Catholic schools are a vital part of Australia’s education landscape; from humble beginnings almost 200 years ago, Catholic schools have grown to become the nation’s largest provider of education outside government serving some 768,000 students and their families.

Today, Australia’s 1,751 Catholic schools educate one in five students and employ more than 98,000 staff, making Catholic education a key partner in the delivery of quality schooling with the government and independent sectors. 

Catholic Education's national priorities

The key issues for Catholic Education nationally are:

  • resolving a sustainable federal government school funding model for Catholic schools for the future
  • affordable school choice
  • increased capital funding
  • prioritising early childhood education
  • religious freedom in schools

In 2018, Catholic school communities funded almost 90 per cent of the capital works in their schools – over $1.5 billion – while the federal and state governments jointly provided $161 million across our 1,751 schools. 

With the rising cost of land, construction and classroom technology, Catholic schools cannot continue to rely on parents and the rest of the school community to shoulder the burden of increased capital costs to the same extent into the future.

The federal government must help to ease the burden on parents if Catholic schools are to meet the needs of future students.

Catholic Education is also increasing its focus on the delivery of early childhood education, a vital component of each child’s development. Catholic schools are well placed to meet this need, with many new preschools being built next to existing and new Catholic primary schools. This will make life easier for families with young children and puts our pre-schoolers at the heart of our school communities.

Catholic Education will seek a significant increase in dedicated capital and recurrent funding to deliver quality early learning centres for our families.

While school funding arrangements have now largely been settled for the next decade, Catholic Education will seek to clarify details on key elements of funding particularly around maintaining the choice of low-fee Catholic schooling for Australian families.

The facts on school funding 

Funding for all schools in all sectors is calculated using the same needs-based measure - the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). Each school’s SRS is calculated according to the needs of its students, starting with a base amount in 2020 of $11,747 per primary student or $14,761 per secondary student plus extra funding for six types of disadvantage. A primary school educating many disadvantaged students will have higher funding per student than schools educating highly advantaged students.

State and territory governments are the majority funders of public schools that educate two-thirds of all students. Higher numbers of disadvantaged students in these schools represent a higher cost. The Federal Government is the majority funder of non-government schools.

State and Fed funding graph 2020 web


The true cost of a school education in Australia is much higher than most people realise. Catholic schools contribute $3.7 billion towards their children's education through school fees of $3.3 billion and other contributions that are paid by Catholic school communities. This is a significant saving to the taxpayer.

In public schools, the SRS is funded solely by state or territory and federal governments; parents are not required to contribute. In Catholic and other non-government schools, state or territory and federal governments fund 20-90% of the SRS base amount according to a means test of the school’s parents, who are expected to make up the shortfall. The more parents can afford to pay the less public funding a non-government school attracts.

Catholic school communities, on average, contribute almost 29% of the recurrent cost of educating their students. The remainder is covered by a combination of state or territory and federal government funding. Without this government funding support, Catholic systemic schools would need to charge parents the full cost of educating their child. This would put a Catholic education out of reach for most Australian families, forcing them into the public school sector which is already stretched.

State Fed and other funding graph 2020 web

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