- Early childhood care and education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
- Primary and secondary education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
- Tertiary education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
The 2013 Australian Education Act refers to “non-government representative bodies”, which are corporate bodies at the primary and secondary education levels, approved by the Australian Government, in order to, among other things, receive funding under the Act to support the implementation of the Australian Government’s school education reform priorities in non-government schools”. This term is also used in the Non-Government Reform Support Fund Guidelines 2021.
Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15. Primary education has a duration of seven or eight years, from kindergarten/preparatory to grades six or seven (ages five to 11), secondary schools run for three or four years from grades seven to ten or eight to ten, and senior secondary schools last two years from grades eleven and twelve. The majority of schools at these levels are government schools.
Government schools account for 65.7% of students in 2021. States and territories are the majority public funder of the government sector in line with their constitutional responsibility. The Australian Government is the minority public funder.
These schools are run by the state and territory governments and receive funding from both the Australian Government and their state or territory government. They offer free education, but many government schools ask parents to pay a contribution fee and a materials and services charge. Some government schools are “selective” and enrol students based on criteria, an interview or entrance examination.
In 2010, the Australian government introduced independent public schools in Western Australia, which gave some state education systems greater decision-making authority than a regular public school. These schools are delegated certain responsibilities to principals to reduce educational bureaucracy and foster innovation at the school level. These schools can determine their curriculum and have the authority to recruit and appoint staff. A similar reform was introduced in Queensland in 2018 and there are now 14 independent public schools in the Northern Territory.
Funding responsibility in state schools is shared between the Australian Government and state and territory governments. States and territories are the majority public funder of the government sector in line with their constitutional responsibility. The Australian Government is the minority public funder. The 2013 Australian Education Act (Art. 22A) stipulates that states and territories must meet minimum funding contribution requirements for the government sector as a condition of receiving Commonwealth funding.
Non-state managed, state schools
No information was found.
Non-state funded, state schools
No information was found.
Non-government schools accounted for 34.3% of students in 2021. The Australian Government has historically been the majority public funder, reflecting its commitment to supporting parental choice and diversity in the schooling system. State and territory governments are the minority public funders.
They operate under state or territorial authority in the form of individual schools or small systems (e.g., schools coordinated under the Catholic Education Commission) and comply with Australian government legislation which imposes requirements in relation to the financial operation, accountability, curriculum, assessment and reporting.
In 2020, the proportion of students enrolled in non-government schools was highest in the Australian Capital Territory (38.5%) and Victoria (36.0%); lowest in the Northern Territory (25.5%); lower for students enrolled in schools in very remote areas (12.7%) than for remote areas (21.1%), outer regional areas (26.2%), inner regional areas (33.9%) and major cities (35.9%).
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Productivity Commission, disadvantaged students accounted for 46% of public school enrolments compared to only 20% in private schools. Low socioeconomic status students comprised 30.5% of public school enrolments compared to 12.8% in private schools and Indigenous students account for 7.4% of enrolments in public schools compared to 2.8% in private schools. High disability students comprised 5.6% of public school enrolments and 3.4% of private school enrolments. The overall proportion of disadvantaged students in public schools was 45.9% compared to 19.9% in private schools.
Independent, non-state schools
Independent schools are located in all states and territories and the majority (65%) are in major cities. They are created and managed on an individual school basis, directly linked to their community and accountable to their own board of directors or management committee. Independent schools are a significant, large and growing component of the Australian schooling system. They have a reputation as providers of quality education and are recognised for their leadership and innovation in school education. Including independent Catholic schools, 1,169 of the 9,542 schools in Australia are in the independent sector. In 2020, they enrolled over 647,371 students, 16 per cent of the Australian student population independent schools include those affiliated with Christian denominations, for example, Anglican (24.7% of students in 2019), Catholic (7%), Christian schools (11.8%), Greek Orthodox (0.6%), Lutheran (6.4%), Uniting Church (8.2%), Seventh Day Adventist (2.3%) and Presbyterian (1.8%). It also includes non-denominational Christian schools (13.9%), Islamic schools (6.1%) and Jewish schools (1.5%). There are also Montessori schools (0.8%) and Steiner schools (1.5%). Furthermore, the country has schools constituted under specific Acts of Parliament, such as grammar schools in some states, Indigenous community schools, special schools and schools that cater for students at severe educational risk due to a range of social/emotional/behavioural and other risk factors. In 2019, 19% of the independent school population were students with disabilities. The independent sector is also the major provider of boarding school education for Indigenous students. Finally, the states of Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, among others, have registered non-government schools of distance education.
The majority of independent schools are co-educational; in 2019, 80% of students in these schools attended co-educational schools, though 19% of boys enrolled in boys-only schools and 21% of girls in girls-only schools.
