Morrison Government preferences funding increases for Catholic schools despite falling enrolments

11 November 2019

The Morrison Government continues to preference funding to Catholic schools despite falling enrolments and in the face of booming student enrolments in the public system, according to new analysis of ACARA finance and enrolment data.

The analysis by the Australian Education Union reveals that combined government recurrent Commonwealth and State/Territory funding increases to Catholic schools has grown 80% faster than it has for public schools over the past ten years.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that while the majority of the shift in enrolment growth away from Catholic schools and towards public schools has been in primary schools to date, this trend was now starting to feed through to secondary schools, creating additional pressure on an already very under-resourced public system.

“Public school student enrolments are soaring, and yet these figures show growth in government funding of Catholic schools has been far greater than that provided to public schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

The total number of students enrolled in public schools has increased by over a quarter of a million in the last decade and by nearly 75,000 in the last three years alone, whilst Catholic enrolments have fallen by over 1,300 students in that time.

Public school enrolments have grown from 65% to nearly 66% of all enrolments over five years whilst Catholic school enrolments have now declined to a new low of less than 20%, yet Catholic school funding increases still far outpace those provided to public schools.

“This makes a mockery of the Morrison Government’s claims to observe equitable needs-based funding and sector blindness,” Ms Haythorpe said.

In addition, total growth in combined Commonwealth and State/Territory government recurrent funding from 2009-2017 has been 27.3% per public school student, compared to 49.1% per Catholic school student.

“Two out of every three students attend public schools, yet the Morrison Government is ignoring them to preference the less than one fifth of students that attend Catholic schools.

“This is patently unfair to Australia’s 2.5 million public school students, who deserve a high-quality and well-resourced education in learning environments fit for the 21st century.

“Under the Morrison Government 99 per cent of public schools won’t reach the minimum funding benchmark – the Schooling Resource Standard - and will miss out on the resources they need for smaller class sizes, more one-on-one teaching and more support for students with disability,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The federal government must deliver the recurrent funding needed to ensure that every school meets the Schooling Resource Standard,” Ms Haythorpe said.

According to the AEU data analysis:

  • Total public school enrolments have increased by 263,534 students in the decade to 2018, an increase of 10.3%.
  • Nearly 200,000 (197,069) of this increase has been in primary school enrolments, whilst Catholic primary school enrolments have fallen by 8,813 students since their 2014 peak.
  • This means that the public proportion of total student school enrolments rose from 65.1% to 65.7% from 2014 to 2018, while there has been a notable decline of the proportion of total Catholic school enrolments from 20.5% to 19.7% since 2015.
  • Public school enrolments at the junior secondary level have increased by 80,827 from 2014 to 2018, an increase of 13.2%, while junior secondary enrolments in Catholic schools have only increased by 1,789 (0.7%) since 2015.
  • Total combined government recurrent funding to Catholic schools has grown 45% faster than for public schools between 2009 and 2017.
  • On per student terms recurrent government funding to Catholic schools has grown 79.9% faster than for public schools since 2009.
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