Catholic schools are a vital part of Australia’s education landscape; from humble beginnings almost 200 years ago, Catholic schools have grown to become the nation’s largest provider of education outside government serving over 777,000 students and their families.

Today, Australia’s 1,755 Catholic schools educate one in five students and employ more than 100,000 staff, making Catholic education a key partner in the delivery of quality schooling with the government and independent sectors. 

Catholic Education's national priorities

The National Catholic Education Commission has developed a set of strategic priorities for the next three year cycle (2021-2023), to:

  • Enliven faith formation and religious education
  • Support the continual improvement of educational outcomes for all students
  • Respond to the needs of families through strong advocacy for recurrent and capital funding, legislation and policy

In 2019, Catholic school communities funded almost 89 per cent of the capital works in their schools – over $1.5 billion – while the federal and state governments jointly provided $193 million across our schools. Ongoing support of capital projects is required to ensure Catholic schools are accessible to families.

In response to the needs of families, Catholic Education is increasing its focus on the delivery of early childhood education, which is a vital component of each child’s development. Catholic schools are well placed to meet this need, with many new preschools being built next to existing and new Catholic primary schools. Dedicated capital and recurrent funding from government is needed to deliver quality early learning centres for families.

With the introduction of the Direct Measure of Income in 2021, there is greater certainty of funding for Catholic schools. Catholic Education will continue to contribute to the review and refinement of school funding measures to support the choice of low-fee Catholic schooling for Australian families.

The facts on school funding 

Funding for all schools in all sectors is calculated using the same needs-based measure - the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). Each school’s SRS is calculated according to the needs of its students, starting with a base amount in 2021 of  $12,099 per primary student  or  $15,204 per secondary student plus extra funding for six types of disadvantage. A primary school educating many disadvantaged students will have higher funding per student than schools educating highly advantaged students.

State and territory governments are the majority funders of public schools that educate two-thirds of all students. Higher numbers of disadvantaged students in these schools represent a higher cost. The Federal Government is the majority funder of non-government schools.

Schooling Resource Standard by sector

SRS by school sector


The true cost of a school education in Australia is much higher than most people realise. Catholic schools contribute $3.84 billion towards their children's education through school fees of $3.39 billion and other contributions that are paid by Catholic school communities. This is a significant saving to the taxpayer.

In public schools, the SRS is funded solely by state or territory and federal governments; parents are not required to contribute. In Catholic and other non-government schools, state or territory and federal governments fund 20-90% of the SRS base amount according to a means test of the school’s parents, who are expected to make up the shortfall. The more parents can afford to pay the less public funding a non-government school attracts.

Catholic school communities, on average, contribute almost 29% of the recurrent cost of educating their students. The remainder is covered by a combination of state or territory and federal government funding. Without this government funding support, Catholic systemic schools would need to charge parents the full cost of educating their child. This would put a Catholic education out of reach for most Australian families, forcing them into the public school sector which is already stretched.

Sources of funding by sector


Related resources 


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