Characteristics of the sector include:

  • a significant and growing share of the number of Australian students
  • schools that have strong community links
  • a diversity of schools in terms of type, size and focus, educating boys and girls, students with special needs, and overseas students
  • sound, autonomous governance arrangements
  • a comprehensive range of accountabilities of schools to parents and other stakeholders
  • giving parents choice by providing a wide range of educational programmes and settings
  • Independent schools are not-for-profit organisations.

Size of Independent sector 2017

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data does not categorise independent Catholic schools as Independent. These schools are a significant part of the Independent sector and when included there were a total of 1,123 schools and just over 604,436 full-time equivalent students in 2017.

Make up of Independent schools

Unlike other sectors, the majority of Independent schools operate autonomously. These schools do not rely on central bureaucracies or bodies, and are separately accountable to their parent and school communities. Some Independent schools with common philosophies operate within approved systems. These include Anglican, Lutheran and Seventh Day Adventist Systems. There are also some other groupings of Independent schools. All Independent schools comply with state and federal education regulations and standards.

School Size 2017

  • 11% of schools have less than 50 students
  • 38% of schools have less than 200 students
  • 43% of schools have 200 – 999 students
  • 18% of schools have 1,000 – 1,999 students
  • 2%, or 20 schools, have 2,000 or more students
  • the average size of Independent schools is 525 students
  • the average size of a government school is 379 students

Location of Independent schools 2017

Major Cities 65%
Regional 32%
Remote 3%

Affiliations of Independent schools 2017

85% of all Independent schools have a religious affiliation.

*’Other Religious Affiliations’ include Churches of Christ, Ananda Marga, Hare Krishna and Society of Friends
**’Other’ includes special schools, international schools, indigenous schools, and community schools.



School enrolments by sector and level 2017

Enrolments in Independent schools 2017


Indigenous students in Independent schools 13,079
Students with disability in Independent schools 23,553
Overseas students in Independent schools 7,520
Boarding students in Independent schools 16,191

Enrolment change by sector 1970 – 2017

Growth in  enrolments 1985 – 2017



Independent schools employ nearly 17% of all teachers in Australian schools.

Total number (full-time and part-time) 54,208
FTE (full-time equivalent) 47,248


Teachers in the Independent sector by gender and level (FTE) 2017


Student teacher ratios 1973 – 2017


Sources: Figures in Snapshot are derived from data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, and the Productivity Commission. Depending on the availability of data, enrolment figures are either full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE). Some figures include independent Catholic schools and enrolments. Some figures may not add due to rounding. Figures for the Independent school sector are for the calendar year 2017.



Private sources of funding (mainly parents) 58%
All government sources 42%

The proportions of private/government funding vary greatly from school to school.

Estimated recurrent savings to governments from the Independent school sector: $4.6 billion p.a.

Public funding of Independent schools

All state and territory governments and the Australian Government share responsibility for the public funding of schools in Australia. State and territory governments are the main public funding sources for government schools and provide 25% of total government recurrent funding for Independent schools. The Australian Government is the main public funding source for non-government schools, providing 75% of total government recurrent funding for Independent schools.

Recurrent funding for school education 2015-16


Average government recurrent funding per student 2015-16

Government school $17,280
Catholic school $10,670
Independent school $8,850


Total government recurrent funding per student 2015-16 (all government sources)

The amount of funding received from all government sources varies significantly depending on the circumstances of the school.

Australian Government funding from 2018

In 2017 the Australian Government announced changes to the ‘Gonski’ funding model which had been in place since 2014 and consequential amendments to the Australian Education Act 2013 were passed in June 2017. The new funding model aims to transition all schools to a set share of Commonwealth funding. For government schools, the Commonwealth share is 20% of their SRS entitlement and for non-government schools the Commonwealth share is 80% of their SRS entitlement. Non-systemic schools below their set share will transition up over six years and schools above their set share will transition down over ten years.


The ‘SRS’ Funding Model

The funding model components remain largely unchanged, comprising base funding plus loadings to address educational disadvantage. The per-student component is based on the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) which aims to measure the cost of effective and efficient provision of education. The SRS has been rebased for 2018.

The main difference between how government and non-government schools are funded is that non-government schools are subject to ‘capacity to contribute’ (CTC), which means that the amount of base funding they receive is dependent on their schools’ community’s estimated capacity to pay, as determined by the school’s Socio-Economic Status (SES) score. Schools with a higher SES score receive less per capita funding. The SES methodology is being reviewed in 2018 by the National School Resourcing Board which was established in conjunction with the new funding arrangements.

The loadings in the model are for:

  • Location,
  • Size,
  • Low Socio-Educational Advantage (SEA)
  • Indigeneity,
  • Low English language proficiency, and
  • Students with Disability.

From 2018, the Students with Disability loading will be based on the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on Students with Disability (NCCD) which will provide a differentiated loading based on a student’s level of adjustment. Once fully implemented, loadings will be fully publicly funded.

New schools go straight on to their calculated SRS funding entitlement.

‘Capacity to Contribute’

From 2014 – 2017 the capacity to contribute settings for schools in the SES score range of 108 to 122 had a higher primary per student allocation than the secondary per student allocation. In 2017, at the widest point the difference between the two was $651 per student.


2017 ‘Capacity to Contribute’

State and territory funding contributions

In addition to setting the Australian Government share of SRS for all schools, the legislation now also places requirements on state and territory governments in relation to school funding. State and territory governments are required to fund government schools to at least 75 – 80% of their SRS and to fund non-government schools to at least 15 – 20% of their SRS, at the sector level. The specific settings for each state and territory will be subject to bilateral agreements between the states and territories and the Australian Government.



Parents and Donors

On average, parents and donors in Independent school communities in 2016 contributed 89% of funds for capital developments, such as school buildings, grounds and equipment.


Main sources of capital funding in Independent schools 2016

Capital Grants Program

Independent committees called Block Grant Authorities in each state and territory administer capital grants for non-government schools on behalf of the Australian Government. In 2017 it is estimated that grants for the Independent sector totalled approximately $55 million. In the Independent sector Australian Government capital grants are distributed on a needs basis, with priority given to disadvantaged school communities with the least capacity to raise funds.

State and Territory government assistance

In Queensland some capital grants for Independent schools are provided by the state government. Several state and territory governments also provide interest subsidy arrangements.


Note: Funding figures in Snapshot use the latest available data which is for the financial year 2015-16, or for the calendar year 2016.


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