Key Issues

A Voice for Christian Education

Key Issues




One of the most frequently misunderstood issues is the funding of government and non-government schools in Australia:



  1. If the following two principles are acknowledged, and a fair and transparent mechanism for funding is determined, then the divisive debate that exists between teacher unions, some government school supporters and government over the funding of non-government schools should end should end.
  2. (1) every child has a right to education supported by contribution from tax payers, and (2) all parents should be able to choose the style and perspective of the education they want for their child.
  3. The current needs-based, sector-blind and reasonably transparent funding system has gone a long way to addressing these concerns.

  • One important principle for Christian schools is ensuring accessibility for families from all walks of life, irrespective of their financial circumstances and backgrounds.
  • Christian schools, in their mission and vision, serve families who honour Christian beliefs, convictions and life principles that are taught and modelled in our schools.
  • Christian schools are inclusive and have a strong commitment to serving the needs of disadvantaged families and children with special needs. There are some Christian schools that provide subsidised fees for these families.

  • Christian schools work hard to be cost-effective and cost-efficient, key elements in keeping them broadly low fee in character. The average cost per student is well below that of government schools even though 80% of Christian schools are combined primary and secondary operations and therefore more expensive to run.
  • For a student in a Christian school, the average private contribution per student is $5,586 and the average government contribution per student is $11,464 (2017-18). The total average cost per student is $17,050. For the same period a student in a government school the average cost per student was $18,390. Even taking into account parent contributions the cost of educating a child in one of our Christian schools is on average 93% the cost of educating a child in a government school.
  • The average cost of educating a student in a government schools is $18,387. The average government funding per student in Christian schools is $11,464. The savings per student is $6,926. Therefor, if all Christian school students attended a government state school the cost to Australian taxpayers would be an extra half a billion dollars per year (2017-18).

  • Students with disabilities are welcome in our schools.
  • Our schools have a genuine commitment to serving the needs of children with learning and life disabilities.
  • Notwithstanding the limitations of funding (particularly at the State and Territory level), enrolments of students with learning disabilities are increasing in our schools and we are doing the best we can with limited resources to meet their needs.

  • Christian schools warmly welcome children from a wide range of disadvantaged circumstances and backgrounds.
  • Some of these groups are clearly identified and funding programs are in place to assist them. Others are poorly defined and supported and their children are at risk of falling behind their peers.
  • The costs of such programs are significant and greater government support is needed to address these needs so that students enjoy inclusion, safety and pastoral care. Christian schools make strong commitments to closing the disadvantages experience by these children.
  • Christian schools generally do not seek to benefit their reputation by offering academic or selective scholarships, rather, they are more known for offering means tested fee assistance to provide access to low income families and endeavour to realise the academic potential in every child.

  • With many Christian schools being located in regional and remote locations across Australia, our schools have demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting families outside the major metropolitan areas of the nation.
  • Schools in regional and remote Australia experience significant educational disadvantage and Christian schools are committed to supporting families in these locations to minimise the disadvantage.
  • Remote and regional funding loadings have helped to narrow the disadvantage but more is needed from governments to bring these students’ learning opportunities up to the standards of their city counterparts.

  • Christian schools have a strong commitment to supporting indigenous homeland communities in the operation of schools in remote areas of the nation.
  • Christian schools believe that a long term solution to bridging the gap in educational outcomes for indigenous students in remote Australia must come from partnerships with indigenous leaders in the context of their homelands.


Ten commonly heard criticisms of Christian and/or non-government schools (NGSs)

  • That faith-based schools are responsible for creating and promoting an unhealthy divide in society centred around strong polarizing beliefs and practices.
  • The worldview openly taught and modelled in Christian schools is based the premise that we are in this world to serve God and to serve others, rather than ourselves, and is designed to provide a clear sense of purpose, meaning and hope that will strengthen society and promote cohesion.
  • The overwhelming majority of faith-based schools effectively prepare their graduates for active and responsible engagement in their society.
  • All accredited schools have proven to the registration authority that they have satisfied the criteria that demonstrates that they serve a public purpose as laid down by the registration authority.