The majority of the funding (54% of recurring income and 89% of capital income) is provided by parents and other private sources. However, the Australian Government (federal level) is the major source of government funding for non-government schools. For the independent sector as a whole, the Australian government (federal level) provides 76% of recurrent government funding and state and territory governments provide the remaining 24%. For more information, see the sub-section “Government funded, non-government schools.
State-funded (government-aided), non-state schools
The Australian Government has historically been the majority public funder and state and territory governments are the minority public funders. Australian Government funding to non-government schools takes into account the “capacity of school communities to contribute to school’s operating costs, for example, the ability of parents to pay school fees”. All (approved) non-government schools in Australia receive funding from the Commonwealth government. This funding for all schools in all sectors is based on the same needs-based measure, the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), which is calculated according to the needs of the students (amount per student and extra funding for six types of disadvantage, which are: school size, school location, low socioeconomic status background, students with disability, English language proficiency and Indigenous students). In Catholic and other non-government schools, state, territorial and federal governments fund 20-90% of the SRS base amount, based on a means test of the school's parents.
Contracted, non-state schools
No information was found.
There are approximately 30,000 homeschooling families in Australia, including schools of distance education (e.g. the Australian Christian College is the largest Christian school of distance education from preschool to year 12). However, in some jurisdictions, such as in New South Wales, homeschooling refers only to schooling in the child’s home and not to distance education provided by a government or registered non-government school in which the child is enrolled.
Each jurisdiction incorporates homeschooling, which is legal everywhere, into its own education law and has a homeschool registration authority that seeks to register homeschooled. Homeschoolers are required by law to register with their state or territorial education authority. In addition, State Education Department officials are responsible for inspecting and approving home study programmes and a Home Tuition Appeals Board makes recommendations to the Minister if parents refuse to accept the assessment by the District Director.
Jurisdictions have their own structures, such as the Home Education Advisory Council (THEAC) in Tasmania and the Victorian Home Education Advisory Committee, in Victoria, which provide feedback to the Ministry of Education about the regulation on homeschooling. In the Australian Capital Territory, homeschooling in is supported by the Education Directorate and a number of community groups.
Jurisdictions have also their own policies and practices and requirements. In Tasmania, the Department of Education has released an Expression of Interest form for home educating parents wanting to enrol at school part-time. In Victoria, since 2017, a learning plan must be submitted with all applications. In the Australian Capital Territory, since 2019, an education progress report must be provided once every year and as part of a renewal application. Market contracted (Voucher schools)
The country does not seem to have adopted the voucher school model. Debates on this form of schooling are still ongoing. See the “Private tutoring” section for information regarding vouchers for private tutoring.
No information was found. In all jurisdictions, a person must not establish or conduct a school unless the school is registered.
Systemic Catholic schools
The Roman Catholic Church in Australia is a key provider of education. In parallel, the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) aims to maintain liaison with the federal government and other key national education agencies and to support the work of state and territory Catholic education commissions. They are found by governments and parents. Some operate independently via religious institutes and receive government grants directly, but systemic schools operate under an ecclesiastical public juridic person and the system authority has a management role.
In 2019, 19.5% of the student population were enrolled in systemic Catholic schools; more specifically, 17.9% of primary students, 21.6% of lower secondary students and 21.9% of upper secondary students were enrolled in systemic Catholic schools.
State and territory governments are responsible for registering and regulating non-government schools. At the national level, the independent private and secondary schools are represented by Independent Schools Australia (ISA) and Associations of Independent Schools (AISs) across a range of bodies. The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) is Australia’s independent national quality assurance and regulatory agency for all higher education providers including public and private universities, Australian branches of overseas universities and other higher education providers. It aims to register all higher education providers and to ensure their courses meet, and continue to meet, the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015. The Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) is the national association for private providers of post-compulsory education and training and the Council of Private Higher Education (COPHE) represents more than 50% of Australia’s registered and accredited independent higher education providers.
Each non-government school has an approved authority, which is a body corporate that is approved by the Minister. In the Australian Capital Territory, Children’s Education and Care Assurance (CECA) is the Regulatory Authority under the Education and Care Services National Law External Link. In New South Wales, the Education Standards Authority (NESA) is responsible for providing advice and making recommendations to the Minister for Education about the registration of non-government schools. In Northern Territory, Quality Education and Care Northern Territory (QECNT) is the Regulatory Authority responsible for administering the National Quality Framework; it monitors compliance, conducts assessment and quality rating visits, and undertakes investigations. In Queensland, the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board (NSSAB) works on aspects related to accreditation and funding eligibility. In South Australia, the Education Standards Board oversees approving, assessing and rating early childhood services and reviewing the registration of schools. In Tasmania, the Office of the Education Registrar is responsible for administering the non-government school’s registration process and for the operational aspects of the regulatory process. In Victoria, the Registration & Qualifications Authority is an independent statutory authority that works to apply standards to education and training providers, register education providers and accredit courses and qualifications. Finally, in Western Australia, the Department of Education is responsible for school regulation and review. It registers non-government schools and administers state government financial assistance.
