What are Independent Schools?

Independent schools are non-government schools. They are a diverse group of schools serving a range of different communities. Many independent schools provide a religious or values based education. Others promote a particular education philosophy or interpretation of mainstream education. Independent schools include

  • Schools affiliated with larger and smaller Christian denominations, for example, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian schools

  • Non denominational Christian schools

  • Islamic schools

  • Jewish schools

  • Montessori schools

  • Rudolf Steiner schools

  • Aboriginal community schools

  • Schools that specialise in meeting the needs of students with disabilities.

Independent schools include small and large day schools, boarding schools, co-educational, and single-sex schools.

Independent schools are not-for-profit institutions founded by religious or other groups in the community and are registered with the relevant State or Territory education authority.

Most independent schools are set up and governed independently on an individual-school basis – hence the name independent schools sector. However some independent schools with common aims and educational philosophies are governed and administered as small systems, for example the Lutheran system.

The independent schools sector makes up about 40 percent of the overall non-government school sector. The Catholic sector makes up the remaining 60 percent. The two groups are not mutually exclusive as there are some Catholic schools with an independent tradition that maintain affiliations across both sectors.

Whom do independent schools serve?

The students who attend independent schools are as diverse as the schools themselves. They include indigenous students, gifted students, students with disabilities and learning difficulties and also overseas students.

As a group, independent schools draw students from all sections of the Australian community.

Why do parents choose independent schools?

The existence of independent schools means that parents and children have greater options in the choice of school education. Parents choose to send their children to independent schools for many different reasons, and common considerations include:

  • provision of an education that would prepare the child to fulfil their maximum potential

  • good discipline

  • the school encourages a responsible attitude to school work

  • they want their child to have a values-based or religious education

  • they value the different teaching and educational philosophies available at independent schools 

  • the availability of boarding facilities.

But above all, they choose independent schools because they feel a particular independent school will best serve their child and their child’s education.

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Independent Schools Facts and Figures

In 2010, there were 1,017 independent schools in Australia with some 492,146 full-time equivalent (FTE) students and nearly 74,900 staff. Independent school enrolments account for 14 percent of all Australian school enrolments compared with 20 percent for the Catholic sector and 66 percent for government schools.*

Full-time Equivalent Enrolments by Sector 2010

FTE Enrolments at by sector 2010 - chart

Independent schools account for 18 percent of total FTE secondary enrolments (45 percent of non-government), and 11 percent of full-time primary enrolments (37 percent of non-government).

 Primary                                    Secondary

Primary Enrolments by sector 2010 - chartSecondary enrolments by sector 2010 - charts


Fifty-three percent of FTE enrolments in independent schools are secondary students and 47 percent are primary students. The majority of students are enrolled in combined primary/secondary schools.

*ABS data excludes independent Catholic enrolments.

View more information on school statistics and in the Independent Schooling in Australia Snapshot.

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about independent schools

frequently asked questions

why parents choose independent schools

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