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Organisational structures in Australia

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Organisational structures
Schools are broadly categorised into government and non-government schools. The non-government schools are further categorised into Catholic schools and independent schools. As of 2018, 65.7% of students were enrolled in government schools, 19.7% in catholic schools and 14.6% in independent schools.

Government schools
Also called state schools or public schools, government schools educate approximately two-thirds of all school students in Australia. If a student elects to attend a government school, they are required to attend a school within their local school district unless the student has dispensation to attend another school, usually approved on the basis of academic merit, specialisation, or other reasons, such as a student disability.

Government schools are run by the respective state government agency. They offer free education; however, many government schools ask parents to pay a contribution fee and a materials and services charge for stationery, textbooks, sports, uniforms, school camps and other schooling costs that are not covered under government funding. In 2010 the additional cost for schooling was estimated to be on average $316 per year per child.

Government schools may be further categorised into open or comprehensive schools, selective, special, and specialist schools; all defined below. In 2009 the Western Australia government introduced Independent Public Schools to describe a government school that, while a part of the state education system, was granted a higher degree of decision-making authority than a regular government school. A similar reform was introduced in Queensland and, as of December 2018, 250 government schools commenced as independent public schools in Queensland. In February 2014 the then Federal Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, announced a $70 million Independent Public Schools Initiative to support 1,500 Australian government schools to become more autonomous.

Government hospital schools are located at some major hospitals and provide access to tuition for students who have extended stay in hospitals.

Across Australia, the Federal Department of Education sets the overall national policy and direction for education in Australia. The following state and territory government departments are responsible for the administration of education within their respective jurisdictions:


Government educational authority by state/territory
State/territory Government educational agency Other relevant authorities
Australian Capital Territory ACT Education Directorate ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies
New South Wales NSW Department of Education NSW Education Standards Authority
Northern Territory NT Department of Education  
Queensland QLD Department of Education  
South Australia SA Department for Education SACE Board of South Australia
Tasmania Tasmanian Department of Education Office of Tasmanian Assessment, Standards and Certification
Victoria Victorian Department of Education and Training Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority
Western Australia WA Department of Education


Non-government schools
Schools from the non-government sector operate under the authority of state or territory governments but are not operated by government education departments. Schools from the non-government sector may operate as individual schools, in small groups or as a system such as those coordinated by the Catholic Education Commission in each state and territory. All non-government schools in Australia receive funding from the Commonwealth government.

Catholic schools
After government schools, the education system delivered by the Roman Catholic Church in Australia has grown, from 18th century foundations, to be the second biggest provider of school-based education in Australia. As of 2018, one in five Australian students attended Catholic schools. There are over 1,700 Catholic schools in Australia with more than 750,000 students enrolled, employing almost 60,000 teachers.

Administrative oversight of Catholic education providers varies depending on the origins, ethos, and purpose of each education provider. Oversight of Catholic systemic schools may rest with a Catholic parish, diocese, or archdiocese; while religious institutes have oversight of Catholic independent schools.

The National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), established by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference through the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education, is tasked with maintaining liaison with the federal government and other key national education bodies and complements and supports the work of the state and territory Catholic education commissions. While some Catholic schools operate independently via religious institutes, the majority of Catholic schools, called systemic schools, operate under the Canon Law jurisdiction of an ecclesiastical public juridic person, such as a bishop. In practice, the bishop assigns a Catholic Education Office (CEO), Catholic Education Commission, Catholic Schools Offices, or a similar body with daily operational responsibility for the leadership, efficient operation, and management of the Catholic systemic schools which educate in parish primary and regional secondary schools in Australia. These diocesan bodies are charged with the implementation and management of the policies of the diocese and the allocation and administration of the funds provided by government and private sources to Catholic systemic schools, as well as the financial responsibilities for administration of salaries for staff members.

Most Catholic schools (96 percent) are systemically funded, meaning that the government funding they nominally attract is provided to the relevant state Catholic Education Commission for needs-based distribution. Sixty-one Australian Catholic schools are non-systemically funded (independent schools) and receive government grants directly.

Independent schools
Independent schools, sometimes referred to as private schools, are a sub-set of non-government schools that, for administration purposes, are not operated by a government authority and have a system of governance that ensures its independent operation. Such schools are typically operated by an independently-elected school council or board of governors and range broadly in the type of school-education provided and the socio-economics of the school community served. Some independent schools are run by religious institutes; others have no religious affiliation and are driven by a national philosophy (such as international schools), pedogogical philosophy (such as Waldorf-Steiner schools), or specific needs (such as special schools). As of 2018, including independent schools run by Catholic religious institutes, of the 9,477 schools in Australia 1,140 schools (12 percent) are in the independent sector. In the same year, independent schools enrolled over 617,000 students, or 16 percent of the Australian student population.

Independent school fees can vary from under $100 per month to $2,000 and upwards, depending on the student's year level, the school's size, and the socioeconomics of the school community. In late 2018 it was reported that the most expensive independent schools (such as the APS Schools, the AGSV Schools in Melbourne, the GPS Schools, QGSSSA Schools in Brisbane and the NSW GPS Schools, Combined Associated Schools and the ISA Schools in Sydney and New South Wales) charge fees of up to $500,000 for the thirteen years of an independent school education.


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