Private Schools for Expats in Australia

Submitted: July 2013

Private, or non-state, schools are well regarded for the rounded, holistic quality of their education. They offer small class sizes, excellent facilities such as well-stocked libraries and, in some cases, swimming pools (these facilities are not generally available at most state schools). The use of modern teaching methods is a predominant characteristic in private schools. Additionally, these schools attach great importance to non-academic activities, such as music lessons, chess, debating and especially sport. Private school students have notably better exam results and discipline levels than those of most state schools. Largely because of this, they usually have better post-school outcomes and are less likely to be unemployed. Some private schools pride themselves in getting the best out of students, while not necessarily topping the league tables.

In Australia, private schools fall into two main categories:

  1. Catholic schools – these schools are operated by the Roman Catholic denominations. Catholic schools are the most common religious schools by far, enrolling approximately 21% of secondary school students in Australia. Although they are private, most Catholic schools receive substantial government funding; this means that their fees tend to be lower. These schools tend to offer religion-based educational values, with most staff and students belonging to their faith. Nevertheless, they are open to students of other religious persuasions.

  2. Independent schools – these schools, like Catholic schools, are independent of most government control, though not always totally, as some are partially government funded. Many of these schools are affiliated with a religious group, though some have no religious affiliations. However, these schools do not insist on religious allegiance and as such educate students of many faiths. These schools are the most popular for boarding, though they are often more expensive than Catholic schools.

Some Australians criticise these schools for encouraging religious differences and proselytising, as they believe that religion should have no role in public schooling. Nevertheless, their contribution to high quality education cannot be ignored.

Private schools in Australia are currently implementing the 2014 Australian Curriculum, though many follow alternative curriculums. Notwithstanding this, all schools are required to offer a curriculum which spans eight particular learning areas. These areas were specified in the Melbourne Declaration and include mathematics, English, science and the humanities. Typically, private schools prepare students to sit national examinations as they are administered by the local state or territory. In addition to this, you can rest assured in the quality of education provided as private schools, as they are required to be registered by the Commonwealth government and are audited on a regular basis to ensure that they comply with specified regulations.

Each school has its own characteristics, and these are reflected in the school’s admission policy. Some schools may give priority to students of a particular sex or religious denomination, or follow a certain educational method. Some schools may require formal examinations to be taken. Other schools have a more informal approach.

Tuition fees for private institution in Australia vary immensely, with Catholic schools normally being the least expensive. Fees range from approximately A$20,000 (£10,800 / US$16,900) up to around A$34,000 (£18,300 / US$28,700) per year. Note that tuition fees are typically increased by 5 per cent or more at a time.

You should be aware that most independent schools limit the number of international students to approximately 10% of the school population and that in most schools the main language of instruction is English. However, if your child is not fluent, many private schools provide intensive English programmes, while others have relations with English language colleges.

If you decide to send your child to a private school, the following search guide may prove useful in identifying the one that suits you most:




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