Cost of Living in Australia: School Fees

In a previous post where I discussed cost of living comparisons, I promised (rather foolishly I think) to try to unravel school fee variations from state to state. I am often saying what a big country Australia is, perhaps I should bear that in mind when I make such rash promises!

The BobinOz rough guide to school fees in Australia.

First, let me make it clear that these are the fees that apply to Australian citizens and permanent residents. If you are here on a temporary visa then different fees may apply or you might get a grant.

The three main types of school:

  • Public (state) – run by and funded by government.
  • Private – run privately but subsidised by the government.
  • Catholic – run by Catholics and also subsidised by government.

schoolsPublic schools.

The Australian Government has an obligation to provide state education via public schools to all children in Australia. Each public school has an obligation to accept all of the children within its catchment area. If they don’t have enough room, they must find some. If they don’t have enough teachers, they must hire some more.

All public education in Australia is free, but there is confusion because each school can charge a “Voluntary Contributions” and these seem to range from $60 per annum to as much as $1,000.

Interestingly, the $1000 figure came from a news article entitled “anger over school fees” from the Herald Sun and was about schools in the state of Victoria. Victoria is where Vivienne was talking about when she mentioned high public school fees in Australia in her open email to me.

So what happens if you don’t pay these voluntary contributions? I spoke to somebody who didn’t pay and they told me they got bombarded with reminders constantly, but that ultimately nothing specifically happened. But she only missed the payment for one year, she couldn’t handle the pressure!

I’m sure each school deals with it differently, some may prevent your child from taking music lessons or sport for example and no doubt if too many people don’t pay, the voluntary contributions fees would go up for those that do. I’m sure they will get their money from somewhere.

If you want to know some of the alleged tricks schools get up to to ensure these voluntary contributions are paid, then check out the above mentioned article over at the Herald Sun.

In addition to the voluntary contributions, parents will also have to pay for stationery, books, school uniform, sports equipment, musical instruments, school trips and any other items needed that are relevant to their studies.

About two thirds of Australian children go to public (state) schools.

Private schools.

If you want to send your child to a private school, you’re better off doing it here in Australia than you are back in England. That’s because, if I’m not mistaken, if you choose private education in England the government says “thank you very much” and pockets the money it saved by you choosing not to send your child to one of the government run schools.

Here in Australia, the government realise that your decision to go private is saving them money, so they effectively subsidise your payments by paying a grant to all private schools who in turn can reflect that in their fees to students.

So how much is private education? This is where it could get messy but I have found a way to make this real simple…………

Between $800 and $29,000 a year.

Want to try and guess where you need to go to spend $29,000 a year on education? Yes, you’ve got it. Victoria! Geelong Grammar apparently.

So as you can see, fees vary wildly. But generally speaking, the older your child the more expensive it gets. Typically the fees are in these bands:

  • Prep to year 6.
  • Years 7 to 9.
  • Years 10 to 12.

Furthermore, good discounts are available for sending more of your children, if you have them, to the same school. Some payments are tax deductible as well.

Catholic schools.

Catholic schools are funded in the same way as private schools in as much as they charge a fee to their students and they receive a government grant. But it appears that Catholic schools are substantially cheaper on average than private schools.

Expect to pay between $600 and $3000 a year.

According to the government, they pump $22.7 billion of public funding into state education (2.2m students) and a further $7.6 billion into private (independent and Catholic) schools (1.1m students).

School fees rough summary: as at 2009

  • Public (state) schools: $60-$1000 a year. Average $150
  • Private schools: $800 to $29,000 a year. Average $6,300
  • Catholic schools: $600 to $3000 a year. Average $1,200

Plus the cost of uniforms, books and other stuff as previously mentioned. The average figures quoted are purely a BobinOz guess. I don’t think they’d be far out, but then I wouldn’t, would I?

Education costs in England.

Over in the UK, public (state) education is completely free, providing that hasn’t changed since I went to school.

Average private school costs are around £11,000 a year and Britain’s most expensive private school is Eton at £24,000 a year.

You could argue that private schools in the UK are more “elite” than they are here in Australia. After all only 7% of UK children attend private schools compared with over 30% here.