Vision: Each jurisdiction has regulations on non-state provision for each education level (see Table 1). The 2013 Australian Education Act puts a strong focus on the roles of non-government schools at the primary and secondary education levels, for instance in providing distance education. It also describes the funding for non-government representative bodies.
Each jurisdiction offers different types of early childhood services, which include Family Day Care, Long Day Care, Kindergarten, Nannies and babysitters, Out of School Hours Care and Preschools. Early childhood care and education provision first rely upon the non-profit sector, which includes independently incorporated parent associations and larger sponsoring organisations such as the Uniting Church, KU Children’s Services, SDN Children’s Services and the Crèche and Kindergarten Association. In parallel, the private sector includes private for-profit businesses and the private school sector.
Registration and approval: Non-government schools are registered or accredited under an education law/act of a participating jurisdiction. The 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act (Art. 10) states that applications for provider approval may be made by a person (an individual, a body corporate, an eligible association, a partnership or a prescribed entity), or a group of persons. The application must be made to the Regulatory Authority of the jurisdiction and include payment of the prescribed fee. Article 13 stipulates that the person's criminal and financial history shall be taken into account in assessing his or her fitness and character. The 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act (Part 3) also describes the application process for service approval for an education and care service. A service approval can only be issued to an approved provider. The application must nominate one or more individuals as supervisors of the service. The Regulatory Authority may undertake inquiries and investigations and inspect the education and care service premises at this stage. Each jurisdiction asks for the transaction and annual service fees.
Regarding infrastructure, the 2011 Education and Care Services National Regulations (Art. 107 and 337) stipulate that the approved provider must ensure that the education and care service premises have at least 3.25 square metres of indoor space and not less than seven square metres per child of outdoor space.
Each jurisdiction, such as New South Wales, South Australia and Australian Capital Territory, provides application guides for provider and service approvals. In its legislation, Western Australia is more specific about the application process for registration for community kindergarten, which must include information on the location of the premises to be used, buildings, playground equipment and other facilities. In the Australian Capital Territory, Children’s Education and Care Assurance (CECA) may ask applicants to participate in a written assessment as part of the approval process.
Licence: The 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act (Art. 103) states that a person shall not provide an education and care service unless they are a licenced provider. Articles 17 and 196 indicate that the Regulatory Authority grants a provider licence and an identity card. Article 47 adds that the Regulatory Authority must refuse to grant a service approval if it is satisfied that the service would constitute an unacceptable risk to the safety, health or wellbeing of children.
A provider approval remains in force until it is cancelled or surrendered. For instance, in Western Australia, the licence of a community kindergarten “has effect indefinitely” unless the registration is cancelled under the 1999 School Education Act (Art. 200) (in case of mismanagement, risk to the safety, non-compliance with the Law, etc.).
Profit-making: The provision of ECCE services occurs through a mixture of public, non-government not-for-profit, private for-profit, and private not-for-profit organisations. In New South Wales, preschool providers are required to pass on 75% of the additional funding to families through fee reductions.
Taxes and subsidies: In South Australia, support is available to eligible non-government schools for children with additional needs through the Inclusion and Professional Support Programme funded by the Australian Government. For more information, see the subsection “Government funded, non-government schools”.
Curriculum or learning standards: The 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act (Art. 168) specifies that education and care services must ensure that a programme is based and delivered on an approved learning framework and on the developmental needs, interests and experiences of each child. Ministerial councils oversee the implementation and administration of the National Quality Framework and promote uniformity in their application and enforcement. In Tasmania, the governing body of a non-government school must demonstrate that the school provides, for kindergarten “a developmentally appropriate learning framework”.
Teaching profession: The 2011 Education and Care Services National Regulations (Division 5) indicates the requirements for educators who are early childhood teachers. It states that the National Authorities must publish on their website a list of the required qualifications for teachers. At least one staff member must hold a current approved first aid qualification. The main types of qualifications recognised are: early childhood teaching degrees; the Diploma of Community Services (Children's Services); and the Advanced Diploma of Community Services (Children's Services). The 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act states that preschool programmes must be “delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher”. In Queensland, the 2005 Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act stipulates that a person is eligible for full registration as a teacher their “education, demonstrated abilities, experience, knowledge and skills establish that the person meets the requirements under the professional standards”. In New South Wales, applicants may subsequently be asked to undertake child protection training and provide evidence to the department of completion. In South Australia, schools employ “registered teaching staff” and “appropriate non-teaching staff, contractors and volunteers to support the achievement of their educational outcomes (p. 5). Finally, in Tasmania, teachers must be fully registered under the 2000 Teachers Registration Act and their names must appear on the register of teachers.
