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How Catholic schools are funded (Part 1) 

Published with permission from National Catholic Education Commission 

School funding in five easy steps (no, really!) 

School funding is a contentious and much misunderstood topic – but it’s much less controversial once a few facts are known. 

State and Federal governments fund all not-for-profit schools (government and non-government) to some degree because a typical school education costs a lot more than most people realise – more than $11,000 per primary student and more than $14,000 per secondary student each year, regardless of sector. 

This is more than most Australian families could afford, so governments fund free public schools and partially fund all not-for-profit school sectors, including Catholic schools and systems. 

Here’s how school funding is calculated: 

  1. The Federal Government sets a base funding amount for every student in every sector, each year

In 2019, the base amounts are: 

  • $11,343 per primary student 
  • $14,254 per secondary student 
  1. Extra funding is added for disadvantage

This extra funding – known as ‘disadvantage loadings’ – is added for up to six types of disadvantage such as Disability, Low Socioeconomic Advantage and Language Background Other Than English. 

  1. The base amount + disadvantage loadings = SRS

The base amount and disadvantage loadings make up the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), a perstudent funding target for each school. 

Each school has a different SRS because each school’s students have different needs. An outer suburban primary school with high levels of disadvantage, for example, might have an SRS of more than $15,000 per student while a primary school serving relatively affluent families might have an SRS of less than $12,000 per student. 

Now, we get to the important part – who pays the SRS? 

  1. Public schools receive their SRS funding solely from governments

State and Federal governments jointly fund the SRS for government schools, regardless of the school’s location or socio-economic status (SES). Parents are not required to contribute to the SRS in government schools. 

Government schools may still raise money privately, and almost all do – but they do not lose a dollar of their government SRS funding entitlement. 

  1. Non-government schools attract only part of their SRS funding from governments, based on parents’ ability to pay

Non-government school parents are expected to fund some of their children’s education, so governments reduce the funding they provide to non-government schools according to the ability of each school’s parents to pay fees. 

This is done by assigning each non-government school a socio-economic status (SES) score from 60 to 140 (based on student addresses and ABS household data). 

The higher the SES score, the more parents are expected to contribute – and the less government funding that non-government school attracts. 

Non-government schools serving the poorest families (those with an SES score from 60 to 93) attract 90% of the SRS base amount (and all the disadvantage loadings) in government funding. 

Non-government primary schools serving the poorest communities therefore attract $10,209 per student in government funding (plus all disadvantage loadings), while a government primary school in the same area attracts $11,343 per student (plus all its disadvantage loadings) 

As SES scores rise, the level of government funding for non-government schools is gradually reduced, to the point where those serving the wealthiest families (an SES score of 125 or more) attract just 20% of the SRS base amount in government funding (plus all disadvantage loadings). 

In other words, the wealthiest non-government primary school attracts just $2,269 per student in government funding (plus all disadvantage loadings) while a government primary school in the same area attracts $11,343 per student (plus all its disadvantage loadings) 

This is how school funding is calculated. In Part 2, we’ll look at how it’s distributed. 

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