Last Updated: September 23, 2012

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Sunday Telegraph

Public school costs soar to $90k

PARENTS of children starting kindergarten this year will pay more than $90,000 to educate them to year 12 in the public system.

At a private school, they can add another $250,000 per child. Catholic schools are not cheap either, with the average education bill topping $175,000 for a dozen years of education.

The estimates, compiled by the Australian Scholarships Group, a non-profit organisation that helps parents plan for the costs of education, take into account tuition fees and the costs of uniforms, textbooks, computers and internet access.

Are education costs straining your family budget?

Ten years ago, the group estimated the cost of an education in the public sector was about $30,000 per child but now it says educating youngsters from potty-training age to drinking age in the government system will cost up to $90,049.

The breakdown of public education shows parents can expect to pay $33,738 in school fees, $7,774 for stationery and textbooks, $8,658 for uniforms, $17,551 for camps and music lessons and $22,328 in computer and internet costs over the next 13 years.

The hefty bills soar to $175,416 for a child educated in a Catholic school and double to $354,828 for those attending a private school.

Australian Scholarships Group general manager Kevin Brown cited Australian Bureau of Statistics data that shows education continues to outpace inflation at an alarming rate.

He said last year, education costs increased by 5.6 per cent, compared to the overall rate of 1.3 per cent.

Many parents underestimated the costs involved over a long period.

"We're not trying to scare people but we use the figures to help parents better plan for their children's future education," he said.

"One of the biggest mistakes that families make is failing to plan for the total cost of education, which includes tuition fees, fundraising contributions, camps, excursions and all those things that lead to the richness of the child's educational experience."

While government school contribution fees are voluntary in NSW, parents are encouraged to pay them to ensure a school's financial viability.

Students studying specific subjects, such as design and technology and woodwork, are also asked to pay an additional fee for supplies.

The projections are indexed to inflation and were based on cost estimates received from members and their 2,400 children.

The Baker family of Chipping Norton knows all about the problem. Quadruplet brothers Lachlan, Nicholas, James and Harrison start Year 1 at Newbridge Heights Public School this year.

Mum Amanda Baker described the estimates "scary'' and "mind-boggling'' but said she and husband, Tim, kept costs low by shopping smart.

"When we have to buy stuff like their school shoes this year it's a case [of] we go when the sales are on and it's buy one pair and get the second pair half price or get the second pair free,'' she said.

"There's no big trick. You just look when things are on sale.''

She said she saves money by handing school uniforms down given that her children are different sizes.

She praised the school's teachers, principal and parent community for their support and said they were really mindful of her family's unique position.

"They realise that it's four at the one time so they really do help us out,'' she said.

"But at the end of that day, we chose to go ahead and have the kids so we figure it out.

"There are times when we are struggling big time to make ends meet but we do it. You make the sacrifices that you need to make so the kids don't miss out.''

Parents and Citizens' Federation president Giblin, president of the Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations of NSW, said the latest figures showed public education was not always free.

She also encouraged principals to be mindful of the financial pressures faced by parents at the beginning of each school year.

"No child should be disadvantaged if parents are unable to provide,'' she said. ``We stress the contribution is voluntary.''

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