  • That faith-based schools do not allow their students to criticize, question, doubt, deconstruct or a express a different worldview to that of the school.
  • That staff in faith-based schools manipulate students and the curriculum to produce their intended outcomes and prevent students from exploring alternative worldviews and ideas.
  • Faith-based schools clearly and openly declare the beliefs, convictions and standards that give shape to the worldview under which they establish their learning communities and through which they unpack, teach and model their curricula.
  • The faith-based worldview is a specific framework against which other worldviews and many curriculum ideas are openly critiqued and assessed.
  • Staff and Christian schools teach and commend the faith and worldview to their students but do not impose it.

  • Non-government schools (NGSs) receive more public funding than government schools receive.
  • Government schools receive (on average) $18,387 per student, per annum from combined federal and state government sources of funding (2017-18).
  • Independent Christian schools receive (on average) $9,890 per student, per annum from combined federal and state government funding (2017-18).
  • Parent fees account for the extra income independent schools receive and this is where the margin of difference occurs. Note there are significant differences between low-fee NGSs, which accounts for the majority of independent Christian schools, and high-fee NGSs.
  • Under the terms of our Commonwealth Constitution, government schools receive the majority of their funding from State Governments who, in turn, receive a large portion of their income from States Grants which is the States’ proportion of taxpayer funds from the Federal Government.
  • In response to claims that the federal government pays more to NGSs than to government schools, careful study of the statistics being used is required. It can be stated that, in overall dollar terms (the total quantum of federal government contribution), that the contribution to NGSs is rising as a result of the fact that enrolments in the NGS sector have risen. Therefore the fairest manner of assessing comparative contribution should be undertaken on a per student basis.

  • Funding that should be going to needy state schools, including maintentance of school buildings, is being re-directed to NGSs.
  • The federal SRS funding model provides a base amount for every Australian student and particularly for students in areas of need. State/territory government funding in the main follows similar principles but varies between jurisdictions.
  • For each student that moves from a government to a Christian school, the Government saves at least $6,926 per year (2017-18 figures).
  • Each year, students attending low-fee Christian schools save Australian taxpayers close to half a billion dollars (2017-18 figures).
  • The maintenance of government schools is a responsibility of State governments whereas in NGSs maintenance costs are entirely the responsibility of the the school. There is no specific funding available for this purpose and there are serious consequences when maintenance failures give rise to OH&S risks that go

  • NGSs charge high fees because they offer a better resourced education and the average cost of educating a child is higher in a NGS than a government school.
  • It costs approximately $1,340 less per year to educate a child in a Christian school than in a government school (Source: ISCA 2017-18 figures).
  • The average cost of educating a child in a government school is $18,387 whereas the average cost of educating a child in one of our schools is $17,050, including both government funding and parent fees (Source: ISCA and ACARA 2017-18 figures)
  • These figures are the most comparable ones available. However, the comparison is not all ‘apples and apples’. Firstly, numerous costs that are not incurred by government schools (eg some insurance, advertising, debt-servicing, depreciation and provisions for bad debt costs) have to be included in NGS’s budgets. Secondly, the above figures are for recurrent costs only. NGSs also need to factor in the significant costs for capital building programs and the debt servicing for loans on capital projects.

Classism means to treat people differently (with prejudice) based on their social class.

  • That the majority of NGS select their enrolment on ‘classist’ or ‘success criteria’.
  • That NGSs are exclusively, primarily or prominently the province of the wealthy are located in areas of high socio-economic advantage.
  • That NGSs are only sought after by those with high disposable incomes.
  • That NGSs are not interested in addressing the needs of the educationally most vulnerable populations.
  • NGSs that charge fees do tend to attract more of:
    • those who can afford to pay the fee
    • those who are prepared to extend themselves to pay the fee
    • those who are prepared to go into debt
  • Although these factors do act as a sorting mechanism to some degree, most NGSs have policies to discount fees for those facing hardship and crises.
  • The majority of government schools are located in suburbs where self-sorting mechanisms (eg land values, access to services, government policy, demographics, etc.) tend to narrow the socio-economic band represented in the school irrespective of any impact of those choosing to use NGSs.
  • The majority of NGSs are low-fee schools and might be affordable and accessible to a significant portion of the population.
  • The great majority of NGSs are not selective and do not therefore sort on ‘success criteria’.
  • It is also true that the government provides a significant number of selective schools that sort on academic ‘success criteria’.
  • The lack of appropriate government funding for the education of the most vulnerable populations in NGSs is the single most significant sorting factor in the under-representation of vulnerable populations in NGSs.

