In Australia, around 30 per cent of primary and 40 per cent of secondary school children attend a private, or independent, school. School fees vary widely, depending on the type of private school and the different sectors that govern them. Catholic schools generally cost less than independent schools where families can pay fees of more than $40,000 per year.
Despite the term "independent school", all schools in Australia receive government funding. On average, Catholic schools receive around 75 per cent and independent schools around 45 per cent of their funding from state and federal governments.
Research shows parents believe private schools will provide a better education for their children, and better set them up for success in life. But the evidence on whether this perception is correct is not conclusive.
What does the research say about academic scores?
Our recent study showed NAPLAN scores of children who attended private schools were no different to those in public schools, after accounting for socioeconomic background.
These findings are in line with other research, both in Australia and internationally, which shows family background is related both to the likelihood of attending a private school and to academic achievement.
While there may appear to be differences in the academic achievement of students in private schools, these tend to disappear once socioeconomic background is taken into account.