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Victorian secondary schools forced to chase high levels of private funding

Mar 13, 2014News

State secondary schools are increasingly raising funds themselves from fees and private sources, an analysis of My School website data has shown.

Fairfax Media extracted data on more than 2000 Victorian primary and secondary schools from the My School website when the site was updated last week.

Fees and income from other private sources at the secondary schools analysed made up 10.7 per cent of those schools’ total revenue in 2012, increasing from 8.7 per cent at the same schools in 2009. Contributions and private income at primary schools remained almost unchanged over this period.

However, the state government remains the overwhelming source of state school funds.

An Education Department spokesman said the inclusion of full-fee paying international students contributed to the increase at some schools.

But principals said they were also asking parents to contribute for equipment such as computers.

Koonung Secondary College in Mont Albert North is one of 25 state secondary schools where fees, charges, parent and other private contributions rose by more than 75 per cent compared with 2011. Principal Peter Wright said the spike was driven by the cost of notebook computers and optional school trips.

But he said the school ensured all students had a notebook even if their parents were unable to buy one. ”That’s a very important part of our policy,” he said.

Money raised by hiring out rooms to a language school and sports facilities was used to subsidise educational programs and additional teachers, Mr Wright said.

The school also has international students.

Fees and charges at Koonung increased from $946 a student in 2009 to $1848 a student in 2012, My School data shows, including $800 for notebooks if purchased through the school upfront. Combined state and federal funding increased by $272 a student at the school over the same period.

Australian Council of State School Organisations president Peter Garrigan said schools faced pressure to raise money for computers, expensive materials for vocational courses and some costs associated with overseas trips.

State schools may look to the fund-raising strategies of their independent counterparts, he said.

”Government schools still have to master the art of the old-boy network.”

Brighton Secondary College earned about $1 million from overseas students in 2012, but college principal Julie Podbury said schools also faced steep costs in caring for them.

Monash University education lecturer Scott Bulfin said many schools felt they had to offer modern digital equipment to compete with other schools. ”You can understand the pressure … in a highly competitive market,” he said.

Monash and Melbourne university students collected data for this story.

Source: The Age

Photo by Eddie Jim: Principal of Koonung Principal of Koonung Secondary College, Peter Wright.