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Student numbers surge in thriving Independent schools

Wednesday 14 February 2024

More than 160,000 young Victorians now attend an Independent school, with official figures showing unprecedented growth in the widely diverse Independent education sector.

Some 165,780 children were enrolled in 222 Victorian Independent schools last year, an increase of almost 7,000 on the 2022 figure, according to the latest data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Numbers grew by 4.4 per cent last year, outstripping growth reported in 2022, when enrolments grew by 2.9 per cent, and 2021, when numbers grew by 2.3 per cent.

In contrast, student numbers in Government schools grew by 1.7 per cent and in Catholic schools by 0.9 per cent.

Sixteen per cent of all Victorian students now attend an Independent school.

The increase came despite pressures on family budgets due to inflation, and increased school costs which in some cases have been compounded by the Victorian Government’s imposition of payroll tax on non-government schools.

“This growth is unprecedented, showing thriving schools that appeal to parents from a wide range of backgrounds. ”

— Meg Hansen, Acting Chief Executive, Independent Schools Victoria (ISV)

‘Parents appreciate having choices that best meet the needs of their children,’ Ms Hansen said. ‘The figures confirm that Independent schools provide choices and meet those needs.’

Ms Hansen said the importance and appeal of Independent schools is also shown in the growing number of Independent schools, with six new schools opening in Victoria this year.

Enrolment growth is across the sector, including in older well-established schools, many of which are close to capacity.

Once again it is particularly strong in new suburbs on the Melbourne periphery. Local government areas recording the strongest growth were Melton (553 students), Casey (536 students), Hume (491 students), Wyndham (490 students) and Cardinia (395 students).

Islamic schools maintained their recent pattern of strong growth, enrolling more than 1,400 new students, and which now educate close to 17,500 young Victorians.

ISV’s analysis of the ABS figures, collated in the national school census last August, shows that 129 Victorian Independent schools are classified as low fee, using the Victorian Government’s definition of one that charges $8,125 a year or less.

Enrolments in this category grew by 4,456 students last year, accounting for close to 65 per cent of all growth in the Victorian Independent sector. These schools educate 73,825 students, or 44 per cent of all students in the sector.

Close to 61,500 students at Victorian Independent schools come from families in lower socio-economic backgrounds, based on their capacity to contribute to their children’s education, the measure used by the Federal Government when calculating funding for non-government schools.

Growth remained strong in 46 schools that charge more than $20,000 in annual fees, where enrolments grew by 1,357 students, an increase of 2.45 per cent over 2022. These schools account for 34.2 per cent of all enrolments in the Victorian Independent sector.

The Victorian figures are reflected nationally, with 668,177 students enrolled in Independent schools after numbers grew by 3.9 per cent last year, the highest rate of growth across all school sectors.

Analysis of the figures shows
  • More than 69,000 primary and 96,000 secondary students attend an Independent school.
  • Close to 86 per cent of students in the Independent sector attend a co-educational school.
  • Close to 80 per cent are enrolled in Melbourne metropolitan campuses.
  • Victorian Independent schools employ more than 15,400 teachers and more than 9,200 general staff.

Media contact

Tom Hyland
Media and Communications Advisor
Independent Schools Victoria
0417 562 924