Student enrolment forecast exposes PM’s private-school bias

Public school enrolments are forecast to increase by 23 times more than Catholic school enrolments over the next decade, raising hard questions about the assumptions behind the Morrison government’s $4.6 billion private school funding deal.

The forecasts were provided by the federal Department of Education and Training under the Freedom of Information act. They show that, in real terms, the public school sector will grow by more than 270,000 students in the next 10 years, as opposed to only 11,000 extra students for the Catholic sector.

In Victoria, public school enrolments are forecast to grow at almost 10 times that of the Catholic sector over the next decade, while Queensland's public school enrolments are forecast to grow at almost eight times that of the Catholic sector.

Federal Australian Education Union President Correna Haythorpe said that, despite funding cuts imposed by the Morrison government, public school enrolment figures are a strong vote of confidence by parents in excellent high-quality public education delivered by committed, highly-qualified teachers.

“These federal school enrolment forecasts demonstrate the complete disconnect between Scott Morrison’s $4.6 billion private school spending splurge and the stark reality of school enrolments,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Prime Minister clearly is not looking at actual school student enrolment figures. This data shows that enrolment growth in Catholic schools is stagnant across the country and in some cases, particularly New South Wales and South Australia, dropping quite markedly.”

Despite this, Ms Haythorpe said, the Morrison government is pumping in billions of extra dollars in special deals for the Catholic sector.

“This is in contrast to strong projected enrolment growth in public schools across the nation. This is clear evidence that, despite funding cuts imposed by the Morrison government, public schools provide excellent high-quality education delivered by committed, highly-qualified teachers.

“Private schools have already been handed $1.9 billion in capital works special deal funding by the Morrison government. However public schools do not get a single dollar from the Commonwealth for classrooms, libraries and other state of the art learning facilities.

“Yet, as these enrolment figures show, public school enrolment growth far outstrips that in the Catholic school sector. If Scott Morrison was serious about sector-blind needs-based funding, he would restore the funding cuts and create a public school capital works fund of at least $300m per year, indexed to enrolment growth.”

The student enrolment projections revealed that:

  • Nationally, public school enrolments are projected to increase by 23 times more than Catholic school enrolments over the next decade. In real terms, this means more than 270,000 extra students in the public school sector, as opposed to only 11,000 extra students in the Catholic sector.
  • In Victoria, public school enrolments are forecast to grow at almost 10 times those in the Catholic sector over the next decade. In real terms, this means there will be 118,149 more students in Victorian public schools as opposed to just 12,607 additional students in Victorian Catholic schools.
  • In NSW we see 30,089 extra students in public school sector, as opposed to a drop of 8412 students in the Catholic sector.
  • In Queensland, public school enrolments are forecast to grow at almost eight times those in the Catholic sector over the next decade (55,521 extra students versus 7451).
  • In the ACT, public school enrolments are forecast to grow at nineteen times those in the Catholic sector over the next decade (11687 extra students versus 498).
  • In South Australia, we see almost 10,896 extra students in public school sector, as opposed to a drop of 5137 students in the Catholic sector
  • In WA, public school enrolments are forecast to grow at almost nine times those in the Catholic sector over the next decade (44,912 extra students versus 5456)
  • In Tasmania, public school enrolments are forecast to drop at two times those in the Catholic sector over the next decade (2449 fewer students versus 1245).
  • In the NT, public school enrolments are forecast to grow at more than four times those in the Catholic sector over the next decade (1702 vs 347)

 

Ms Haythorpe said public schools had been forgotten by the Morrison government when it came to funding.

“We know 65% of students in Australia attend public schools. As these figures show, with public school enrolments growing at 10 or even 20 times those in Catholic schools, more and more public school students will be short-changed by the Morrison government.

“There are state elections looming in Victoria and New South Wales, as well as a federal election. Public school funding is going to be a critical issue in all of these.

“Parents in public school communities understand the importance of fully funding public schools, and they vote.

“Current federal funding arrangements will leave nearly nine in 10 public schools in Australia without enough funding to meet the needs of each student by 2023. It’s clear what needs to happen. The Morrison government must lift its contribution to public school funding,” Ms Haythorpe said.  

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