2020 marked five decades of national representation of Independent schools in Australia.
From enrolling just four per cent of Australian students 50 years ago, Independent schools are now the fastest growing of all three school sectors, educating 647371 students in 1,169 schools – 15 per cent of all enrolments.
As early as 1968 the need to establish a national council to assist, strengthen and promote Independent schools in Australia, was recognised. As a result, in March 1970, the National ouncil of Independent Schools was formed.
The Council was subsequently re-named the National Council of Independent Schools Associations (NCISA) in 1989, Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA) in 2003, and, most recently, in 2020, rebranded Independent Schools Australia (ISA).
Today, the need for a peak body and single voice to advocate for, and represent, Independent schools at a national level is as important as it was 50 years ago. This was reaffirmed by member Associations early in 2020 and the organisation strengthened with a review of governance and operational arrangements.
The result: a new name, constitution, Board membership, branding, staffing structure and Chief Executive Officer. This adaptive refresh ensures the principles of diversity of educational offering and choice for families continue to be promoted and supported.
As well as being a year of internal change and strengthening, much of ISCA/ISA’s work in 2020 was significantly impacted by external forces — natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Working with the Australian Government, ISA and the eight state and territory Association of Independent Schools (AISs) made an important contribution to securing support for school communities in areas impacted by bushfire, drought and flood. Their efforts resulted in more funding for mental health support and school chaplains, and saw the Australian Government
double its support for non-government schools in drought-affected areas to $20 million.
The COVID-19 pandemic created a unique and unprecedented set of challenges for all. The Independent sector was no exception. Independent schools large and small, remote and metropolitan and across all fee levels demonstrated they could respond quickly, flexibly and creatively to meet the needs of their students and school communities. So much so that, despite the difficulties faced by the nation, Australian parents continued to choose Independent schools for their children with the sector recording the strongest growth in more than 10 years.
2020 has been a significant year that has resulted in considerable changes and achievements — many highlighted in this report. Each is a testament to the resilience, professionalism and productivity of the staff and leaders in Independent schools and state and territory Associations of Independent Schools, and to the committed team at ISA.