The 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act provides for sanctions for employing people to whom a prohibition notice applies. In Victoria, serious detrimental action includes dismissal, involuntary transfer, loss of promotion and demotion. In Western Australia, with the approval of the Minister and subject to the regulations, a governing body for a community kindergarten may take part in the selection of teaching staff.
No information was found on salaries.
Fee-setting: Ministerial councils review and approve the fee structure of the institutions (which includes tuition fees) (Education and Care Services National Law Act, 2010, Art. 220).
In New South Wales, each preschool sets its own fee levels. In Queensland, each long daycare service and kindergarten have their own fee structures. In Victoria, fees are also set by individual services and can vary depending on how many hours the child attends, group size and extra costs such as excursions. In Western Australia, no fee may be imposed for the cost of providing an educational programme of a community kindergarten, but regulations may be made providing for charges for materials provided and services or facilities.
Admission selection and processes: In Queensland, long daycare services can enrol children at any time and have their own enrolment policies. In South Australia, schools can set their enrolment policies and practices in compliance with Commonwealth and South Australian laws.
Policies for vulnerable groups: Australia adopted in 1999 the New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act. Governments at all levels have adopted strategies to address issues relating to access, which include “the direct financing of supply, stimulating or capping private investment, subsidising parent fees, providing information to families about ECEC services in their area and providing transport to schools” (p. 30).
In Victoria, the 2006 Education and Training Reform Act (Art. 2.7.6) stipulates that the Minister may have regard to the “needs of students attending non-government schools” when providing funding to non-government schools. In this state, the Government subsidises fees for some Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, triplet or quadruplet children, refugee, humanitarian, and asylum seeker visa children. In New South Wales, core funding for Aboriginal and disadvantaged children increased in 2017 to $6,600 per child per year in community-based preschools. The initiative programme “Start Strong Long Day Care” also included funds for Aboriginal and disadvantaged children. Finally, in Queensland, parents are eligible for rebates and financial assistance such as QKFS Plus Kindy Support and the Child Care Subsidy to help cover the cost of fees.
Reporting requirements: The 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act (Art. 220) stipulates that ministerial councils monitor and review the performance of the National Authority. In South Australia, schools must have “academic governance arrangements to ensure accountability for the satisfactory quality of the nature and content of the education instruction provided” (p. 4). They have to monitor and inform the school community of their academic and attendance performance following Commonwealth and state laws.
Inspection: The 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act (Art. 21) specifies that the Regulatory Authority may at any time assess whether a person with management or control of an education and care service operated by an approved provider “continues to be a fit and proper person”. Articles 133 and 138 add that the Regulatory Authority may also at any time assess or reassess the service in accordance with the national regulations to determine whether the service meets the National Quality Standards. Article 160 states that the National Authority must publish the rating levels for an approved education and care service. In Victoria, the Regulatory Authority may enter the children's service premises at any reasonable time and inspect the premises of the children's services the poli,cies and procedures of the service.
Child assessment: State and Territory Governments oversee student assessment and awards for all early childhood learning centres. State and Territory Governments oversee course accreditation, student assessment and awards for all early childhood learning centres.
Sanctions: The 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act (Art. 19) states that in the event of non-compliance with the conditions of the provider approval, penalties of $10,000 are provided for an individual and $50,000 in all other cases. Article 26 adds that the Regulatory Authority may suspend a provider approval if they have failed to comply with the law. The 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act also outlines penalties for various offences (e.g. to provide or advertise education and care service without service approval, to operate education and care service without a nominated supervisor, to inadequately supervise children, to use inappropriate discipline, to do not apply for required programmes, to fail to display prescribed information, to fail to notify certain circumstances or information to Regulatory Authority, to do not keep enrolment and other documents, to engage a person to whom prohibition notice applies, to fail to assist authorised officer, etc.).
When non-compliance is identified and verified, a risk assessment is undertaken to determine an appropriate and proportionate regulatory response, using Ayres and Braithwaite’ pyramid (p. 587). Cancellations are at the top of the pyramid.
In Western Australia, the Minister is not to cancel the registration of a community kindergarten without first notifying the governing body of the proposed cancellation and the reasons for it and giving it an opportunity to show why the registration should not be cancelled. This does not apply if the health or welfare of persons may be at risk.
Registration and approval: The Minister authorises approved authorities, block grant authorities and non-government representative bodies under the 2013 Australian Education Act. For a non-government school, the approved authority is the body corporate approved by the Minister for the school. Article 83 of this Act stipulates that a person may apply to the Minister to be approved as a non-government representative body. The basic requirements for approval are listed in Article 75. The person can be a body corporate or body politic but must be “fit and proper” and “financially viable” to be an approved authority for one or more schools.
