ENROLMENT TRENDS

Student enrolments in Independent schools have been growing consistently over decades. The growth in enrolments reflects the health of the sector.

Growth of the Independent school sector

Over the past 50 years, the Independent school sector has grown from around 114,000 students in 1970 to nearly 670,000 students in 2021, representing a change in student share from 4 per cent to 17 per cent.

In the last decade, the average annual increase in full-time enrolments in the Independent sector, at 1.9 per cent, has consistently exceeded the average growth at Catholic systemic (1.0 per cent) and government (1.3 per cent) schools. The Independent sector has consistently exceeded student population growth year on year.

This growth in enrolments has occurred in all states and territories, with the strongest rates of growth in New South Wales (2.2 per cent), Queensland (2.2 per cent) and Victoria (2.2 per cent).

Independent sector enrolments by state, 2011 to 2021

Source: Department of Education Non-Government Schools Census

In the past five years, almost 90 per cent of enrolment growth has been in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

Growth in the Independent sector by state (enrolments)

Source: Department of Education Non-Government Schools Census

In the past five years, the highest rates of enrolment growth across the Independent sector nationally are from schools with fees less than $5000.

Growth 2016-2021 by Fees (growth)

Source: Department of Education Non-Government Schools Census, ACARA My School

Both the major cities and regional areas are experiencing strong growth, most notably in inner regional areas. Remote areas of Australia have seen little growth in Independent schools, often due to low population growth in these areas.

Projected growth

Although projections by the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggest school population growth will slow over the coming years, the Independent school sector is projected to continue to increase its enrolment share and experience strong growth, year on year.

Enrolments in Independent schools are influenced by the education and funding policies of governments as well as national and local social, cultural and economic development.

See Snapshot 2022

Growth in the number and diversity of Independent schools over time corresponds with increased access to Independent schooling for a wider section of the population.

Much of this growth is in low-fee schools serving disadvantaged communities.

The Independent sector’s enrolment share is more significant in the later years of schooling, with 11 per cent of Australia’s primary students enrolled in an Independent school rising to 21 per cent at the junior secondary level and to 23 per cent of all senior secondary student enrolments being at an Independent schools.

3.1%

Growth in enrolments

Indigenous student enrolments

In 2021, around 16,662 Indigenous students were enrolled in Independent schools. Many of these students attended one of the 40 Indigenous student Independent schools, which are mostly located in remote areas. In 2021, Indigenous students represented 2.5 per cent of the Independent school student population. Over the past decade, the Independent sector has increased Indigenous enrolments by 6 per cent annually, higher than the Indigenous student population increase of 4 per cent.

Growth rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Independent sector 2012 – 2021

Source: Department of Education Non-Government Schools Census

Enrolments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Independent schools have grown at an average annual rate of almost 6 per cent per cent per year over the last two decades.

Also see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students page.

16,662

Indigenous students enrolled in Independent schools

Enrolments of students with a disability

The number of students with disability in the Independent school sector has grown substantially over the past decade— four times the rate of overall enrolment growth, although the growth rate varies from year to year.

The table below illustrates the growth in the Independent school sector based on the previous definition of students with disability for Commonwealth funding purposes.

Growth in enrolments of student with disability in Independent schools, 2007 to 2017

Source: Department of Education Non-Government Schools Census

There were 133,786 students with disability enrolled in Independent schools in 2021, representing 20 per cent of the Independent school student population. Most of these students attend regular Independent schools although more than 12,084 attend one of the 138 special schools in the sector.

Also see Students with Disability page.

125,927

Students with disability enrolled in Independent schools.