Catholic Schools New South Wales (CSNSW) is legally responsible for the funding arrangements across NSW’s 547 systemic Catholic schools.
In 2018, the NSW Catholic school system will receive almost $2.6 billion of recurrent grants from the Commonwealth and NSW State governments and will raise, in the same period, almost $600 million from private sources, predominantly parental school fees.
This document sets out the needs-based funding arrangements that will apply to the deployment of these funds for the benefit of our students.
School funding explained in five easy steps (no, really)
Despite hectares of newsprint and terabytes of online reporting, most people still don’t understand how school funding actually works.
So here is as simple and as objective an explanation as possible.
The first thing to understand is that state and federal governments fund all not-for-profit
government and non-government schools to some degree because schooling is compulsory and few
families could afford the full cost of a school education – more than $11,000 per child per year –
especially if they have more than one child.
You’re probably asking why schools charging more than double this amount in fees receive any
government funding at all. This will be explained as well.
Let’s start with how government funding for all schools is calculated.
1. It starts with the SRS – a base amount plus loadings for disadvantage
The Federal Government sets a base funding amount per student each year and adds funding for
certain types of disadvantage. In 2018, the base amount will be $10,953 per primary student and
$13,764 per secondary student. The base amount and the loadings for disadvantage make up the
Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). This amount varies for each school according to its students’
2. Only government schools receive the full SRS in public funding
State and Federal governments jointly fund 100% of the SRS for government schools – but only 20%
to 90% of the base amount for non-government schools (plus 100% of their disadvantage loadings).
3. Non-government schools receive less public funding, based on parents’ wealth
Non-government school parents are expected to contribute to the cost of their children’s education
according to their capacity. This is estimated using ABS household census data and students’
Based on this information, each non-government school receives a socioeconomic status (SES) score
from 60 to 140.
The higher the score, the more the school’s parents are expected to contribute – and
the less government funding that school attracts. The reduction in government funding is called the
Capacity to Contribute (CTC) discount – and it only applies to non-government schools (government
schools also raise private income, but it does not change the government funding they receive).
4. The lower the SES score, the higher the government support
The poorest non-government schools – those with an SES score of 93 or less – attract 90% of their
base funding from the government, ie, their CTC discount is just 10%.
As SES scores climb from 94 to 125, the discount increases gradually and parents are expected to
contribute more in school fees.
All schools with an SES of 125 or higher have a CTC discount of 80%, ie they attract just 20% of their
base funding from government
The following table shows the relationship between SES scores and CTC discount.
Source: Australian Education Act 2013 (Cth), s. 54 and Australian Education Amendment Act 2017 (Cth), s. 36.
It is easy to calculate the base funding amount for each school once its SES score is determined – simply take the base funding amounts ($10,953 for primary school students and $13,764 for secondary school students) and reduce them by the relevant percentage, as illustrated in the table above.
As the table below illustrates, the most disadvantaged non-government schools (those with an SES score of 93 or less) will in 2018 receive $9,858 in recurrent funding per primary student and $12,388 per secondary student (plus any applicable funding for disadvantage).
The most advantaged non-government schools (those with an SES score of 125 or higher) will only receive $2,191 per primary student and $2,753 per secondary student (likewise, before any applicable funding for disadvantage is applied).
Source: Australian Education Amendment Act 2017 (Cth), s. 12, 13 and 36.
5. Government funding is based on a school’s SES score – not on how much funding it actually
raises in fees and other income
When determining how much funding each non-government school attracts, governments only
consider the SES score and disadvantage loadings. It is irrelevant how much (or how little) funding a
school actually raises from its parents.
In fact, there is no obligation on non-government schools to raise any funding from parents; a school
will still attract the same level of government funding whether it charges parents $5,000 or $25,000
per student per year – or nothing, if it chooses. It will not affect the base government funding they
For example, one Sydney non-government school raised $25,339 per student in fees and other
private income in 2016. Although this was around double the base funding level for secondary
schools that year, the school still received $5,665 per student in government funding.
Because base government funding is determined by the school’s SES score, which happens to be 114.
The aforementioned table presumes its parents are able to contribute 55.94% of the base amount. In
reality, they willingly contributed more than 200%.
Funding for schools that are part of a system is calculated differently.
For Catholic system schools, each state and territory’s approved system authority receives a lump sum of Commonwealth and State recurrent funding which it distributes to diocesan Catholic schools offices. These offices then disperse these funds (together with the schools fees they collect from parents) to their schools based on need (governments permit systems to distribute funding this way because they recognise that systems have a finer grained understanding of each school’s local needs).
Catholic Schools NSW (CSNSW) is the approved system authority for NSW.
Prior to 2018, system authorities each received a lump sum based on the average SES of all the Catholic system schools in their state or territory (the so-called System Weighted Average).
In NSW, for example, there are 549 Catholic system schools operated by 11 diocesan schools offices. The SES scores of all NSW Catholic system schools were averaged and governments provided a single payment on their behalf to CSNSW, based on this average SES score (currently, 101).
This will change in 2019; each Catholic system school will attract an amount of recurrent funding to the system based on its individual SES score – but the total will still be paid as a single lump sum to the relevant state or territory system authority for distribution according to local need. The removal of the ‘averaging’ will result in a slight cut in funding to each state and territory authority.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”