Choosing Public or Private Education
You have total freedom in Australia to have your children educated within the Government systems, or in a private/independent school. In 2021, about 65% of Australian children were educated in Government schools and 35% in the independent system - in terms of the latter, the majority are schools with Catholic, Anglican and Uniting Church affiliations. Please see the table below for more details by state and territory.
To gain admission to a State school you must generally live within the geographic boundaries of a school district although some of the very best, selective State schools choose their students through entrance exams. Private schools have no geographical boundaries but may apply entrance tests and can have waiting lists.
In terms of academic results, it is the selective state schools and private schools which have long produced the best academic results. There are various reasons postulated for this superior performance – including selective entry, better facilities, different cultures and higher teacher to student ratios. Whatever the reason, the popularity of private schools has grown steadily over the years at the expense of Government schools until relatively recently, when private school market share has suffered a relative decline, probably because of relentless fee inflation over much of the last decade.
If you want your child to attend a private school on return to Australia then you should begin to organise that process, and contact the schools in question, at the earliest opportunity. While an expatriate life doesn’t always allow the sort of certainty that this process requires, nevertheless you should make every attempt to plan ahead. Note that you will be asked to pay a relatively small enrolment application fee and then probably a much more significant amount upon receiving confirmation of your child being offered a place.
Expatriates to Australia should note that almost all the major private/independent schools in Australia have religious affiliations, as mentioned above. Unfortunately, there are very few good-quality, secular private schools and while private schools will not preclude children from other faiths, or those without a faith, from attending a school they may nevertheless be expected to participate in religious activities, such as attendance at chapel. By most measures Australia is a largely secular society and the private/independent school network is an anachronism.
The table below provides some background regarding the proportion of children attending Government and Independent schools throughout Australia, by State and Territory.
Finally, note that private education fees are not tax deductible, although expatriates assigned to Australia may find it tax advantageous to have the fees included within salary packaging arrangements.