School costs and fees

You need to pay some costs when your child goes to a government school. Costs can be for essential items, optional extras or voluntary payments to the school.

This page explains school costs, how to lower them and what you can do if you're having difficulties.

What a free public education includes

Victorian government schools must teach the standard curriculum to all students for free. This covers prep to year 12.

Each school receives funding from the government to teach the standard curriculum. This funding pays for:

  • staff to do the teaching and run the school
  • the buildings and facilities
  • extra support for children with a disability.

Items you pay for

You pay for items that are essential to help your child learn the standard curriculum. Your school will decide what those items are and give you a list.

In most cases the school provides the essential items, and you pay the school.

You can choose to provide some items yourself. Check with the school first to make sure the item is correct.

Essential items include:

  • text books and stationery that your child borrows from the school or keeps
  • materials used for school work where your child keeps the final product. For example, wood used in a woodworking class.
  • school uniform, if your school has one
  • excursions or work placements that all students must attend.

Laptops and tablets

Some schools have a program where you buy or rent a laptop or tablet.

In most cases you can use your own device if you prefer. The school can give you information on which devices can connect to their network. You may need to buy extra software if you're using your own device.

If you do not rent, buy or bring your own device, the school will provide a device for your child to use when needed.

Optional items

These are items on top of the standard curriculum. You can choose whether to pay for them.

Optional items include:

  • extra-curricular or after school programs
  • class photos
  • formals
  • materials that are more expensive than needed for the standard curriculum. For example, using mahogany wood in a woodworking class instead of standard pine wood.

Voluntary payments

Your school can ask if you'd like to make a voluntary payment or donation. The payment will be for a specific purpose, like renovating a building or buying new equipment.

You can choose whether to give a voluntary payment. Some payments are tax-deductible, check with your school first.

Schools can only ask about a voluntary payment once and then give one reminder. They cannot repeatedly ask.

Who decides the costs

Each school council decides their own costs, fees and essential items.

Schools set their own costs so they can meet their local community's needs. They can also set their own priorities and run different subjects. This means your costs may be different to parents in other schools.

Your school must have a policy which explains how they calculate fees and give a copy of the policy to you.

You can read the parent payments policy that schools must follow.

How to lower your costs

  • Ask your school which essential items you can supply yourself. You may be able to buy generic versions, borrow from friends or you may already have the item.
  • Buy second hand items and uniforms where possible. Ask your school about their uniform shop and swap days.
  • Ask for iron-on logos for uniforms.
  • Use your own laptop or tablet if it's compatible with the school's network.
  • Apply for a scholarship​ if your child is eligible.

Get help with school costs

If you don't understand the costs you've been asked to pay, speak to your school first.

There are options if you're having financial difficulties. Read more about help with school costs and fees.

Your school cannot stop your child from learning the standard curriculum if you can't pay.