Education options in NSW – Non-government schools

Today, the number of non-government schools is almost as numerous as the number of religious affiliations that abound. You can choose to send your child to a traditional Protestant church school, traditional independent school, Catholic systemic school, Catholic independent school, Jewish school, Greek Orthodox school, Muslim school … the list goes on. As well as the non-government schools associated with particular religious groups, there are many non-religious alternative education schools such as the Montessori and Steiner schools. Non-government schools must operate within certain legislated boundaries irrespective of their religious affiliation, educational philosophy and methods.

The schools must be registered by the Minister for Education and comply with various health and safety regulations.

If offering the Higher School Certificate, the school must be registered with the NSW Board of Studies.

As with government schools, some non-government schools provide alternative courses that may be approved studies but do not attract an ATAR score. The Commonwealth and state governments each provide per-capita grants and other assistance to non-government schools to help meet their costs.

The level of that support varies between schools.

The balance must be made up by the schools through fees and other forms of fundraising, which may be a determining factor in your choice of school. If you are interested in private education for your child, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with the school and discuss their philosophical and religious rationale.

This will provide you with a better idea of how suitable the school is for you and your child. 

Traditional Independent Schools 

Although it’s difficult to generalise, it can be said that traditional grammar-type schools base their educational instruction broadly on Christian principles.

Generally, the foundation of their education system is the English public school model. Among the attractive features of most of these schools are their on-site facilities, which are generally of a high standard.

All schools in this category tend to have high fees and long waiting lists. 

Catholic Schools  

About 20 per cent of students in Australia attend Catholic schools.

The first Catholic school was established in 1821 in Parramatta and has grown into a system of approximately 1700 schools nationwide.

Catholic schools are divided into two categories: independent (private colleges run independently by religious congregations) and systemic (a network of parish primary and regional secondary schools that are administered by the Catholic Education Office in each diocese). The aim of Catholic schools is to commit to the development of the whole person — intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially. The curriculum followed is set by the NSW Board of Studies and focuses on the needs of individual students.

Emphasis is placed on the quality of the pastoral care.

Catholic schools also strive to provide a meaningful, relevant and comprehensive religious education program.

Additionally, they encourage parents to participate in the life of their school. Catholic schools provide educational opportunities for gifted and talented children, children with handicaps (both physical and intellectual) and children with emotional disturbances through a number of Catholic special schools and within the system. 

Fees for systemic schools  

The fees charged by Catholic systemic schools are relatively low compared with those of independent Catholic schools.

This is partly because of the significant financial support provided by both the Commonwealth and state governments.

Other sources of funds are school fees, building and subject levies, parish grants and fundraising by Parents & Friends Associations. Tuition fees for systemic secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Parramatta in 2014 are:

Years 7-8: $1785 (second child $1338, third child $891)

Years 9-10: $1980 (second child $1485, third child $990)

Years 11-12: $2532 (second child $1889, third child $1266)  

Catholic Education Office,

Sydney   38 Renwick Street (PO Box 217) Leichhardt NSW 2040

Phone: (02) 9569 6111 Fax: (02) 9550 0052


Christian Education National Schools 

Formerly known as Christian Parent Controlled schools, Christian Education National schools are governed by associations of parents and are nondenominational. In Australia, there are more than 80 schools with a total of 23,000 students, most of them catering for Kindergarten to Year 12.

Of these, there are 17 schools in NSW, eight of which are in the greater Sydney area.

Each school is as varied as the community it serves. A key feature of each school is the association’s commitment to maintaining a quality education from a Christian perspective, as well as to keeping the cost at a level that ensures the accessibility of the school to all families who would like a Christian education for their children. Contact the NSW state coordinator on (02) 9671 3311, email or visit 

Adventist Schools  

There are 48 primary and secondary schools throughout Australia operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, providing Christian education as a service to the community.

In New South Wales there are nine primary schools and 10 combined primary and secondary schools. Enrolment is open to any student who seeks a positive learning environment with strong Christian values. All students receive well-balanced academic, physical, social and spiritual development in a caring, well-disciplined environment.

The curriculum is constantly reviewed and updated to ensure the needs of all students are well catered for. Parents are encouraged to become actively involved with trained, professional teachers in a fully accredited, highly resourced facility. A strong pastoral care program provides additional support for students. School fees are modest when compared with many other independent schools. Special fee assistance programs are available and discounts are provided where more than one child is enrolled.

Many schools also offer scholarships. For information visit asa.

Steiner Schools 

The Steiner Waldorf educational movement was founded in Germany by Dr Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist, philosopher and educationalist.

Steiner’s educational philosophy focuses on the three developmental phases of childhood: imitation (age 0 to seven), imagination (seven to 14) and rational judgment (14 to 21).

Steiner schools facilitate this philosophy in their teaching and use interactive teaching methods that incorporate an experiential and multi-sensory approach to learning. The schools’ curricula focus on the appropriate abilities of children based on their age.

They aim to balance academic achievement with the development of physical, artistic and social skills.

All Steiner schools are co-educational and non-denominational and are run by a college of teachers, not a principal.

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