With regard to infrastructure, registered non-government school's buildings must comply with government requirements and environmental and land criteria. In Queensland, separate boys' and girls' changing rooms with toilets are to be considered in the design of schools. In addition, public and private schools in Western Australia have been asked to include "gender-neutral toilet options" to end discrimination against transgender students.
Each jurisdiction defines its requirements for initial registration and accreditation, which in the case of New South Wales are detailed in Article 4 of the Registered and Accredited Individual Non-government Schools (NSW) Manual. They relate to legal entity, staff, curriculum, premises and buildings, facilities, safe and supportive environment, discipline, attendance, management and operation and financial reporting and boarding facilities. In South Australia, individuals must provide a valid South Australian Working With Children Check or a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check. In New South Wales, the Minister has approved a corporation, registered company or trust, including a religious body, as the types of legal entity that can own a non-government school. Finally, in some jurisdictions, there are fees for registering a school, such as Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria and in others no, such as New South Wales.
Licence: The Regulatory Authority grants a provider approval. The 2013 Australian Education Act (Art. 73) indicates that an approval may be made subject to conditions and may specify a period during which the approval is to be in force.
In South Australia, once registered, the registration of a non-government school is ongoing unless the school applies to extend its educational programme, changes its location or adds a new campus. Review of registration occurs at least once in a five‑year period of registration. In the Northern Territory, the Department of Education issues a certificate of registration that details the educational programmes the school is authorised to provide, the year levels of the school’s students and any other conditions of the registration decided by the registrar. In this Territory, Article 139 of Education Act 2015 specifies that this registration lapses if the school does not start operating within two years of the issue of the registration certificate.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): All schools must install or upgrade water, electricity or any other services (Australian Education Act, 2013).
In Victoria, one of the standards for registration is that a school must be not-for-profit. In Queensland, a for-profit school is defined as a school where all “profits made from the school’s operation are used for any purpose other than a purpose for advancing the school’s philosophy and aims”. They cannot receive funding from the state.
Taxes and subsidies: The Australian Government provides substantial financial support to non-government schools. As mentioned, the level of Australian Government funding for each independent school is calculated under the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) funding model.
A feature of the funding model that only affects non-government schools is ‘capacity to contribute’ (CTC), which means that the amount of the core funding they receive is dependent on the estimated ability of the school community to pay fees. The CTC is determined by the school’s Socio-Economic Status (SES) score, using area-based data from the ABS Census of Population and Housing. Schools with a higher SES score receive less per capita core funding.
Independent schools on average receive 43% of their funding from governments and 57% from private sources, mainly from parental contributions through fees. As a condition of funding, all independent schools must commit to the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Independent schools must demonstrate that the funds they receive from the government has been expended appropriately and must provide financial data to the Australian Government Department of Education and Training. In 2021, the Government provided Guidelines for non-government representative bodies to comply with the requirements of the Non-Government Reform Support Fund. Based on the Non-Government Reform Support Fund Guidelines 2022 “Each Non-Government Representative Bodies (NGRBs) must comply with the Regulation sections 34, 36 and 38 that specify the requirements for audited financial statements, acquittals and reporting”. In addition, the amount of funding allocated annually for an NGRB is notionally based on enrolment share of students at non-government schools the NGRB represents. For the purposes of determining state allocation of Reform Support funding to NGRBs, the Minister may have regard to the recommendations of Independent Schools Australia and National Catholic Education Commission on their preferred distribution to NGRBs.”
In Western Australia, the Minister may lend funds for capital works to a registered school.
For more information, see the subsection “Government funded, non-government schools”.
Curriculum or learning standards: Independent schools are engaged in the implementation of the Australian Curriculum developed under the auspices of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). The 2011 Education and Care Services National Regulations (Art. 254) stipulate that the Curriculum Framework for Kindergarten to Year 12 Education in Western Australia is a declared approved learning framework.
In New South Wales, registered non-government schools must have an educational programme in accordance with the outcomes of the Authority's syllabuses and the guidelines developed by the Education Standards Authority (NESA) and approved by the Minister. However, registered schools that are not accredited for the Record of School Achievement or Higher School Certificate can apply for NESA approval to modify one or more outcomes of a NESA syllabus. In Queensland, non-state schools must have an educational programme that is consistent with the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and implement the Australian curriculum or a curriculum recognised by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). In South Australia, providers may be asked to provide a curriculum policy or handbook for each learning area, samples of teaching plans and samples of reports for reporting student performance to parents. Finally, in Tasmania, new secondary schools must demonstrate that their curriculum is accredited or recognised by the Office of Tasmanian Assessment, Standards and Certification under the 2003 Office of Tasmanian Assessment, Standards and Certification Act.
Textbooks and learning materials: In Queensland, non-government schools must have the educational facilities and materials necessary for the effective delivery of the school’s educational programme. In Western Australia, the 1999 School Education Act (Art. 159) stipulates that the Minister may determine standards for non-government schools about the facilities.