  • That high-fee private schools are representative of the non-government sector as a whole and do not serve low-income families.
  • There is a huge range of non-government schools.
    • From high fee to no fee
    • From very large to very small
    • From urban to rural, regional, remote and very remote
    • From indigenous to ethnic, multi-cultural and mono-cultural
    • From selective to non-selective
    • From well-resourced to poorly resourced
  • The great majority of non-government schools are low-fee schools.
  • A Socio-Economic Status (SES) score is calculated for every school and gives an approximate indication of the average economic capacity for each school community.
  • The average SES of AACS schools nationally is 97.4, i.e. below the national (all schools) average of 100
  • The overwhelming majority of NGSs would have facilities and services that are no different from the norms that would be found in government schools across Australia.
  • Many NGSs provide fee relief/ scholarships for those who cannot afford the fees and the vast majority of NGSs are ‘not for profit’ organisations that run very tight budget margins.

  • NGSs hide behind a veil of secrecy in order to restrict accountability on their financial affairs and therefore find means to unfairly obtain government funding.
  • NGSs must satisfy all the compliance requirements of their state/ territory registering body. This includes the School Annual Reports (with many reporting requirements) posted on the publically available school website. The MySchool website provides significant data on each school.
  • NGSs, as registered business entities, must annually satisfy ASIC or its state equivalent that they are trading within the rules for registered businesses.
  • NGSs, as recipients of federal government funds, must annually satisfy DET that they remain viable by means of the Financial Questionnaire.
  • Some financial data from some NGSs is not required for declaration. This might include scholarship, fundraising and capital trusts, or staff salary entitlements. The vast majority of NGSs (particularly Christian schools) do not fall into this category, with salaries being paid at par or less than their state colleague equivalents.
  • NGSs which have access to trusts and the like are rarely eligible for capital grant funding as they have the capacity to provide for these needs.

  • NGSs do not want to deal with the most difficult, needy and dysfunctional students and reject enrolment enquiries from parents of students with disabilities because they only want comfortable, compliant, middle-class student populations.
  • It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of disabilities and there are heavy penalties for NGSs if they breach the Disabilities Discrimination Law (DDA) or its Standards (DDAS), irrespective of the argument of costs associated with any specific case.
  • NGSs have 35 % of the total school enrolment in Australia. NGSs serve approximately 25% of the total number of Students with Disabilities (SWDs).
  • Government schools receive between 2 and 10 times as much as NGSs (largely state government based funding or definitions) to support the special educational needs of SWDs. Despite this disparity between levels of funding support some parents still choose to enrol their SWD child at a NGS.
  • Governments have not matched the DDA or the DDAS with funding levels appropriate to make the targets achievable in NGSs.
  • For students who have dropped out of the government school sector and are at high risk of unemployment and long-term welfare dependency, there are a number of religious and community groups that are setting up significant numbers of special schools in the NGS sector to assist these young people.

The term ‘residualisation’ means that government schools are left with the task of primarily serving the needs of the educationally most vulnerable and difficult populations.

  • Non-government schools are the main cause in the ‘residualisation’ of government schools because of their selective enrolment policies which reject the most difficult and demanding students.
  • The great majority of non-government schools are not selective and do not sort students on ‘success criteria’.
  • The majority of NGSs have a mission to serve the needs of families, irrespective of the learning difficulties that their children may be presenting.
  • The majority of government schools are located in suburbs where self-sorting mechanisms (eg land values, access to services, government policy, demographics, etc.) tend to narrow the socio-economic band represented in the school irrespective of any impact of those choosing to use non-government schools.
  • One of the most significant factors in contributing to the ‘residualisation’ of some government schools is the government policy of providing a number of selective schools that sort on ‘success criteria’. These include selective schools, centres of excellence, senior high schools and opportunity classes.
  • The lack of appropriate and equitable government funding for the education of the most vulnerable populations in NGSs is the single most significant sorting factor in the under-representation of vulnerable populations in NGSs.
  • The great majority of NGSs are not high-fee schools and are therefore affordable and accessible to the majority of the population, including those families with the neediest students.