Parents Voice in Government School Education

Cost of schooling survey – results

Thanks to those parents who filled in our ‘Cost of schooling’ survey late last year. The results were a ‘mixed bag’ with some positive results and some causes for concern. The survey asked parents about how well their school communicates with them about voluntary levies, how well the payments systems work, and the impact of fees on subject choices and extra activities.

Clear communication

We asked parents if they are clear about what their school is saying they must pay for and what they can choose to pay for. Around half of respondents said they were clear on these matters, but a significant minority (27%) were not. While some parents said their school was very clear, others expressed concern that their school is not complying with DET policies on clear communication with parents. One parent described their school’s fees as ‘exorbitant’.

65% of parents said their school makes clear what items they may purchase themselves and what they need to purchase through the school. It would appear there is still significant confusion on this issue.

Electives and activities

We asked parents whether the cost of elective units had influenced their children’s subject selection. Many parents said this was not applicable, suggesting many respondents have children at primary school. Of those that did provide an answer, the majority answered ‘no’, with only 13% answering ‘yes’. We don’t believe any families should be in this situation, but the result is encouraging.

The result was not so good when we asked whether parents had made the decision not to send their child to a camp or excursion based on their financial situation. 40% answered ‘yes’ to this question.

Feedback about finances

We asked a range of questions about parents’ experiences dealing with their school on finance matters.

There were some positive results in this area; three-quarters of parents said their school gave advice on how to access financial support, and gave sufficient time to make payments. 62% said it’s easy to make payments through their school’s computer system, e.g. Compass. However only 30% said their school’s system is clear and transparent about what payments have been made. The same percentage of parents said their school’s system doesn’t list individual items so they’re not sure where their money is allocated.

Comments

These comments from parents are examples of the concerns raised in the Comments section.

  • “The voluntary aspect is clear and has been divided into sections that families can choose from or ignore ie contribute nothing, make a contribution to classroom materials costs but not towards digital equipment/ licensing/ subscription costs, or contribute to all voluntary suggestions.”
  • “The Parent Payment Requests for 2022 that I have received from two government schools total thousands of dollars. It is as though the pandemic is not even happening. In my opinion the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 should be urgently re-written to state clearly that education is a user-pays service, and access to the standard curriculum is dependent on the payment of fees and contributions to fundraising.”
  • “The fees are just ridiculously high compared with other schools in the community. There is an expectation that they will be paid and most parents do pay the total amount as they don’t realise that all schools don’t charge this large amounts. I don’t believe the school does anything special to warrant these fees each year.”
  • “It concerns me that Voluntary Payments are a necessary part of all school operations. I don’t doubt that our Public Schools require this funding but they should be better funded from government.”

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