'Putting Your Kids First' With Private Education Is Smashing The Hip Pocket

When Scott Nailon's first son was on the way, he and his wife  -- like many parents -- had some important decisions to make.

"We had two choices; we could work towards the great Australian dream or we could invest in our children's schooling," Nailon told 10 News First.

After having a less favourable experience in public schooling as a kid, he and his wife decided to forgo buying a home in Sydney to put their children through private schooling.

Now, with three kids aged 8, 11 and 12, it's a decision he was willing to make.

It depends on what you value... I see it as something I should just do. I’ve got to put them [my kids] first.

But it comes at a cost.

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As parents prepare to send their kids back to school, or off to school for the first time, new findings have revealed just how hard it's hitting some hip pockets.

Scott Nailon made the decision to put his three children through private schooling. Image: 10 News First

Those putting their children through private education are spending, on average, 35 percent of their after-tax income to pay tuition, lending specialists Edstart found.

It's a financial burden heavier than the average Aussie mortgage.

“We’ve heard many stories highlighting the sacrifices parents are making to ensure school fees are covered," Edstart CEO Jack Stevens said.

"From those who have sold their home and gone back to renting, to those where both parents have more than one job. In addition to that, one in six parents are paying for school fees on credit cards."

About one in five parents who send their kids to a private school cannot afford it, according to a separate poll of more than 150 families.

According to the ASG Planning for Education Index released last year, it could cost up to a whopping  $475,342 to send one child born in 2018 through the private school system in metropolitan Australia -- more than a 60 percent increase in the last 10 years.

The estimated cost of public education for the same 13-year period is a little over $66,000, which is a jump of more than 20 percent since 2008.

Why The Rise?

School fees are increasing faster than the cost of living, said senior lecturer of education at Monash University Dr David Zyngier.

"Private schools are in this continuous battle to build more, to showcase more, to attract more students," he explained.

"They spend a lot of money on publicity, have not just a business manager but a public relations manager and all of these people on big salaries, so it's not a surprise that when you're building libraries, gymnasiums and Olympic sized swimming pools that they need to raise their fees."

Percent of net income consumed by school fees, broken down by state.

Edstart's survey revealed state by state, families in Victoria and South Australia were handing over the most, parting with 39.2 percent of their income.

Meanwhile, NSW had the smallest average at 34.1 percent.

When taking into account the extra costs it takes to get a child through to graduation, from uniforms to stationary, it's no small price to pay.

Is it Value For Money?

The average cost to educate a high school student in Australia is about $13,500 a year, Zyngier said, while for a primary school child it's about $11,500.

These figures are determined by the needs-based formula that underpins the Gonski reports and determines state and federal government funding levels for all schools.

But when you take into account socioeconomic status, Zyngier said analysis of NAPLAN results across the country and VCE results in Victoria reveal non-government schools don't outperform their public counterparts academically.

“All the teachers in schools all over Australia come from the same places. They’re all educated by the same kinds of people, they’re all coming out of university with the same qualifications and abilities," he said.

Image: 10 News First

Ultimately, Nailon says he is happy with the sacrifices he made to forego other investments.

"I have built my business, I have enough wages to cover me. If I want to buy a property in the next few years, I could probably do that now," he said, adding researching prospective schools is key.

"You need to do your homework on the school you're sending your kids and what you can afford.

"If you can't afford it, that's fine. Just make sure you are spending quality time with your kids because that's what they need above all else."

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