Social and Economic Contribution of Independent Schools

The Independent sector is a major contributor to the economic and social well-being of Australia.


Major provider

Independent schools are a major provider of primary and secondary education for Australian school students. In fact, one in every six students attends an Independent school. In addition, around a third of Independent schools also provide early childhood education.

The Independent sector has 1,140 schools, educating almost 620,000 students and providing parents and students with choice in a wide range of educational programs and settings.



Choice in the Independent sector includes a range of specialist and alternative settings including special schools for students with disability, special assistance schools for students who have disengaged from mainstream education, and schools catering to Indigenous students in both remote, regional and urban settings. The sector educates 116,000 students with disability and 13,500 Indigenous students.


Boarding schools

The Independent sector is the major provider of boarding school education in Australia, and is the largest provider of Indigenous boarding education. Indigenous boarding schools serve a range of Indigenous students, including those without access to secondary education in their home communities.



Overall, the Independent school sector relies primarily on parents to fund schools, with 57 per cent of recurrent income coming from private sources. This willingness and commitment of Independent school parents to pay school fees saves governments $4.5 billion per annum in recurrent schooling costs.

Public funding allocated to Independent schooling represents a highly efficient and effective use of government resources because of the sector’s capacity to leverage private contributions to education. Ninety per cent of funding for capital works for buildings, grounds and equipment in Independent schools comes from parents and school communities.


The Independent sector annually

  • directly employs 93,000 staff
  • pays salaries and wages of $7.6 billion
  • contributes PAYG tax of $1.7 billion
  • generates $749 million in superannuation contributions
  • undertakes building and capital works of $2.0 billion (primarily funded by parents)
  • purchases goods and services of $1.9 billion.


Independent schools are major generators of social capital through their academic and co-curricular pursuits. In addition, Independent schools encourage and foster a strong spirit of community engagement and participation, including through outreach and volunteering. Data from the latest ABS census shows that students in Independent schools are significantly more likely to be engaged in volunteering (35 per cent in Independent schools compared to 24 per cent of all Australian students).

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