Friday 3 December 2010

How much are those nasty elite private schools leeching from us?

By the looks of things, not much.

The ICSEA scores that rate how "rich" a school is have been revised - you can see the top 43 schools in NSW here.

Don't ask me what the ICSEA rating is, or how it is calculated. All I know is that if you have a "high" score, the school is full of kids from wealthy families.

First thing to remember - there are 43 "elite" private schools on this list for NSW, but there are 916 private schools in NSW. The elite are just 4.7% of the total.

I dumped the PDF into Excel and sorted it by ICSEA score. Here are the top 10 in order:

  1. Kincoppal, Rose Bay
  2. Redlands, Cremorne
  3. Moriah College, Bondi Junction
  4. SCEGGS, Darlinghurst
  5. Ascham, Edgeclif
  6. Pymble Ladies' College, Pymble
  7. Cranbrook School, Bellevue Hill
  8. Ravenswood School for Girls, Gordon
  9. Abbotsleigh, Wahroonga
  10. Barker College, Hornsby
Lots of lovely leafy, expensive suburbs there. Nice places to live - except you need to have an income about 5 times mine to even scrape in to the worst house in the cheapest street. But I'm not the jealous, envious type - good luck to them.

I then had a look at the school with top score - Kincoppal. It's definitely an elite school for micks. I dumped the fee schedule into a spreadsheet. The average annual fee for day students is $17,341. Boarders can add another $19,000 to that. If you have your kid there for 13 years, it will set you back $225,440.

Holy moley.

The annual report states that 85% of their income comes from fees. If that's the case, the state and federal governments are chipping in a combined $3060 in recurrent fees, and $1,500 in capital - a total taxpayer contribution of about $4,500 per year.

As there are 905 students, that comes to $4,072,500.

I'm not going to grind through all the other schools in the list, delving into annual reports to extract numbers. Let's just assume that the top 20 schools have 1000 students each, and the state and federal governments give them $4,500 per student per year.

That means the elite schools are getting $90,000,000 per year.

Now, one thing to remember is that the state usually give private schools 3 to 4 times more than the federal government, so of that $90 mil, lets assume $70 million came from the NSW education department.

The NSW DET has a budget of $11.839 billion. Or $11,839,000,000. The elite schools are getting 0.59% of that budget. However, they teach 1.82% of the kids in NSW.

Let's look at the other 43 schools on the list. Here are the next 10:

  • Newington College, Stanmore
  • MLC School, Burwood
  • Roseville College, Roseville
  • Frensham School, Mittagong
  • The Scots College, Bellevue Hill
  • Queenwood School for Girls, Mosman
  • Masada College High School, St Ives
  • Kambala, Rose Bay
  • The King's School, North Parramatta
  • St Ignatius' College, Lane Cove
Again, lots of nice schools in nice Sydney suburbs. They all charge a lot too.

However, it gets really interesting when you look at the bottom half of the list:

  • The Scots School Albury, Albury
  • Oxley College, Burradoo
  • Wenona School Ltd, North Sydney
  • Kinross Wolaroi School, Orange
  • Presbyterian Ladies College, Croydon
  • Meriden School, Strathfield
  • Tangara School for Girls, Cherrybrook
  • Redfield College, Dural
  • Danebank School, Hurstville
  • The McDonald College, North Strathfield
  • The Armidale School, Armidale
  • Santa Sabina College, Strathfield
  • William Branwhite Clarke College, Kellyville
  • The Scots School, Bathurst
  • Inaburra School, Bangor
  • PLC Armidale, Armidale
  • St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill
  • Reddam House, North Bondi
  • Rosebank College, Five Dock
  • Arndell College, Oakville
  • Pittwater House Girls College, Collaroy
  • St Paul's College, Walla Walla
  • New England Girls School, Armidale
I've never heard of half these schools - and note that many are out in the rural and regional areas. I covered St Paul's College in Walla Walla by chance recently.

It's a Lutheran school near Albury-Wadonga with 215 kids. Annual fees range from $4648 to $7300, with the average being $6053.

The state contribution is $1.15 million and federal $405,000.

Dividing those numbers by 215 kids, we find that:

Parents chip in an average of $6,053
The state government chips in $5,381 per kid
The feds chip in $1,883 per kid
Total taxpayer contribution is $7,264.

Total of parent and taxpayer contribution is $13,453.

As I have blogged before, the NSW DET gets $18,431 from the taxpayer in order to educate your average high school student. How they spend that money is a mystery to all and sundry - certainly nothing like that actually seems to end up in the schools. I suspect the DET has a bloody big furnace in their basement where they heat the building by burning two or three billion in cash each year.

