Cost of Private School Education: Australia and the UK Compared

Mag June 16Time for another reprint of one of my Australia and New Zealand magazine articles. As mentioned in it, I’ve already written about state health services in Australia. In an article called Health Insurance in Australia and Going to Hospital, I looked at the difference between private and state health care.

I then thought it would be a good idea to write a similar article comparing private and state schools and this is how it turned out. The article appeared in their June edition earlier this year. I called it Schools in Australia, they didn’t.

An education

Mag June 16A couple of months ago I wrote an article here about private versus state health services. The take-up rate for private health insurance here in Australia, at 50%, was something like five times greater than in the UK. It’s a similar story when it comes to private education.

Latest figures, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, are that 34.8% of Australian students attend private schools. In the UK, according to several sources I looked at, just 7% of children attend independent (private) schools.

Again, there is a massive difference between the two countries. Why do so many Australians prefer to pay for private education? I don’t know the answer to that, but having recently gone through the process of selecting a high school for our daughter Elizabeth, I can tell you about fees and results.

First, the fees.

bag of moneyWe looked at three private schools for Elizabeth, one an independent grammar and the other two Catholic private schools. No, we are not Catholics, but you don’t have to be to go and their fees do tend to be lower than those of independent schools. The yearly fees for those two Catholic schools were $7000 and $12,000. The independent private school fees were around $15,000 a year.

According to reliable information I found online, the average annual fee for a private school in the UK is around £10,000; that’s roughly $20,000 Australian. As you can see, all three schools we looked at here were cheaper and one of them significantly so.

That said, I do know that Australia’s most expensive private schools charge something like $35,000 a year, but even that compares favourably with the UK’s most expensive schools whose fees are around £35,000 a year. These are boarding schools though, so you would get a little bit of food and a bed thrown in at those prices.

Of course, all school fees across both countries vary wildly, but I do wonder if, generally speaking, private school fees are lower here in Australia.

Now the results.

maths teacherDo private schools offer better education?

I think many people moving to Australia seem to naturally think that they will need to send their child to a private school. It is worth remembering though, that almost twice as many Australian children attend state schools than go private, so it is still easily the most popular choice.

In the UK, there is distinct evidence that privately educated students get better results. Apparently two out of three A-level students from independent schools make it to a top university compared with less than one in four from state schools. That’s a massive difference, but here in Australia I have found no real evidence of private schools completely outperforming state run schools.

In the end, after all our research, we chose to send our daughter to the local state high school. The results achieved by this school, you can check all school performance results on a website called, were better than those of the two Catholic schools we looked at and they even matched the results of some of the more expensive private schools.

So you don’t have to go private, state schools in Australia do a great job. Elizabeth loves her new school, especially as it’s where most of her junior school friends go as well.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Claire Broadley November 23, 2016, 3:14 am |

    Hi Bob! We are moving to the Moreton Bay/North Lakes area in January. I have enjoyed reading your posts. When we were doing our original research you definitely helped put the positive in emigration! So I will be another one of the hundreds of British GPs in Australia! This article particularly interested me as we can’t afford private education here in the UK, but could in Oz so assumed we would, we will research the state schools too and see which is best for our boys (5+7). Thanks again, keep up the good work! ?

    • BobinOz November 23, 2016, 5:52 pm |

      Thanks Claire, I appreciate your kind words and I’m glad to hear I helped in some way. When it comes to school for your kids, just do the research as best you can and if you can find anywhere where you can get local knowledge, sometimes Facebook is good for that with suburb or postcode groups, all the better.

      Of course, some private schools are better, but as I’ve mentioned, that isn’t always the case. In some areas, the state schools do as well or even better. Good luck with your move, Bob

  • Oliver Tuff September 19, 2016, 6:26 am |

    Hi Bob,

    Ive been a keen reader for a few months now and have probably read most of your posts and pages!!. We are planning a move over from Maidstone in Kent to Brisbane in the new year, but are very much in the early stages. Seems housing, cost of living, etc is all a bit tricky but manageable. My biggest concern is getting my 5 year old son into primary school on arrival. We are hoping to rent in New Farm and would hope he could go to school nearby, especially as my wife does not drive and would need to walk the kids to school (we have a 1 year old daughter also). Class sizes seem pretty small compared to the UK, which is good, but does this mean it is harder to get in? Any advice would be gretaly appricated. Is it possible to pre-apply form overseas?

    Thanks, Oli.

    • BobinOz September 19, 2016, 3:07 pm |

      Hi Oliver

      Glad to hear you have been reading my website, thanks.

      As for school, no, I really don’t think you will have problem at all. If you go private, then these schools will find a space for you, it’s in their interest to do that as they rely on the student fees.

      If you go to a state run school, the state has an obligation to provide a place for your son, although that is restricted to any school or schools within the catchment area where you decide to live.

      Either way, I’m sure there won’t be a problem getting your son into a school. Hope that helps, good luck, Bob

  • GilesYNWA September 1, 2016, 11:09 pm |

    . . is a 109 or 457 visa holder entitled to Childcare rebate, Child care rebate?Family Tax Benefit? (or any on all the government pages it doesn’t refer to visa status.

    • BobinOz September 2, 2016, 11:55 pm |

      I’m really not sure, you would need to speak directly to Centrelink about this. Rules on allowances and rebates change all the time, I wouldn’t want to give you wrong information.

      • GilesYNWA September 3, 2016, 12:12 am |

        Thanks Bob. We will be working those costs into our prospective budget as any family benefits are only for residents. next stop PR in OZ!

        • BobinOz September 4, 2016, 8:21 pm |

          Okay, and good luck with the move, I hope it goes well.

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