Do school fees match a child’s outcome?

SUNSHINE Coast parents with teenagers in independent and catholic schools paid on average 10 times the amount that state school parents did in 2014.

My School statistics show the average fees, charges and parental contributions per student was $600 for Sunshine Coast government schools, whereas non-government schools came in at an average cost of over $6000.

Matthew Flinders Anglican College ranked the most expensive secondary school to attend on the Coast in 2014 coming in at a whopping $12,648 that year.

Nambour State College principal Wayne Troyahn said this cost to parents was unjustifiable when state schools provided an education that was just as good.

“When I have a look at last year here, we had seven OP 1s and 96 per cent of our kids got an OP 1 to 15 without any of those high fees being paid,” he said.

“You wonder why people want to pay those high fees.”

However, Siena Catholic College principal Graeme Hight justified the high costs of independent schools.

He said the expensive fees paid for facilities, higher salaries for teachers, and specialised subjects like marine biology.

“A lot of that would be going to facilities,” he said.

“A five or six million dollar performing arts centre, it’s got to be paid for somewhere.

“I know Flinders pay their teachers a higher award/salary than ours get paid because the expectations on them are higher.”

He said while catholic schools were cheaper than independent schools, there is still a necessary cost for people. 

Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) Executive Director David Robertson said parents chose independent schooling because of a multitude of factors including excellent academic results.

“Parents have consistently identified in ISQ’s What Parents Want Survey that the top five factors which influence their choice of an independent school are: how well that school prepares their child to fulfill their potential in later life, good discipline, encouraging a responsible attitude to school work, high quality teachers, and the school’s teaching methods and philosophy,” he said.

However, Mr Hight said there was no difference in the quality of teaching between independent, catholic and state schools.

“The quality of teaching, the pedagogy and everything that people are using is equivalent,” he said.

“It’s the engagement of the kids [that] can be the difference and the way that they value education.”

Mr Hight attributed this to a generally lower socioeconomic status of families enrolled in state schools.

He said the socioeconomic status of a family generally correlates with the type of schooling they chose, and this has a carry on effect to whether they chose university or employment as a post-graduation destination.

Sunshine Coast independent and catholic high schools had a higher rate of university attendees than state high schools from 2010 to 2014.

My School data showed an average of 49 per cent of non-government school students attended university straight after graduating, however, state schools had only 27 per cent.

Therefore students who went straight onto employment were mostly from state schools.

Thirty-seven per cent chose to work straight out of high school, whereas only 27 per cent of non-government school graduates chose this path.

Mr Hight said this had a lot to do with affordability.

He said the parents of children who attend independent or catholic schools are in the upper two quartiles of socioeconomic status on the My School website.

“Now this is a really sweeping statement but there’s validity to it,” he said.

“Parents who have got access to a greater income, it’s normally because they’re working at a job that’s got a higher qualification.”

He said the children of those parents then saw tertiary education as the next step in obtaining a higher income.

But Dr Troyhan disagreed.

He said rather than socioeconomic status playing a major role in swaying a teen’s post-graduation move, it was the prospect of unemployment that deterred graduates from tertiary education.

“I think it’s a growing number, especially in difficult economic times people see a lot of students going through university and actually not getting jobs, so people want to try and do something to get jobs,” he said.

“I think it’s more to do with the family situation where people have seen, say, older siblings who have gone through university or whatever and haven’t got jobs.

Mr Hight said compared to five years ago, high schools now cater to students wanting different career paths.

He said OPs and academic performance are still a prominent part of independent and catholic schools, however vocational education and training in schools (VETiS) is becoming more prominent.

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