Catholic schools benefit the public purse, contrary to media claims, says Sydney Catholic Schools

Dr Dan White and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in 2015 with award recipients Oliver Sumsky, Justin Story, Kevin Jonas, and Daniella Foley. Photo: Kitty Beale

Sydney Catholic Schools have criticised a report in the Daily Telegraph, (‘Poor’ Church has pocketed millions, Catholic and elite schools bank huge surpluses), saying it highlights a fundamental misunderstanding about how low-fee Catholic systemic school systems apportion ‘surplus funds’ to their schools.

The article notes that the ‘retained earnings’ of low-fee Catholic schools across Sydney in 2015 was $184 million. However, the article fails to mention that this amount is spread across 269
Catholic schools representing an average surplus of less than $690,000 per school, compared with the surpluses of high-fee independent schools in the order of many millions of dollars.

Dr Dan White, Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, expressed his concern about comparing low-fee Catholic parish schools with elite private schools.

“Unlike the investment of surplus funds in a range of school facilities in private schools, low fee Catholic systemic schools use surplus funds to maintain existing school buildings and to work
collaboratively as a system to buy property and build new schools in the growth areas of Sydney,” Dr White said.

Since 2015, Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) has opened four new schools at Austral, Mortlake, North Strathfield, and Sydney’s first Catholic secondary school for students with special needs at
Lewisham. Similarly, the Parramatta Diocese has opened schools at Box Hill and Marsden Park, and the Wollongong Diocese is building a new school at Edmondson Park.

“In partnership with the State Government, Catholic systemic schools are prepared to take on our share of the heavy lifting to meet the demands of Sydney’s growing student population in particular in the rapidly expanding southwest growth corridor of Sydney,” Dr White said.

“As a system of low-fee schools, we are committed to providing access to quality Catholic education for all families regardless of their postcode and financial need.

“SCS has responsibility for 152 low-fee systemic schools. While we are grateful for any funding received.”