Private schools gain market share despite downturn

As the GFC took hold in late 2008, some people were predicting a trend back to government schools. ‘Parents abandon private schools as downturn bites’ said a SMH headline.

I was sceptical, predicting a moderation in the trend to private schools rather than a reversal of the trend. In my view, religious diversity, discipline issues, growing affluence, and increased long-term importance of education will all, other things being equal, continue to favour private schools for the foreseeable future. Cyclical events like recessions may temporarily affect the affluence factor, but will not change the basic trend.

The preliminary 2009 schools data, released today, supports my scepticism about a trend back to government schools. Despite a small economic downturn, Catholic schools grew at more than twice the rate of government schools, and independent schools grew at around 5 times the rate of government schools.

Overall, private schools gained .24% of market share. Consistent with my prediction of a moderation rather than a reversal this is below the long-term trend. The annual average private school market share gain was .39% during the Howard years.