Teaching profession: In 2020, independent schools employed 19,908 primary and 35,017 secondary teachers. This represents 18.5 per cent of the Australian teaching workforce. Independent primary and secondary schools also employed 31,311 non-teaching staff. Student-teacher ratios in the independent sector have reduced over time, from the 1973 levels of 17.1 for primary and 14.2 for secondary to 13.9 and 10.5 respectively in 2020.
In New South Wales, NESA sets and administers professional teaching standards. The ability of a school's teaching staff to deliver the programme for which the school is registered is taken into account in assessing a school's compliance with these requirements. In Queensland, non-government schools must comply with the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005; in consequence, only approved teachers with valid permission to teach by the college or the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal may be employed as teachers. In Tasmania, the governing body of a non-government school must demonstrate that all teachers are registered under the 2000 Teachers Registration Act. Finally, in the Northern Territory, the school’s teaching staff must be registered with the Teacher Registration Board and must “maintain appropriate standards of professional competence” (Article 125).
In South Australia, schools must employ registered teaching staff under the 2004 Teachers Registration and Standards Act. In New South Wales, registered non-government schools must ensure that all teachers engaged have a Working with Children Check Clearance from the Commission for Children and Young People. In Western Australia, the 1999 School Education Act (Art. 159) stipulates that the Minister may determine standards for non-government schools about the staff of schools.
The regulations analysed do not address the salaries of teachers in non-governmental institutions, but only in state schools in some cases such as in Victoria, or in South Australia (Education and Children's Services Act, 2019, Section 9 (articles 99, 103, 108 and 109)).
The regulations on non-state education do not explicitly state whether teachers in non-state schools are covered by the same provisions as those in the public service; however, the Australian labour law concerns Commonwealth, state, and common law on rights and duties of workers, unions and employers in Australia.
Corporal punishment: In 2012, the Australian Government launched the National Safe Schools Framework which promotes children’s safety from violence in schools but does not cover directly corporal punishment. The Australian Human Rights Commission also recommends that the Government bans corporal punishment in all educational settings. Corporal punishment in schools is regulated at the state level; according to the Global Initiative to end All Corporal Punishment of Children, corporal punishment is prohibited in government and independent schools:
- in Australian Capital Territory in the 2004 Education Act (s7),
- in New South Wales in the 1990 Education Act (s35(2a) and s47(1h)) and the 2010 Children (Education and Care Services) National Law (NSW) No 104a
- in Northern Territory in the 2015 Education Act (s162)
- in South Australia in the 2019 Education and Children's Services Act (s83) and the 2011 Education and Early Childhood Services (Registration and Standards) Act
- in Tasmania in the 1994 Education Act (s82A) and the 2011 Education and Care Services National Law (Application) Act
- in Victoria in the 2006 Education and Training Reform Act (s4.3), the 2007 Education and Training Reform Regulations (reg14), and the 2010 Education and Care Services National Law Act (Art. 10)
- in Western Australia in the School Education Regulations and the 2016 Guide to the Registration Standards and Other Requirements for Non-Government Schools.
However, in Queensland, corporal punishment is legal in schools in the Criminal Code Act (Art. 280).
Other safety measures and COVID-19: Non-government schools must comply with the 2011 Work Health and Safety Act. In Queensland, schools must also comply with the 2000 Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act.
Fee-setting: Independent schools set their fee levels.
In Queensland, the Governor in Council may make regulations about fees, including the refunding of fees in non-government schools. In South Australia, providers may have to submit an income projection from fees for five years. In Victoria, the Authority may impose a condition on a non-government school under the 2006 Education and Training Reform Act to put in place a “protection scheme for school fees” if the school is assessed as being financially unviable. This scheme may include new requirements on the timing of payment of fees including restrictions on paying fees in advance and the methods of payment, collection and refund of fees. Finally, in 2021, one in five New South Wales private schools froze their tuition and most private schools opted to incorporate smaller increases, as they tried to “provide relief to families and keep enrolments amid the economic downturn and COVID-19 pandemic”.
Admission selection and processes: In South Australia, providers may have to submit an enrolment policy. In Western Australia, the 1999 School Education Act (Art. 159) stipulates that the Minister may determine standards for non-government schools about the enrolment procedures at schools.
Policies for vulnerable groups: Australia has adopted in 1999 the New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act. School funding for Indigenous students in independent schools comprises two components under the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) model. In addition, in the 2018-19 Budget, the Australian Government provided an extension to Family Tax Benefit eligibility to the families of ABSTUDY student recipients who are aged 16 years and over and are required to live away from home to attend school.
