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Why would you give a Gonski?

By Tom Lovell - posted Friday, 12 April 2013

In the wake of the Gonski review into school funding models there has been a wealth of debate as to the acceptability of the review's findings. These have ranged from the Teachers Federation who want the full funding model implemented ASAP to the shadow education minister, Christopher Pyne, who disagrees with the current pedagogy of our schooling systems and doesn't believe there is money to fund the recommendations even if he believed in them. What the Gonski review and these responses to it have failed to adress is the economical reality of school funding.

For the year 2009 in NSW 66% of the 1.1million full time primary and secondary students were enrolled in government schools; 726 000 students. In the same year "NSW spent $12,540 per full-time primary student in the classroom." This works out at $9,104,040,000 (a little over $9.1Billion). Compare this to the costs to the public purse for independent schools where "in 2009-10 government expenditure per student in independent schools was in the order of $6,450". With only 34% of the 1.1million full time students indepented schools in NSW teach 374 000 students. At $6450 a head this works out to be $2,412,230,000 (a little over $2.4Billion).

What should be clear from these figures is that, considering the same syllabus applies to all schools and performance is generally even across the sector, the government gets far better for its money from independent schools than government ones.The Gonski review and its supporters suggests that private schools should recieve less funding from the government determined by means testing the parents of students who attend. This policy is clearly counter productive. By reducing funding to independent schools it will necessarily increase their fees. The result of this increase will push more students out of independent schools and back into the public education system. This will be an economic disaster.


At double the cost of an independent student the public system is not well placed to accept an increase in student enrollments. What does make sense is for government to increase its spending to independent schools which will encourage more middle and lower-middle class parents (those termed "aspirational" by politicians and bureaucracy) to enrol their students in independent schools. Even were this to cause a 33% increase in the per-student cost in independent schools those students who moved from public to private end up providing a net gain for government in terms of actual savings. 

Unfortunately and much to the detriment of education in this country there is a strong antipathy to independent schools and so studies aimed at showing the numbers of students who would move to private education were fees lower have not been forthcoming. Without such studies it is impossible to quantify those parents who would enrol their students in independent institutions, however I do not believe that with an increase of funding to independent schools to the tune of 20% per student that a base estimate of an additional 10% of the student population moving from public to independent schools is unreasonable. Compare, then, the current funding and the assessed funding outcome of this estimate.

Current Funding

Government Schools: $9,104,040,000 @$12,540 per student

Independent Schools: $2,421,230,000 @$6,450 per student

Total Cost: $11,525,270,000


Estimated Funding Government Schools: $7,724,640,000 @$12,540 per student

Independent Schools: $3,746,160,000 @$7,740 per student

Total Cost: $11,470,800,000

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About the Author

Tom Lovell is a Bachelor of Education student at the University of Newcastle who has trade qualifications in electronics and electrics.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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