You could also argue that the quality of education in some of the UK’s state schools is equal to the education that some Australians pay for here privately. If that argument could be proved, then without a doubt the UK would win this cost comparison on the price of education. But until anybody can prove that……..

Who wins?

Public (state) schools here in Australia are more expensive than they are in the UK. But not by a lot. (Unless you go to Victoria). Once you’ve bought all the extra stuff, like the school uniform, stationery, sports kit etc, I’d like to wager Australian public schools can’t be anything much higher than 30% more expensive than the UK’s schools.

But private schools are cheaper here than in England. Quite a bit cheaper. In fact, at the least 50% cheaper, possibly as much as 70% cheaper when you compare the average £11,000 a year (that’s nearly $20,000) with the average of $6,300 here.

So, dare I award this category, the cost of education between England and Australia compared, to Australia?

No! But I’m calling it a draw.

Conclusion.

Don’t be too afraid of the cost of schooling here in Australia, it’s not that bad. And you do have the choice, you can pretty well spent as much or as little as you want.

Lesson 2:

I am pleased to announce that our teacher has returned to give us a second lesson, this one is called State School Fees for Temporary Visa Holders in Australia.

If you are coming here on a temporary 457 visa, you really must read it.

Update 2016

Obviously school fees change each year and this article is now a little out of date. Finding up-to-date information is incredibly difficult as many schools do not publish their fees online. Also, not only do fees vary from school to school, they can also change from grade to grade.

A Year 7 student will not pay as much as a Year 12 student.

During the last year we have been looking at high schools for our daughter Elizabeth here in the Brisbane area. For what it’s worth, the school fees we were quoted were:

  • Catholic School 1 = $7000 per year
  • Catholic School 2 = $12,000 per year
  • Independent Private School = $15,000 per year
  • Additionally, the above-mentioned Geelong Grammar now charges around $35,000 per year

These fees are not averages, they are specific fees quoted by four different schools. Any of you seriously looking at private education in Australia would be advised to get the up-to-date school fees directly from any individual school you might be interested in.

Those of you looking at those Catholic school fees will be thinking they have risen massively; I’m not sure that’s the case. Maybe the two Catholic schools we looked at were unusually expensive. My understanding is that you can still get a Catholic private school education for much less, I have certainly seen plenty of Catholic schools quoting fees of between $1000 and $3000 per year.

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{ 126 comments… add one }
  • Ryan Juan August 15, 2016, 6:49 pm | Link

    Hi bob, im on a 457 visa now and planning to get my wife and son as a dependent.I just want to ask if i could let my 5 year old son study on a public school or am i required to send him to a private one?How much would it cost me if i send him to a private school? Thanks hope you can help me with this..

    • BobinOz August 17, 2016, 2:07 pm | Link

      You need to click on the link underneath the title of Lesson 2 in the above article for more information about that one. The choice is yours though, you can choose a private school if you prefer, or go public.

      Whether or not you have to pay for a public school depends on which state you are going to be living in.

    • Jon August 27, 2016, 4:50 pm | Link

      Hi
      homelearn.com.au they are a distance education provider for years kindergarten to years 12, its all distance learning and is about $400. a year.

  • Edwine July 9, 2016, 10:51 pm | Link

    Hi Bob am on a 573 visa already studying at Tafe WA.My wife and a daughter of 5 years wish to join me from Kenya.Tafe tells me that fee for my daughter who will be going to year one probably is $13500 for public school. Is there any affordable school other than gov schools?

    • BobinOz July 10, 2016, 8:49 pm | Link

      As far as I am aware, government schools are the cheapest. That sounds a lot of money though, $13,500, all I can suggest is that maybe you look for local Catholic schools to see what they would charge.

      You do not have to be a Catholic to go to a Catholic school and most of them do not try to enforce their own religion. Worth a look.

  • Mariana July 4, 2016, 6:45 am | Link

    Hello,
    My son, Egyptian, 17 years old, already finished grade 10 in an American international school. He is studying SAT which I know it’s not available/common in Perth. He can’t switch now to IB system. What can be more suitable to him? AP ?

    • BobinOz July 5, 2016, 12:11 am | Link

      It would be best if you discussed your son’s needs with the school you intend sending him to in Perth. They will know what would be suitable for him.

