Australia

COVID costs push up fees at Sydney's most expensive school to more than $41,000

Fees for Sydney's most expensive school, SCEGGS Darlinghurst, will top $41,000 for senior students next year, with salary costs, COVID-19 cleaning protocols and a pause on fundraising blamed for a 3.5 per cent cost increase.

Other high-fee independent schools have kept costs unchanged, while some have flagged smaller-than-usual rises in what St Andrew's Cathedral School described as "the lowest fee increase in a generation".

Fees at SCEGGS Darlinghurst will top $41000 next year.

Fees at SCEGGS Darlinghurst will top $41000 next year.Credit:Louise Kennerley

The economic downturn sparked by the pandemic has put financial pressure on many parents of children at non-government schools, leading school councils across NSW to pore over their budgets for 2021.

Newington College is keeping its fees for senior grades steady at $35,271 next year, as is The King's School, which charges $38,284 plus levies for year 12. Knox Grammar will also maintain its 2020 fees at $34,110.

Barker College council on Wednesday resolved to lift fees by 2 per cent from the middle of 2021, while St Catherine's School decided upon a similar increase. "We have kept it as low as we could," St Catherine's principal Julie Townsend said.

"This will primarily cover the cost of a 2 per cent staff salary increase. We wanted to give them a small increase to mark our gratitude for the superb way they rose to and managed the challenges of educating our girls though COVID."

SCEGGS will increase year 11 and12 fees to $41,090 plus a $780 technology levy.

The school told parents in a letter that its 2020 income had been reduced by 3.4 per cent due to increased cost of cleaning, extra staff to cover sick teachers and an inability to run the usual fundraising events.

"Our cash flow has been further impacted, as deferred payment plans and payment extensions have been implemented for a number of families who have been significantly impacted by COVID," the letter said.

St Ignatius' College Riverview is also putting up its fees, by 3 per cent, to $31,845 next year, telling parents in a letter the increase would cover COVID-related costs such as cleaning and extra provisions in the boarding house.

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It would also cover "a small increase in salaries to acknowledge the outstanding work by staff to respond to the many associated with the COVID environment through the development and delivery of the virtual timetable", the letter said.

St Andrew's Cathedral School increased year 11 and 12 fees by 1.9 per cent to $35,100, which the chairman of the school council, Kanishka Raffel, described as the lowest fee increase in a generation. It will cover income lost due to waiving fees and cancelling camps, as well as a salary increase for staff.

Mr Raffel said the increase also acknowledged a change to the way government funding was allocated to private schools, saying St Andrew's would be a "significant loser" under the new formula, which will apply from 2022.

The Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta will also keep fees at 2020 levels, and says it has given fee support to more than 2000 families this year.

Broken Bay Diocese will keep discounting fees for families on JobSeeker and JobKeeper supplements into the first term of next year.

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