A fee hike for some Sydney Catholic schools under a new structure that will also see tuition costs reduced in poorer suburbs will be accepted by parents as a necessary step in a “harsher economic climate”, says the NSW Council of Catholic School Parents.
Parents of children in the Sydney archdiocese’s 150 Catholic schools were informed last week of the new fee structure, which will be introduced next year.
In a letter to parents, the executive director of Sydney Catholic schools, Dr Dan White, advised that fees in about 35 schools in wealthier suburbs would increase by between four and nine per cent, depending on each community’s socioeconomic status as determined by the national Census.
Most families would face an average fee increase of six per cent, he wrote.
Under changes to federal funding, “schools in suburbs with higher SES ratings will be expected to contribute slightly more to the individual budgets of their schools”.
The acting director of the Council of Catholic School Parents, Linda McNeil, said most parents would “intrinsically understand” the need for a new fee structure, which “certainly has a Gonski flavour about it”.
“I think parents understand that in a tighter economic climate, education costs increase and that has an impact on fees,” she said.
Dr White acknowledged that “for families in some areas of Sydney, the increase in fees will be higher than parents may have expected, and may, for some, impose a strain on the family budget”.
But the fee increase should not prevent students from continuing at Catholic schools, Mrs McNeil said.
“Our policy is that no child will be denied a Catholic education due to parents’ genuine financial hardship.
“That always has been part of our system. It reflects our ethos of social justice and our Catholic ethos.”
Parents experiencing financial difficulties should appeal to the principal to convey the extent of the hardship, she said.
The NSW Council of Catholic School Parents was established in 1995 as an autonomous body to advocate, particularly on matters of funding, for parents of children in Catholic schools across NSW and ACT.
It has been appealing to parents to become more informed about education funding ahead of the March 2015 state election.
“A lot of parents are confused about the funding that we get from different sources, from federal, from state, and from our own fees,” Mrs McNeil said.
“We work very hard to dispel the myths and to educate parents.”