Melbourne parents choosing independent schools

Catholic school enrolments in Melbourne fell by over 3,500 between 2001 and 2006 while enrolments in independent schools rose by just over 3,400 in a city-wide trend.

The Age reports that according to census data the swing could not be clearer. Many families who once chose a Catholic primary education are increasingly choosing independent schools.

Between 2001 and 2006, Catholic school enrolments in Melbourne fell by 3,579 children, while independents jumped by nearly as many - 3,408.

With fewer primary-aged children than five years ago, public primary school enrolments were also down, by 1634. The shift is most dramatic in outer-suburban areas.

In Frankston, Catholic primaries lost 19 per cent of their students, while independent enrolments were up 38 per cent. Around Ringwood, Catholic numbers were down 12 per cent, independents up 19 per cent.

Overall, Catholic primary enrolments are still more than twice those of independent schools, but the analysis poses the question: will a similar slide in Catholic enrolments flow through to independent schools by the time of the next census in 2011?

No, according to Catholic educators, who disputed the figures. But the Association of Independent Schools said it showed people were increasingly realising the importance of choosing a good primary school.

Catholic Education Office director Stephen Elder said Catholic school enrolments rose by 1546 students last year, and that the sector was unable to take as many students as it wanted because of a funding shortfall.

While Catholic schools received $22 million in capital funding over four years in the May budget, Victorian Catholic students receive about $578 less than their peers in NSW.

St Mary's Primary School principal Marianne O'Rourke said enrolments in Catholic school prep classes had started to rise again after dipping around the turn of the century.

She said independent schools had more money to market themselves.

But Michelle Green, chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools of Victoria, said the change was about choice.


Catholics' loss is independents' gain (The Age, 23/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Education Office, Melbourne
Association of Independent Schools Victoria

Elite schools to poach Catholic talent fear (CathNews, 16/7/07)
School wars break out in Victoria (CathNews, 21/8/06)

23 Jul 2007