The following answers some of the regularly asked questions about the costs to families in sending your child to a government school in Victoria, and provides further details about the types of payments that schools can request from parents.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is free about education?
Victorian legislation provides that instruction in the standard curriculum program must be provided free to all students in Victorian government schools. Free instruction includes learning and teaching, instructional supports, materials and resources, administration and facilities required to provide the standard curriculum program.
What is the standard curriculum program?
The standard curriculum program is made up of the eight key learning areas agreed to by all the States and Territories and the Commonwealth. These are the arts, English, health and physical education, languages other than English, mathematics, science, studies of society and environment and technology.
The standard curriculum program includes the core learning and teaching activities associated with the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) and senior secondary certificates such as VCE and VCAL and VET programs that are part of VCE or VCAL.
Does free instruction still apply to senior secondary certificates such as VCE and VCAL including VET in schools programs?
Yes. Free instruction would still apply as the standard curriculum program includes the senior secondary certificates such as VCE and VCAL. VET in Schools programs are part of VCE and VCAL and therefore instruction is free. Costs that could be considered instruction, instructional support, instructional resources, instructional administration or school facilities cannot be charged for.
If the student consumes or takes possession of an item/service which supports the free instruction in the standard curriculum program, this is an essential educational item for which payment may be sought.
This includes the purchase of materials for a VET program such as wood for making stools in VET furnishing. However, if the wood is being purchased to make a gazebo that the student does not take home, then this is not an essential education item and the student may not be charged.
Can I be charged for the administration of the standard curriculum program?
No. The costs associated with the administration and coordination of the standard curriculum program are considered to be part of free instruction and must not be passed onto parents.
What are parents and guardians required to pay for?
You can be asked to pay for essential education items including:
- items which students take possession of, including text books and student stationery
- materials for learning and teaching where your child consumes or takes possession of the finished articles (for example, home economics, ceramics, photography, catering)
- school uniform (where applicable)
- travel costs incurred in the course of receiving the instruction from a teacher or other person
- essential services associated with, but not considered to be part of, 'instruction' in the standard curriculum program, such as costs associated with camps and excursions which all students are expected to attend (for example, transport and entrance costs).
How are the essential education items purchased?
Schools will offer to purchase these items on your behalf although you have the option of purchasing equivalent materials from other sources. If you choose to provide equivalent materials, this should be done in consultation with the school, and should meet the specifications provided by the school. Some items, for example food provisions for home economics, may only be provided by the school.
What do the optional extra items consist of?
Optional extras are those that are provided in addition to the ‘standard curriculum program’, and which are offered to all students. These optional extras are provided on a user-pays basis and if you choose to access them for your child you will be required to pay for them. These items include:
- instructional supports, resources and administration beyond the provision of the standard curriculum program (for example, student computer printing for personal use, internet access for recreational or non-school use, and religious education materials)
- extra-curricular programs or activities offered in addition to the standard curriculum program (for example, instrumental music tuition)
- entry fees for school run performances, productions and events
- materials for subjects where the payment sought is the difference between the basic materials or services required for the standard curriculum program and higher cost alternatives which may be more desirable (for example, requesting payment for the use of mahogany in woodwork instead of the standard pine)
- materials and services offered in addition to the ‘standard curriculum program’ (for example, school magazines or school photographs)
- school facilities and equipment not associated with provision of the ‘standard curriculum program’, and not otherwise provided for through the School Resources Package (for example, student accident insurance, and hire/lease of equipment such as musical instruments or notebook computers).
What are voluntary financial contributions?
Schools may invite voluntary financial contributions for the following:
- contributions to a building or a library trust fund (ATO approved and tax deductible)
- contributions for a specific purpose identified by the school (for example, equipment, materials or services in addition to those funded through the Student Resource Package. This may include additional computers or student-related services)
- general voluntary financial contributions or donations to the school.
Can a school make repeated requests for voluntary financial contributions?
No. Requests for voluntary financial contributions are limited to the initial notice to all parents and guardians and one reminder notice. It is not acceptable to use coercion or to harass parents and guardians for any payments.
Can my child be denied access to the standard curriculum program on the basis of me not paying these charges?
No, all students must have access to the standard curriculum program. Schools all have policies that ensure students are not treated differently, denied access to the ‘standard curriculum program’, or refused instruction on the basis of payments not being made for essential education items, optional extras or voluntary financial contributions.
Principals must ensure any record of payments or contributions is confidential. The public identification of students or their parents or guardians who have or have not made a payment or contribution is unacceptable and must not occur in any circumstances.
What support is available to help me pay these charges?
A range of support options are available, including:
- Access to State Schools’ Relief Committee support via the Principal which can assist with clothing/uniforms.
- A range of welfare and support agencies that have established partnership arrangements with schools. Your school can be contacted for further information.
My child's school has a program where parents pay for laptop computers or tablets. Do I have to purchase/lease the device specified by the school?
No. It is the parents’ choice whether they purchase/lease these items or not. If you do not purchase/lease the device, the school must provide a device for the child during the times the device is required at school.
My child already has a laptop computer/tablet. Can he/she use this at school instead of purchasing the one(s) the school is specifying?
Yes, if you already have a device at home that is similar and suitable. The school must allow your child to use their own device. However, parents should be aware that it will not always be practical or possible to connect a device that is not the one specified by the school. While the school should provide some technical assistance to allow the device to be connected to the EduSTAR wireless network, the amount of technical support that can be provided by the school is limited.
In addition, if the specified devices are imaged by the school, it may not be possible to install required software for licencing reasons and parents may need to organise their own purchase of the software.
If I choose not to purchase or provide the laptop computer specified by the school for my child, will they miss out at school?
If parents choose not to purchase/lease the device, the school is required by Department policy to provide a device for the child during the times the device is required at school.
I would like to purchase/lease the laptop computer/tablet offered by the school but it is too expensive. What can I do?
All schools offering programs where parents pay for the costs of their child’s device, must ensure they have support options available for parents who may have difficulties paying for the devices. These options should include offering payment plans and subsidised devices. If you are experiencing difficulties in providing or paying the school to provide the digital device, you are encouraged to make an appointment with the principal or other nominated senior staff member to discuss assistance the school can provide. All information you provide will be treated in the strictest confidence.
I don’t agree with students having their own computing devices for school. I am concerned that my child already has too much screen time and this should be cut down, not increased.
The discerning use of digital technologies in the classroom can maximise learning opportunities. Students learn how to engage with the world around them, connect, collaborate, access information and acquire digital skills to participate in life and work. Personal devices are important learning tools. Research shows that there are many benefits to your child having a personal device. A sense of ownership creates a greater connection to using the device for learning, and students can learn anywhere and at any time in a way that suits their needs.
School councils must approve the parent provision, purchase or lease of networked personal devices (such as laptop computers or tablets). Schools are required to consult with and seek out the views of their school communities prior to introducing such programs. If you have issues with this sort of program you should raise your concerns with your school principal or school council.
Should I be expected to fund a personal device (e.g. laptop or tablet) for my child’s education?
Please see: Personal Devices - Parent Payments and Access
For more information, see:
For information specific to your child's school contact the school directly or contact your regional office, see: Regional Offices