Parliament House


The Funding of Government and Non-Government Schools (NGS)

One of the most frequently misunderstood issues amongst parliamentarians is the funding of government and non-government schools. The ‘Vital Stats’, ‘Christian schools and NGS - Fact or Fiction’ and ‘Christian Schools - The Issues’ articles found in the Key Issues section of this website provides much helpful information on funding issues.

The following information is an overview of the history of government funding of schooling that maybe helpful to highlight with your representative.

  • The first schools in Australia were established and funded by churches.

  • Most colonial governments introduced national (secular) schools by mid 1860s.

  • Some churches were not confident about the new national schools, so a dual system was written into legislation.

  • At this point, church schools were not funded by governments, state or federal.

  • From 1901, government schools were funded by the states under provisions of the new Federal Constitution.

  • But Catholic schools suffered from lack of funding and standards slumped seriously relative to efficiently run government schools.

  • Following the sudden, unheralded closure of all Catholic schools in Goulburn (NSW) in the 1960s, and the subsequent chaos, the Federal Government initiated moves to have all non-government schools funded under a combination of federal and state government grants.

  • Using various models over the last 35 years, federal governments have continued as the principal public funders of non-government schools, a program justifiable under the terms of the Constitution.

  • At the same time, state governments have been minor public funders of non-government schools.

  • In addition to these recurrent funds, the federal government maintains a minor commitment of funds for capital projects to approved (needy) non-government schools. They also provide needs-based funding for specific purposes (targeted programs).

  • On the most recently published figures, the average cost of educating a child in a government school is $16,177 (Productivity Commission 2016), and in a AACS school, $13,657 (extrapolated estimate, AACS Vital Stats).

  • Using publicly available data, 42.4% of funding for non-government schools currently comes from the Federal Government, 15.3% comes from state and territory governments and 42.3% comes from school fees, donations, fundraising, levies, etc.

The Funding Mechanism

  • Since 2013, the federal funding of non-government schools has been based on the SRS (Student Resource Standard, also referred to as the Gonski Model). Gonski has had two iterations with Gonski 2.0 coming into effect in 2018.

  • The predecessor to the SRS model was the ‘SES Model’ (Socio Economic Status) and prior to that the ‘ERI Model’ (Education Resource Index). Each model has attempted to equitably measure the relative needs of the communities served by schools and to fund them according to those needs.

  • Schools can make separate applications for additional funding for capital grants. Grants under these programs are competitive and are based entirely on declared criteria and degree of need.