There are of course quite a few more schools on this list of the "elites" that educate kids for less than what it costs in the state system.

Remember when I said earlier that it costs parents an eye-popping $225,440 to send their kids to 13 years at Kincoppal?

Well, let's calculate the cost of putting a kid through the state system.

- 7 years in primary school at $14,657 per year = $102,599
- 6 years in high school at $18,431 per year = $110,586
- total = $213,185.

Heck, that's only 9 grand short of the fees for the most expensive, most elitist private school in the state.

Of course if you add in the state contribution at Kincoppal, the total comes to $265,223 - so over 13 years, it's 50 grand more expensive.

But let's look at 13 years at St Paul's in Walla Walla. Well, we can't - it only does high school. but six years there will only set a parent back $36,096. The total cost of 6 years there is $80,718 (including government contributions) - and this is for a regional school, which in the DET book, is "more expensive" to run.

Compare that total cost of $80,718 for high school to $110,586 for an average state school.

Yet somehow, St Paul's is an "elite" school, and the funds it gets from the government - about $1.5 million per year - should be slashed.

I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. Those that love the state system tell us it's under resourced. OK, it gets less cash per head than the top 20 private schools in the state. However, it actually gets at least 35% MORE than the schools in the bottom half of the "elite" table, and certainly more than the other 900 or so private schools that are out there.

I could spend the next year grinding through reports to build up a more complete picture, but I think it is fair to say that the DET is not under resourced. What it does with those resources is another matter. I think it wastes them like a drunken sailor with three days to live.


1735099 said...

To quote Einstein -
"Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts."
It's what can't be counted that provides the best argument for increased financial accountability from "subsidised" schools (schools generally referred to wrongly as "private" schools).
Two examples in which I have been involved recently as a pro-bono advocate -
Boy 14, with brain injury as a result of life saving surgery. He was initially accepted as an enrolment at an elite private school. After attending for a month, his father was presented with a bill for an extra $20000 (on top of the normal $14000pa) fee on the basis of the extra support required. Father refused to pay and took them to HREEOC. It transpired during the hearing that the school had received a Federal grant completely covering the extras. Their agenda was to have the enrolment withdrawn because they didn't want the lad at the school - he didn't quite fit the image.
The school lost - and the enrolment continues - very satisfying.
Second example - Boy 13 with hemiplegia currently attending a bush school, but enrolled in the same elite school for 2011. The parents received a letter saying that the school couldn't allow the enrolment because he was to be a boarder. This lad rides trial bikes and helps his dad round up scrubbers on their family property - he's totally independent.
The parents decided (unfortunately in my opinion) not to go to HREEOC because he has an elder brother at the school, and they felt he may be victimised. The kid is devastated.
It's this kind of outrageous behaviour that is subsidised by the taxpayer dollar. And whilst there are good exceptions in some subsidised schools, this behaviour is commonplace.

kae said...

I attended MLC Burwood from 1971-1974. Mum paid a shitload for me to go there. It was OK, but I didn't take advantage of the opportunity - finished high at a public school in 1975-6.

They're still sending me letters canvassing donations.

If I had daughters and they were smart I would most definitely have tried to send them to a school like MLC.

Unknown said...

Well It sounds very expensive, but don't let this ruin your decision on what school you would like to got to. This is only a concern for the parents, they only just want the best education that they can afford and this is why these schools are so expensive is because they have the best education.

Anonymous said...

Don't make assumptions about people who send their children to private schools. We have just sent our first of 3 daughters awav to boarding school. We are NOT wealthy, we don't own our own home and are both working very hard because this is what we CHOOSE to do. There will be no holidays for the next 6 years, it will be head down for us. Our girls understand the huge sacrifices we have made to do this and hopefully this is motivate them to work hard and broaden their horizons. We live in a rural area, and we don't have a lot of choices.

Why is it you rarely hear people who went to private schools criticising those who choose to send their children to public schools, but so commonly hear of people who went to public schools openly criticising those at Private schools?

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more ... they assume a lot yet know very little.

Why is it you rarely hear people who went to private schools criticising those ... I'm afraid it is the same old green eyed monster - those who are successful are content those who are not unhappy whinge and whine about those who are 'better off' ...

Funny the statement "some of these schools I have never heard of" ... mmm how very ignorant of you - hahaha surprise, surprise there is a big world out there. I wonder what motivates a person to blog lists and whiney critiques about the top 50 schools in NSW?? BTW, they are the top for that very reason. Sorry about the bad news but it is nothing new and you will always find those who are better off than you - this blog proves it.

Anonymous said...

