Photo: Kris Egan, Abbotsleigh, courtesy of AFL NSW/ACT


Snapshot 2020 is ISA’s latest annual release of key facts and statistics about the Independent school sector. Now in its 15th year of publication, the ISA Snapshot is a well-regarded and highly valued resource, with facts and figures compiled from rigorous analysis of a range of Government data sources.



Characteristics of the sector include:

  • a significant and growing share of Australian students
  • schools that have strong community links
  • a diversity of schools in terms of type, size and focus
  • autonomous governance arrangements
  • a comprehensive range of accountabilities of schools to parents, governments and other stakeholders
  • giving parents choice by providing a wide range of educational programmes and settings
  • Independent schools are not-for-profit organisations.

Size of Independent sector 2019

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data does not categorise independent Catholic schools as Independent. These schools are a significant part of the Independent sector and when included there were a total of 1,148 schools and just over 631,762 full-time equivalent students in 2019.

Profile of Independent schools

Unlike other sectors, the majority of Independent schools operate autonomously. Independent schools do not rely on central bureaucracies or authorities and are separately accountable to their parent and school communities. Some Independent schools with common philosophies operate within approved systems. These include Anglican, Lutheran and Seventh Day Adventist Systems. There are also some other groupings of Independent schools. All Independent schools comply with state and federal legislation and regulation.

School Size 2019

  • 11% of schools have less than 50 students
  • 36% of schools have less than 200 students
  • 44% of schools have 200 – 999 students
  • 18% of schools have 1,000 – 1,999 students
  • 2%, or 23 schools, have 2,000 or more students
  • the average size of Independent schools is 537 students
  • the average size of a government school is 389 students

Location of Independent schools 2019

Affiliations of Independent schools 2019

84% of all Independent schools have a religious affiliation.

*’Other Religious Affiliations’ include Churches of Christ, Ananda Marga, Hare Krishna and Society of Friends
**’Other’ includes special schools, international schools, Indigenous schools, and community schools.



School enrolments by sector and level 2019

Enrolments in Independent schools 2019


*More information on the levels of adjustment for Students with Disability are available at

Enrolment change by sector 1970 – 2019


Growth in enrolments, 1985 – 2019



Independent schools employ nearly 18% of all teachers in Australian schools.



Teachers in the Independent sector by gender and level (FTE) 2019

Student teacher ratios 1973 – 2019


Sources: Figures in Snapshot are derived from data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, and the Productivity Commission. Depending on the availability of data, enrolment figures are either full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE). Some figures include independent Catholic schools and enrolments. Some figures may not add due to rounding. Figures for the Independent school sector are for the calendar year 2019.




The proportions of private/government funding vary greatly from school to school.


Estimated recurrent savings to governments from the Independent school sector:

$4.8 billion p.a.


Public funding of Independent schools

Responsibility for the public funding of schools is shared by the Australian Government and state and territory governments. State and territory governments are the main public funding source for government schools. The Australian Government is the main public funding source for non-government schools, providing 76% of total government recurrent funding for Independent schools while states and territories provide 24%.

Recurrent funding for school education 2017-18

Average government recurrent funding per student 2017-18


Total government recurrent funding per student 2017-18 (all government sources)

The amount of funding received from all government sources varies significantly depending on the circumstances of the school.


The SRS Funding Model

The current funding model for schools comprises base funding plus loadings to address educational disadvantage. The base per-student component is based on the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) which aims to measure the cost of effective and efficient provision of education.

The loadings in the model are for:

  • School location,
  • School size,
  • Socio-educational disadvantage,
  • Indigeneity,
  • Low English language proficiency, and
  • Students with Disability.

The current funding model aims to transition all schools to a set share of Commonwealth funding. For government schools, the Commonwealth share is 20% of their SRS entitlement and for non-government schools the Commonwealth share is 80% of their SRS entitlement. Schools transitioning up to 80% will complete their transition in 2023. Schools transitioning down to 80% will complete their transition in 2029. New schools go straight on to their calculated SRS funding entitlement.

The loadings for disadvantage are fully publicly funded.

‘Capacity to Contribute’

Under the SRS funding model, base funding for non-government schools is adjusted using ‘capacity to contribute’ (CTC), which means that the amount of base funding they receive is dependent on their schools’ community’s estimated capacity to contribute to the costs of education. Until 2020 CTC has been solely determined by the school’s Socio-Economic Status (SES) score utilising area-based data from the ABS Census of Population and Housing. Schools with a higher SES score receive less per capita base funding.

Australian Government funding from 2020

In 2019 it was announced that the SES measure would be replaced with a direct measure of CTC based on parental income tax data. This methodology is known as the Direct Measure of Income (DMI). The DMI will be phased in from 2020 to 2022. In 2020 and 2021, schools’ CTC will be based on the best of  2011 Census SES scores, 2016 Census SES scores or DMI scores with all schools transitioning to DMI scores in 2022.

State and territory funding contributions

In addition to setting the Australian Government share of SRS for all schools, the current legislation also places requirements on state and territory governments in relation to school funding. State and territory governments are required to fund government schools to at least 75 – 80% of their SRS and to fund non-government schools to at least 15 – 20% of their SRS, at the sector level. The specific settings for each state and territory are subject to bilateral agreements between the states and territories and the Australian Government.



Parents and Donors

On average, parents and donors in Independent school communities in 2018 contributed 89% of funds for capital developments, such as school buildings, grounds and equipment.


Main sources of capital funding in Independent schools 2018

Capital Grants Program

Independent committees called Block Grant Authorities in each state and territory administer capital grants for non-government schools on behalf of the Australian Government. In 2019 it is estimated that grants for the Independent sector will total approximately $63 million. In the Independent sector Australian Government capital grants are distributed on a needs basis, with priority given to disadvantaged school communities with the least capacity to raise funds.

State and Territory government assistance

In Queensland some capital grants for Independent schools are provided by the state government. Several state and territory governments also provide interest subsidy arrangements.


Note: Funding figures in Snapshot use the latest available data which is for the financial year 2017-18, or for the calendar year 2018.


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