School board: Unlike government and Catholic schools, most independent schools do not have a centralized authority such as a Catholic diocese or Government Education Department to govern their activities. Although some independent schools belong to “systems”, most are operated by an independently elected school council or board of governors which are responsible for making sure their schools meet the standards of social and financial accountability applying to corporate entities or charities. The principal of an independent school is accountable to the Board of Directors or Council for the day-to-day management of the school and educational programmes. In this regard, in Tasmania and Western Australia, the non-government schools must have a clear separation between the day-to-day management of the school by the principal and the overall governance of the school by the governing body. Members, including parents and teachers, should not have any conflict of interest. In the Australian Capital Territory, the Association of Parents and Friends of ACT Schools Inc (APFACTS) is a voice for non-government school parents and carers whose children attend Catholic and Independent schools.
Reporting requirements: In Queensland, the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board is a statutory body under the 2009 Financial Accountability Act. In Tasmania, the Schools' Annual Report should be available to all and include the financial report, student achievements, qualification of teachers. In the Northern Territory, non-government schools must provide an annual report which includes an assessment of the school's performance and its relationship with the parents and the community, the use of any government financial assistance, details of the conditions of the buildings, structures and other facilities and a list of the staff at the school. In addition, in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, among others, non-government schools must have a complaints management policy and procedures.
School inspection: In Queensland, the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board (NSSAB) may inspect non-government schools “at any reasonable time and from time to time”. The inspection or copying must be allowed free of charge. In Victoria, registered institutions must keep certain information or documents available for inspection. In Western Australia, the chief executive officer may authorise a person to inspect registered schools on seven days’ notice, however, an inspection may be carried out without notice for reasons of health or welfare. Finally, in the Northern Territory, all registered non-government schools are assessed at least once every five years.
Student assessment: All independent schools participate in national student assessments such as national literacy and numeracy tests (NAPLAN).
Diplomas and degrees: State and Territory Governments oversee course accreditation, student assessment and awards for non-government schools.
Regarding transfers, the 2004 Australian Capital Territory Education Act (Art. 204-205) defines the conditions of transfer, suspension or exclusion of students in Catholic systemic schools and non-government schools.
Sanctions: The 2013 Australian Education Act (Art. 80) stipulates that the Minister may, in writing, revoke the approved authority’s approval. If a provider does not comply with the Education Act, the Minister may consider taking one or more compliance measures. In Western Australia, the chief executive officer may cancel the registration of a registered school at any time if the school does not comply with the Law. It must however give the governing body an opportunity to show why the registration should not be cancelled.
In 2017, the majority of higher education enrolments (92.2%) were in public universities. There were 172 providers registered and 42 universities in Australia, including three private universities. The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) identifies four types of providers: universities (92.2% of student attendance), Technical and Further Education (0.5%), non-university for-profit (5.2%) and non-university not-for-profit (2.1%). According to the Council of Private Higher Education (COPHE) (2018), Australian independent higher education providers enrol approximately 150,000 students, the equivalent of 4.5 public universities.
Registration and approval: All organisations must be registered by TEQSA. The TEQSA Act 2011 calls this agency to register regulated entities as higher education providers. All applicants must be a constitutional corporation, a corporation established by (or under) a law of the Commonwealth or Territory or a person who conducts activities in a Territory.
The TEQSA Initial registration assessment process consists of four main steps. First, the application is filed with TEQSA. The institution must be financially viable and have a cohesive set of policies and procedures that cover all areas of quality assurance and are capable of being implemented. Next, there is a preliminary assessment. Then, the application is evaluated against the Higher Education Standards Framework. Finally, an accreditation decision is made, the institutions are notified and the decision is published. Different supporting documents are required for each criterion and standard, which include certificates of occupancy, descriptions of facilities made available for students and policies and procedures for diversity and equity. The 2020 Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Determination of Fees No.1 identifies the fees payable for the performance of TEQSA’s functions for registered and regulated higher education providers.
Licence: TEQSA takes decisions on applications submitted and grants licences.
In New South Wales, the 2001 Higher Education Act No 102 stipulates that the approval may be given only if the Minister is satisfied that the educational institution will be able to operate “to a standard no lower than that of Australian universities”. A licence must be reviewed at intervals of not more than five years. In South Australia, registration or accreditation remains in force for a period, which may not be longer than five years, determined by the Commission. Similarly, in the Northern Territory, the approval remains also in force for a period of up to five years.
Profit-making: In 2017 the sector included 61 private for-profits higher education institutions (38%). For-profit institutions do not receive government grants; they are mostly financed by tuition fees (73.7%) paid by overseas students (47.5%) and domestic students (26.2%).
Taxes and subsidies: Universities are mostly funded through Government grants and programmes (86% in 2017) and tuition fees (14%), supported by a government-backed loan scheme. Other funding sources include state government funding, investment income and income from contract research and consultancy.
Curriculum or learning standards: The 2011 TEQSA Act calls this TEQSA to accredit the courses of study of all higher education providers. Only self-accrediting authorities can also self-accredit some of their courses.
