Media release: ABS data shows significant growth in Independent school enrolments

23 February 2022

The ABS reports significant growth in Independent school enrolments as families increasingly turn to Independent schools.

Figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that more children are enrolled in Independent schools than ever.

The ABS data shows that enrolments in Independent schools rose by 3.6 per cent in 2021.

Independent Schools Australia (ISA) Chief Executive Officer, Margery Evans, said, “In uncertain times and with huge disruptions due largely to the pandemic, even more Australian families turned to Independent schools.”

According to the ABS, Independent school student numbers grew by an additional 21,537 students in 2021 to 620,330 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. This is despite Australia experiencing population growth of 0.6% in 2021, the lowest since 2008.

”Independent schools have been Australia’s fastest growing school sector for more than a decade, with the latest figure of a 3.6 per cent growth in FTE enrolments being the sector’s highest since 2007,” Ms Evans said.

The 2021 figures show that Independent schools enrol 15.4 per cent of all Australian school students, and 19.5 per cent of all secondary enrolments.

Independent Catholic schools, enrolments and staff are counted as ‘Catholic’ for ABS purposes. When including independent Catholic schools, the Independent sector has 1,187 schools, 667,259 FTE students (sector share of 17%) and 89,979 FTE staff.

One area of strong growth in 2021 was enrolments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, which increased by 1,294 students or 8.9 per cent. This is the highest growth across any school sector in the past 13 years.

Additional analysis by Independent Schools Australia shows that there was enrolment growth in Independent schools across all fee levels, with the strongest growth in low fee Independent schools.


ISA is the peak body representing 1,187 Independent schools with 667,259 enrolled students.

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