Independent schools are non-government institutions that generally do not belong to a system. Most have their own governing board responsible for the school’s operation. The board oversees fundraising, spending and staff employment, and decides the details of the co-curricular program and disciplinary code.
Some independent schools belong to small systems that share educational or religious philosophies, practices and training. Many offer some ‘values orientation’ through their curriculum or in their ethos, either by observation of one religious faith or non-denominationally.
The best-known independent schools often belong to large, long-established religious foundations (Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic). These are usually expensive schools that tend to be up-market and traditional in style. In most cases, they do not insist on their students’ religious allegiance.
On the other hand, many independent schools are quite new, often small, and not necessarily traditional. A range of schools are geared towards the specific educational needs of Indigenous students, those with special needs, or those looking for an alternative educational philosophy. For parents seeking a holistic approach to their child’s education, the Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner system of independent schools offers an established alternative to the more traditional curriculum. First devised in 1919 by the Austrian philosopher, scientist and artist Rudolf Steiner, a Waldorf education aims to promote a child’s emotional stability, freedom of thought and social conscience by balancing academic subjects with artistic and practical activities. See Steiner Schools in Australia for further information.
All independent schools receive some government funding. How much they receive depends on broad estimates of the social and economic status of their clientele. Fees vary widely, but many schools offer scholarships and bursaries. See the Scholarships section for more information.
There are a range of other schools geared towards special talents and interests. Read about these schools in our Special interest schools section.
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