Teaching profession: Staffing standards are set out in the 2015 Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) (Section 3.2). Registered organisations must provide policies and procedures for staff qualifications and for determining equivalent academic or professional or practice-based experience.
The staff for each course must be “sufficient to meet the educational, academic support and administrative needs of students undertaking the course”.
In Queensland, the 1987 Bond University Act states that the purpose of the Academic Staff Association is to improve, promote and defend the terms and conditions of employment of academic staff and to negotiate on their behalf with the employer concerning terms and conditions of employment.
Fee-setting: Organisations must provide information on fees and charges on the registration process.
In the Northern Territory, the 2015 Education Act (Art. 62) states that the Administrator may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing the fees to be paid and the refund of the fee paid.
Admission selection and processes: Providers must submit to TEQSA their admission policies and procedures as part of the registration process. The 2015 Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) stipulates in this regard that admissions policies, requirements and procedures must be documented, and “applied fairly and consistently”. Finally, Section 1.1. adds that the admissions process must ensure that, prior to enrolment and before fees are accepted, students are informed of their rights and obligations.
In Queensland, each university has its own legislation. The 1987 Bond University Act (private university) stipulates that no person shall be denied admission because of that person’s religious or political views or beliefs, race or sex.
Board: The 2015 HES Framework (Part A, Standard 6.1.1) states that registered organisations must have a “formally constituted and accountable governing body”, which includes independent members that exercise governance.
Reporting requirements: The 2011 TEQSA Act calls TEQSA to conduct compliance and quality assessments and to “collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to quality assurance practice and quality improvement in higher education”. Registered organisations must also provide an overview of the institutional quality assurance framework, including its relationship with academic governance processes.
Inspection: As part of the registration process, TEQSA visits the sites and headquarters and inspects facilities, equipment and resources, or clarifies how relevant procedures, policies and operations are to be implemented. It may also interview staff and members of corporate and academic boards.
In South Australia, an authorised person of a registered training provider may enter and inspect, at any reasonable time, the institution.
Student assessment: The 2015 Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) stipulates that the use of data on student progress and assessments must be used to inform admission criteria.
Diplomas and degrees: Higher education qualifications include: Higher Doctoral Degree, Doctoral Degree, Masters Degree (Research, Coursework or Extended), Graduate Diploma, Graduate Certificate, Bachelor Honours Degree, Bachelor Degree, Associate Degree, Advanced Diploma and Diploma. Certification documentation can be issued by the higher education provider. The 2015 Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) (Section 1.5) states that awardees of qualifications are issued with “authorised certification documentation” including a testamur and a record of results or an Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement. If the qualification is recognised in the Australian Qualifications Framework, the testamur or the graduation statement is certified with the logo of the Australian Qualifications Framework or a mention.
Sanctions: TEQSA may vary or revoke a condition or a licence. In South Australia, the 2008 Training and Skills Development Act (Art. 28) stipulates that the Commission may vary or cancel the registration of a training provider, which is also the case in Western Australia, among others.
Watson (2008) mentioned that the use of private tutoring by school-age children is increasing; in consequence, the Australian government now provides vouchers for private tutoring to students who are performing below national standards in literacy and numeracy.
In Western Australia, principals are authorised to organise or manage private tutors to deliver educational programmes to meet the needs of a student. In New South Wales, the Department of Education planned to hire thousands of tutors, retired teachers, casuals and university education students, to support students after the closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 12-month, $337 million programme will equate to an average of $130,000 and 1,700 hours of tutoring per school. A similar programme, the Tutor Learning Initiative, has also been adopted in Victoria to provide students with additional targeted support. In this state, non-government schools employ tutors using their own recruitment processes.
In Western Australia, the Department of Education (2018) indicated that private tutoring programmes during school hours must: “be confined to activities that enrich the content of the school’s educational programme; address the particular educational needs of students in areas not provided by the school; and not replace regular school educational programmes” (p. 4). In New South Wales, tutoring must be consistent with the Department’s Mentoring Students Policy and the associate guidelines.
In Western Australia, the State prohibits work with children by people who have been charged with or convicted of certain child-related offences. Principals must also be satisfied that each private tutor is appropriately qualified and has had a National Criminal Record History Check (NCRHC) and a Working with Children Check (WWCC). Tutors must have public liability insurance of $5 million and have written agreements with the students’ parents or guardians.
In New South Wales, the 1980 Teaching Service Act states that “officers and temporary employees are not to undertake other paid work without permission”. Teachers who wish to undertake paid work as a tutor are required to seek prior approval using the application form attached to the Private and Secondary Employment Policy and guidelines.
Table 1. Main education regulations on non-state provision in Australia
Early childhood care and education
Primary and secondary education
National Quality Framework (2018) by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority
New South Wales
Victoria’s universities are each established under State Acts of Parliament.
Australian Capital Territory
Jervis Bay Territory