  • Sukhvir Singh July 2, 2016, 12:47 pm | Link

    Nice

  • Khan June 27, 2016, 2:08 am | Link

    Hi Bob.
    Am from pakistan and I would like send my son for education. He is of 8 years . I would like to enroll him in public school in Sydney as my real sister is there.
    Can you please fesilitate me what would be free structure for my son as a foreign student ?
    Thank you
    Mak

    • BobinOz June 27, 2016, 11:45 pm | Link

      I leave all questions about student visas and fees to my expert, please see my page Student Visas.

      Good luck, Bob

  • Steven June 24, 2016, 10:49 am | Link

    Hi Bob, on the 2016 updates, how is the fee for government public school’s fee?

    • BobinOz June 24, 2016, 11:39 pm | Link

      State public schools, technically, are free. But these schools often ask for voluntary contributions and there are certain things you will need to buy for your child that the school doesn’t provide for free.

      So you will usually need to buy a stationary pack, maybe some books, and this year we had to buy a laptop computer for our daughter which was about $1100.

      Schools will often ask for voluntary contributions for anything they can think of, so there’s no fixed amount on that. Of course, you will also have to buy school uniforms and some school trips can be very expensive.

      What I’m saying is, there is no set government fee, each individual school does whatever it needs to do to raise additional funds. If you are on a 457 temporary visa though, then there may actually be school fees, checkout Lesson 2 above.

      • Steven June 27, 2016, 2:20 am | Link

        Thanks for your reply Bob. Are they are price different as Permenantly residence and Citizen for public schools? Are the school trip (expensive ones) be avoided or excused? As I’m sure not all parents can afford expensive trips.

        • BobinOz June 27, 2016, 11:49 pm | Link

          I think permanent residents get treated exactly the same as Australian citizens in most matters, including school fees. All school trips are voluntary, if you don’t want your child to go, that’s no problem.

          • Gladys August 15, 2016, 12:57 am | Link

            Hi bob i would just like to ask if for example im going to send my daughter shes of year 5 now and shes going to be an International Student. How much would be the tuition fees for public and private school?

            • BobinOz August 15, 2016, 6:23 pm | Link

              Again, these vary depending on the school. If you need help, check out my page about Student Visas.

  • Sarwar June 19, 2016, 7:33 am | Link

    Dear Bob

    Good day

    I have heard that there is a new visa category which allow international primary school children to come to Australia for studies.

    I am intending my son to study in Australian he is 5 yrs old now eligible for primary grade.

    my question is
    1. Can I along with my wife accompany him and also i got 2 yrs old daughter are we allowed to come.

    2. As a dependent on my son can i or my allowed to work legally in Australia if yes how many hours per week

    3. what is the normal fee in Melbourne school per year.

    4. Is it easy to find 1BHK accomidation and how much it cost. Melbourne and sydney.

    Please let me know the details please.

    Thanking you

    with regards.
    Sarwar

    • BobinOz June 19, 2016, 10:59 pm | Link

      I’m not sure where you’ve heard this information, but I do advise you to seek the assistance of a MARA registered migration agent to find out whether your child could come here and you could come here too as the guardian.

      My page about Migration agents. will help. Once you have found out whether this kind of visa actually exists and if you can qualify for it, then you can move onto questions number 3 and 4.

  • Chris Newton May 25, 2016, 6:33 am | Link

    Dear Bob,
    My son, aged 40, hopes to come to Australia for an extended visit of about 6-12 months.
    He has a brother & sister who are both Australian citizens.
    He would ideally like to do some work. He is a teacher, & for his 3 children aged 10, 8 & 6 to go to school.
    Your comments regarding cost of schooling don’t apply to non-Australians.
    Assuming he is able to obtain a visa etc can you give me some idea of the cost of schooling his children, please?
    They are UK passport holders.
    Thank-you!

    • BobinOz May 26, 2016, 12:29 am | Link

      Hi Chris

      My comments do apply to non-Australians for the most part, many people live here on permanent or temporary visas that allow them to work in this country and therefore get education for their children as part of that and they are not Australian.

      I really cannot answer your question, because I have no idea what kind of visa your son intends to visit on. Your son should really talk to a MARA registered migration agent about this, they know all the rules and they can clear it up for him.

      Good luck, Bob

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