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Funding rates for top NSW private schools exceeds poorest schools: report

The public funding for some of Sydney's most expensive private schools has increased at twice the rate of many of the state's poorest schools, new analysis of the latest MySchool data reveals.

Trevor Cobbold, a former economist for the Australian Productivity Commission and convener of the Save Our Schools public education advocacy group, analysed the data and found the average funding increase per student for 14 selected private schools was 23 per cent from 2009 to 2013.

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For 15 of the most disadvantaged public schools in NSW the average increase per student was 11 per cent over the same period, the report says.

"In NSW, government funding for Meriden School increased by 29 per cent; Ravenswood by 28 per cent; St Andrew's Cathedral School by 26 per cent; and for Ascham, Kincoppal Rose Bay, The King's School and Trinity Grammar by 24 per cent," the report says.

A new report says funding to private schools highlights an incoherent and unfair system.
A new report says funding to private schools highlights an incoherent and unfair system. Photo: Louie Douvis

In contrast, funding for Punchbowl Boys High School fell by 3 per cent, while funding increased for Canley Vale High School by 2 per cent; Francis Greenway High School by 3 per cent; and for Chester Hill High School, Lake Illawarra High School, and Windsor High School by 12 per cent.

Mr Cobbold said not all disadvantaged public schools in NSW received smaller funding increases than high-fee private schools.

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"Funding increases for many disadvantaged schools have matched those for the selected elite private schools and, in many cases, have exceeded them. On the other hand, many elite schools have received smaller increases than their counterparts selected here," Mr Cobbold said.

But he said the funding increases exposed an "incoherent and unfair school funding system that favours advantaged students and discriminates against disadvantaged students".

"There can be little wonder that Australia has failed to improve the results of disadvantaged students or to reduce the large achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students over the past 15 years," Mr Cobbold said.

Mr Cobbold looked at government funding levels for some of the most expensive private schools in NSW, where 80 per cent of students were from the highest socio-educational advantage (SEA) quartile and one per cent were from the lowest quartile.

In the disadvantaged schools, 62 per cent of students were from the lowest quartile and 3 per cent from the top quartile.

A spokesman for the federal education minister Simon Birmingham said the Commonwealth's funding per student in government schools had grown at more than three times the rate of per student funding in the non-government sector in the 10 years to 2013-14.

"In the 10 years to 2013-14 the Commonwealth's funding grew in real terms by more than 66 per cent in government schools and 18 per cent in non-government schools while state and territory funding per student grew by 6.7 per cent and 12.3 per cent respectively," the spokesman said.

Jennifer Buckingham, a research fellow at the free market think tank the Centre for Independent Studies, said funding increases in each sector were from different bases.

"A funding increase of 23 per cent in an independent school getting $2000 per student in government funding will be an absolute increase of $460 per student, while a funding increase of 11 per cent in a government school getting $15,000 in government funding will be an absolute increase of $1650 per student," Dr Buckingham said.

with Henrietta Cook