Illawarra bucks trend on student contributions

Four Illawarra public secondary schools received higher voluntary fee contributions per student than the only selective high school in the region in 2012, analysis of Department of Education figures has found.

Smith’s Hill High School, the only selective high school in Wollongong, last year received $139 per student from these contributions, while Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts received the most at $197 per student.

Bulli High School, Woonona High School and Illawarra Senior College raised between $145 and $171 a student.

$50k for kids' education

But across the state, analysis has revealed parents with children in selective schools pay voluntary fees on average five times the amount of those with children in comprehensive public schools.

Only one selective high school in NSW, Girraween High School near Parramatta, received less per student than Smith’s Hill.

Although public education is ostensibly free, state schools can ask parents to pay voluntary fees or ask for subject contributions.

General contributions can go into general revenue or be spent on specific items such as technology and books, while subject contributions go towards things such as props for drama classes or utensils in food technology.

An analysis of last year’s per-student revenue from these contributions reveals selective schools are able to generate the highest amounts, with Sydney Boys High receiving the most at $927 per student.

By contrast, more than 1000 comprehensive schools received less than $50 a student from parents.

In the Illawarra, only Corrimal High received less than $50 per student, with Oak Flats High School receiving $51 per student.

Public primary schools in the region received $36 or less per student in voluntary fees, including 31 schools that raised $5 or less a student.

Public schools can set and request voluntary contributions at their discretion, although the department’s standard rate this year is $95 for secondary schools and $44 for primary schools.

The president of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council, Lila Mularczyk, said the fees made ‘‘a huge difference to any school’s income’’.

She said schools in poorer areas set the fees low, while some charged nothing, and school assistance for parents unable to pay their subject fees is available.

The department data does not include contributions from P&C associations or those made informally outside a school’s request for contributions. with the SMH

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