more places in this sector with a funding mechanism that is so clearly inadequate?

The next NSW government should quarantine the private sector at its current filing level to prevent further damage.

It is time to develop a regulatory framework for the planning, registration and public funding of non-government schools that reflects the fact that their teachers are now essentially on the public payroll.

Meanwhile, the next NSW government should not approve any proposals for new private schools and limit enrollments at existing private schools.

Aside from the resource and fee intensive schools mentioned above, the NSW Government should maintain State grants to existing private schools in line with its SRS entitlement until a new policy framework can be agreed between the Commonwealth and the States. During this time, private schools violating their enrollment cap could have their state funding withdrawn.

Allowing market forces to allocate teachers to schools does not work, and the injustice harms not only the students, whose life chances most depend on their schools, but also the social and economic well-being of society as a whole.

Lyndsay Connors was a member of the former Commonwealth Schools Commission. She has held senior educational posts at both State and Commonwealth levels.

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Callan Tansill

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