The blogger should stick to making jelly cakes.
The maths is wrong- can't assume that all of school have 1000 pupils - and so many more flawed assumptions.
People who choose to send their kids to non - government schools do so for many and varied reasons.
They make sacrifices like my family is making as my parents did for my siblings and me.
They don't deserve hostile mudslinging and criticism - they pay taxes too
And to think that someone in this day and age would refer to Catholics in such a rude way.
I am not impressed

Anonymous said...

Yes well - today was my 8 yo daughters second orientation day at a public school. She came home with a grazed shoulder and blood on her head having been pushed over for no reason in the playground. No one cared. Last week she was at one of the above elite schools but my husband's job loss meant a change for her. At her old school - such an assault would have involved quite the investigation and a re-education of the perpetrator. At a private school you are paying for "couth", nice facilities, decent resources and an accountability of teaching staff and degree of pastoral care. Sucks to be public I reckon. And by the way - the most highly govt subsidised schools are far flung, never heard of public schools with tiny student populations. Look them up and discuss it to be fair.
Sydney mum

Unknown said...

I have a friend going to frensham and another going to Oxley. Frensham cost 24,000 and Oxley cost 15,00 aprox. My parents are sending my brother and to a school that cost 5,460 a year with my brother on a 100% scholarship and me with a 50% scholarship.

Unknown said...

Also both my parents are working just for that. My friends aren't snobs but my little school does a whole lot better than schools like frensham and oxley

Unknown said...

I couldn't agree more. You get a better education at private schools and you learn to be polite and not judge other people's disc ions.

Anonymous said...

My Wife and I go without a lot to send our 3 sons to private school on the Gold Coast (not NSW I know). Including uniforms cost is around $45K pa. We do this as others have commented, because everyone is accountable for their actions. Students, teachers, staff and parents are all expected to adhere to a high standards. While there are some very wealthy families attending the school, most are just like us.
Proud Gold Coast dad

Unknown said...

My wife and I have moved a lot, and our kids have attended schools in NSW, QLD, VIC, WA and the ACT of both state and private type. In total, our kids have attended 9 different schools.

Our son recently attended an elite private boarding school in Geelong on scholarship, and our daughter will be attending St Pauls in Walla Walla from next term.

I can say from experience that the most expensive school in Australia provides the best education in Australia. I can also say from experience, that it is not the best because of the facilities or because of the high fees, but because of the innovation in teaching techniques, and the focus on producing great young adults, rather than just teaching to tests.

With the resources available to the public education system, there is no reason public schools cant achieve the same results as elite private schools. The difference is visionary leadership and innovation.
The top schools in the our country have high expectations, are free to innovate, take a global perspective, and constantly re-invent themselves to do better. Geelong Grammar for example, has embedded concepts of positive psychology into the curriculum across all school years from K to 12 in partnership with the psychology faculty.
Why do we not see this sort of innovation in our public school system?

We did send our kids to a public school in the ACT, but withdrew them after 3 terms due to serious concerns for their safety. Apparently our expectations that our kids be able to attend school safely were higher than the school was prepared to accept. I remember clearly the day I was told by the principal " We are happy if we can get through the week without a police lockdown, your expectations are too high"

Like the others who have commented, I agree that accountability is critical, but accountability alone is not nearly enough. Our public schools need visionary principals, the freedom to make decisions, and the support of research institutions.

Whilst the steps currently being taken towards independent public schools are a step in the right direction, there is so much more that could be done.

What I would do if Minister for Education....

Anonymous said...

Kincoppal is actually not the most expensive...
Pymble and Abbotsleigh charge 35,000 plus for a year!

Lucinda said...

My mum wanted me to go to Kincoppal, Rose Bay. She and her niece went there for about 2 years, and wanted me to go too. That part of sydney is one of the most expensive places in australia, and if we were to buy there all we would have gotten was a 3 bedroom house worth 3.5 million dollars. My dad never wanted me to go there, he wants me to go to Frensham. Sure, some parts of Bowral are reasonably expensive but at least you buy something worth your money. Frensham is a pretty good school by the looks of it. It's based in the country so there will be a lot more activities then Kincoppal.

Anonymous said...

I go to Wenona. I know this comment may seem irrelevant but for god's sake just read it. My parents pay a shitload for me to go here and yet they forget to inform me on plenty of things. Causing me to miss periods, cry every day because of their mistakes, and turn up to sporting games to find out they made another fucking mistake and we're not playing. We drove for 2 fucking hours. And even though I go to Wenona I was playing North Sydney Girls High School in Netball and 1 girl thought it would be okay to call my team player a bitch every 2 seconds, it's not okay. Don't send your children to these schools it's a fucking waste of your fucking precious money.