Parents in regional NSW are paying more for a public school education than anywhere else apart from metropolitan Queensland, according to new ASG Planning for Education Index research.
ASG chief executive Ross Higgins said the group’s survey showed the cost of public school education in regional NSW would be an estimated $ 73,808 over 13 years for a child starting kindy this year.
This is higher than the national regional average of $ 57,994, and what Sydneysiders will pay, $ 66,470.
Mr Higgins said ASG data – which takes into account school fees, external tuition, excursions, camps, uniforms, transport, devices and sport and musical equipment – showed the cost of education had risen at more than double the rate of inflation over the past decade and was demanding a “far greater” share of the family budget than before.
“People are working additional jobs, not paying their mortgage off as quickly and anecdotally the number of grandparents helping is quite big,” he said.
Parents in regional NSW will also pay more than the national regional average for both a Catholic education, $ 112,248 compared to $ 109,877; and an independent education, $ 203,654 compared to $ 201,210.
Nichole Davidson said she and her husband William had a “long term plan” that allowed them to send sons Isaiah, 9, and Finn, 7, to the independent Hunter Christian School – from which she is taking maternity leave – and she expects her younger boys Angus, 3, and Solomon, four months, will attend too.
“We’re blessed we can afford it and while there are great public schools around, we’ve chosen this path,” she said.
There’s a cost for everything and you have to factor that in. We think it’s definitely value for money.
“We’re Christians and we value the Christian input of teachers – that was our number one priority. My children are with them more than they are with me. It’s important they’re with people who are going to teach them about values, morals and Jesus.
“You can’t put a price on the community or spiritual side of school.”
She said the estimate of $ 203,654 per child was “way off”.
“For us that’s ridiculous, we would not even come close to that,” she said. “Plus the more children you have the more of a discount you get.”
The school charges $ 4900 for kindy for the first child, but this drops to $ 615 for the fourth.
“There’s no out-of-pocket expenses, it covers all excursions, camps, equipment, technology, books, art supplies, pencil cases and glue sticks. The only things I’ve bought are bags and lunchboxes.”
Mr Higgins said although public schools were seen as free, they came with voluntary and subject contributions, plus “hidden” costs such as devices.
A Department of Education spokesperson said there were no charges to attend a public school and that public schools would receive $ 15.7 billion this year, including $ 6 billion for regional and rural schools.
A spokesperson for the NSW P&C Federation declined to comment on the figures but said it believed “the purpose of public education is to be equitable and without fees – and public schools must be sufficiently resourced so that no child or young person faces disadvantages in education due to factors beyond their control”.
Mother-of-three Nicole Schreiber estimated she would have spent about $ 4000 per child per year – or a combined $ 156,000 overall – for their education at Hamilton South Public and Newcastle High.
“Even with voluntary contribution fees of $ 60 there’s still add-on things they need – a sports uniform, joggers, a backpack, a computer,” she said.
“The most expensive time would have been at the start – you’re constantly buying shoes and uniforms because they’re growing so quickly – and between year five and 10 when they’re doing more activities.”
Still, she said, public schooling was a “good investment”.
“I liked the diversity, that they could mix with other people with different beliefs and cultures and there was also a good sense of community at both schools. We got a lot more than we paid for.”
Council of Catholic School Parents acting executive director Mary Ryan said ASG’s figures seemed “excessive”, as systemic Catholic schools charged “modest” fees and most offered discounts for subsequent children.
But, “Catholic school parents would name fee rises as the element of most concern” when it came to costs.
A spokesperson for the diocese said it offered a lower tuition fee to means-tested low-income families. “No child will be denied a Catholic education because of a family’s genuine inability to pay the required school fees.”
ASG provides scholarship plans and Mr Higgins said it’s “never too early” to start putting money aside.
“With superannuation it’s done for us, it’s taken automatically out of pay,” he said.
“With education you’ve got to be self sufficient and self informed about what’s got to be done. You’ve got to be proactive.”