Private funding in Australian public schools: a problem of equity


In Australia, debates around school funding tend to focus on comparisons of funding between school systems and what this means for equity. In this paper, while we look at school-level funding between systems, our emphasis is on private funding in public schools with a particular emphasis on the relationship between private funding and ICSEA. Using data provided by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, we present a series of analyses that document the current funding arrangements of Australian schools. In particular, we focus on how private income and parental contributions are mediated by sector (Government, Catholic and Independent), system (States and Territories) and educational advantage. These analyses show that government schools are generating notable private funding per student with the majority coming from parental fees, charges and other contributions. We further demonstrate that these private contributions advantage may exacerbate inequalities within public systems across Australia.

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  1. 1.

    This research was supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project DP170103647).

  2. 2.

    Note: The data used in this publication are sourced from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and are available from ACARA in accordance with its Data Access Protocols.

  3. 3.

    Note: Some schools are exempt from reporting on My School. These tend to be small, specialist schools such as those tasked at dealing with extreme behaviour.

  4. 4.

    Missing data on a school’s levels of educational advantage encompass 465 special schools, 115 secondary, 63 primary and 8 combined across the states and territories.

  5. 5.

    Calculated numbers for the rest of the analyses are slightly smaller than these totals, due to unavailable socioeconomic data for some schools.

  6. 6.

    As shown by Table 1, unequal counts of schools in various categories caused some restrictions in using statistical methods for comparing the calculated averages of variables related to finance.


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Thompson, G., Hogan, A. & Rahimi, M. Private funding in Australian public schools: a problem of equity. Aust. Educ. Res. 46, 893–910 (2019).

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  • School funding
  • Gonski
  • Public education