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Catholic students 'do better for less'

Catholic school students are achieving above-average results despite having less money spent on their education, according to research commissioned by Victoria's Catholic Education Commission.

The results also found that the better results are more pronounced among children from poorer families.

The research concluded that Catholic schools are "highly cost effective", saving the Australian community $440 million a year, or $2450 per student a year.

The research is part of the push by Catholic educators for increased State Government funding. They say that over the past decade state grants have dropped from 21.6% of Catholic school income to 16.3%.

The study also comes before the release of federal Labor's school funding policy, which has as a broad principle increased federal money for needy schools. The Coalition funding package announce earlier this year increases funding to Catholic schools by $362 million over four years.

The research, by Victoria University's Professor Peter Sheehan of the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, is the final of three landmark studies into Catholic education in Victoria. The previous reports have looked at how Catholic schools are becoming less affordable and the welfare role they play.

Catholic Education Commission executive director Susan Pascoe (pictured) said the better performance in Catholic schools, which educate 22% of the state's students, could be attributed to factors including the pastoral environment and the quality of teachers.

Education Minister Lynne Kosky questioned whether the findings supported extra funding. "If the Catholic schools are doing better for less, then why would you give them more?" she said.

But Ms Kosky said the Government was "doing work with the Catholic sector" - an apparent reference to the new need-based funding model she is developing for private schools.

Ms Pascoe said it is in the State Government's interest to keep Catholic schools viable for all Catholic families.

"If Catholic schools closed their doors tomorrow, there would be a huge financial burden on government, and Victorian taxpayers," she said. "The impact on all governments would be enormous."

Catholic students 'do better for less' (The Age 1/9/04)

Centre for Strategic Economic Studies
Catholic call to co-ordinate school funds (Australian Financial Review 1/9/04)
Critical time for Catholic education (The Australian 30/8/04)
Private schools to face tough tests (The Age 30/8/04)
Labor's school pitch for Catholic vote (Sydney Morning Herald 26/8/04)
Labor enters into charter to boost Catholic schools (The Age 26/8/04)
Pledge on Catholic education (The Advertiser 26/8/04)
ALP to boost Catholic schools (AAP/Seven News 25/8/04)
Smaller classes don't aid students (The Australian 25/8/04)
Parents share the teaching (The Australian 25/8/04)

32 Sep 2004