The Department's new Parent Payment Policy brings a stronger focus to transparency and family hardship, as well as outlining the expectations of implementation and communication with parents. The policy also emphasises that all children should have access to the standard curriculum regardless of their parents' ability to pay.
The following frequently asked questions provide further details about the types of payments schools can request from families.
Frequently Asked Questions
I thought public education was free. Why have I been asked to pay?
Schools are funded to deliver a quality education based on the standard curriculum. Schools receive additional government funds based on the needs of the students or location.
Parent payments are a valuable contribution to enhancing and enriching the educational experience. These payments allow schools to offer enhanced programs and opportunities which their school communities expect them to offer.
Schools decide on the learning program they offer based on the needs and aspirations of the school community.
Some parents believe that public education is free. What is free in government schools?
Victorian legislation clearly states that instruction in the standard curriculum program must be provided free of charge to all students in Victorian government schools.
This 'free instruction' is the teaching staff, administration and the provision of facilities in connection with instruction of the standard curriculum program, including reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities.
What is the standard curriculum program?
The standard curriculum program is made up of the eight key learning areas agreed to by the States, Territories and Commonwealth. These areas are: the arts, English, health and physical education, languages other than English, mathematics, science, and technologies.
The standard curriculum also includes the four capability areas: Critical and Creative Thinking, Intercultural, Ethical, and Personal and Social.
To clarify, 'the standard curriculum for years F-10' means the implementation of the Victorian Curriculum F-10. 'The standard curriculum for senior secondary schools' means a program that enables a student to be awarded a VCE or VCAL qualification.
Does free instruction still apply to senior secondary certificates such as VCE and VCAL including VET in schools programs?
Yes. Free instruction applies to senior secondary certificates as the standard curriculum program includes 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 supports, resources, administration or school facilities required to deliver instruction in the standard curriculum, cannot be charged for.
If the student consumes or takes temporary or permanent possession of an item/service which supports the free instruction in the standard curriculum program, this is an Essential Student Learning Item for which payment may be sought.
This includes the purchase of materials for a VET program such as wood for making a standard/agreed item in VET furnishing.
Why can schools set their own payments?
The Act allows school councils to set their own payments in accordance with Department of Education and Training policy.
Schools serve different communities with different needs and expectations for the curriculum and are able to request payments to cover costs for their learning programs.
Why am I being asked to pay for different things to parents in other schools?
Every school is different and each school has the ability to set its own priorities. Therefore, it is common for schools to request different payments from parents because they offer different programs, go on different excursions and have different needs at school. For example, some might want to start a student gardening program and others a photography program.
Schools make parent payment contribution decisions in good faith and in the best interests of their students. They aim to keep costs to a minimum so that they are reasonable and affordable to most parents at the school. In setting their fees, each school ensures that parents understand the links between the school's learning programs and the payments being requested.
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 part of free instruction and must not be passed on to parents.
What can schools request parents to pay for?
You can be asked to pay for Essential Student Learning Items that the school deems essential to student learning in the standard curriculum including:
items which students take temporary or permanent possession of, including text books, student stationery and school uniforms (where applicable)
- materials for learning and teaching where students construct, consume or take possession of the finished articles (for example, home economics, ceramics, photography, materials for build-your-own-kits)
activities that 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 behalf of parents, although parents 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 are the optional items?
Optional items are items or services that are offered in addition to the standard curriculum.
These items are provided on a user-pays basis and if parents choose to access them for their child they will be required to pay for them.
These items include:
items the student purchases or hires such as school magazines, class photos, fees for guest speakers, functions, formals and student accident insurance
activities the student purchases such as fees for extra-curricular programs or activities such as instrumental music tuition
items and materials that are more expensive than required to meet the standard curriculum (for example, requesting payment for the use of mahogany in woodwork instead of the standard pine).
What are voluntary financial contributions?
Schools may invite voluntary financial contributions for the following:
- Contributions to a
building or a library fund. These are contributions that have been endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) are 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 contributions.
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 only.
Prior to sending out any reminder notices to parents, schools use their discretion with families where there may be financial difficulty or hardship.
I don't understand the charges that I am being asked to pay for.
You should discuss the charges with the parent payment contact person who will be able to explain them to you.
If you are still not clear or not happy with the outcome of your conversation with the parent payment contact person, you should contact the school Principal.
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 as inclusion and engagement are integral to school policy.
Schools apply the Department of Education and Training policy that ensures students are not treated differently, denied access to the 'standard curriculum program', or refused instruction on the basis of payments not being made.
Principals must ensure any record of payments or contributions is kept confidential. Only de-identified information can be provided for reporting purposes.
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 for clothing/uniforms (via the principal).
Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund, which provides payments for eligible students to attend camps, sports and excursions.
For a full range of support options see:
Cost support for families (docx - 75.91kb)
Who can I talk to if I am having financial difficulty and unable to pay the charges?
All schools understand that families can experience financial difficulty or a crisis which makes the payment difficult.
Your school has a parent payment contact person who you can discuss your situation with and help with making alternate payment arrangements. The name and contact details of the parent payment contact people is available in the school's Parent Payment Policy and Procedures.
You should be able to find this easily on the school's website. Contact the school if you are unable to find this policy.
I have questions about school laptops and tablets
Parent Payments - Personal Devices FAQs
For more information, see:
For information specific to your child's school contact the school directly or contact your regional office, see: