Local students are missing out on spots in top public schools to fee-paying foreign students. Picture: File image
Local students are missing out on spots in top public schools to fee-paying foreign students. Picture: File image

Government selling school places to foreigners

QUEENSLAND students are missing out on places in top public schools as the State Government sells enrolments to wealthy foreigners.

News Queensland can reveal that 2200 students, many from China, are paying to study in 80 Queensland state schools - including the elite academies.

Foreign enrolments jumped 14 per cent this year, after the Education Department flew bureaucrats and principals overseas to recruit fee-paying foreigners to the state's free public schools.

Brisbane State High School is among 80 Queensland schools with paying foreign students.
Brisbane State High School is among 80 Queensland schools with paying foreign students.

The department raked in $67 million in tuition fees this year - 76 per cent more than last year - and handed half the money back to host schools.

The department says local students living in school catchment zones have priority over international students to enrol.

But students living just outside the catchment - or those applying to enrol through academic or sporting excellence programs - could miss out to make room for cashed-up foreign students.

Popular Kelvin Grove State School is also among the list of public schools with paying foreign students.
Popular Kelvin Grove State School is also among the list of public schools with paying foreign students.

"Principals of some state schools may decide to make places available for full-fee paying international students,'' a spokeswoman said.

"Any place made available to an international student at these schools would be at the expense of out-of-catchment places for excellence or specialty sports programs … and will never impact in-catchment enrolments."

The 80 schools with paying foreign students include the overcrowded Brisbane State High School, Kelvin Grove State College, Sunnybank and Macgregor high schools, the elite Queensland Academy for Science, Maths and Technology, and the Queensland Academy for Creative Industries.

Foreign students are charged tuition fees of $13,076 a year for primary school, $16,188 for senior high school and $22,908 for the academies.

Students can live with their parents, using a student visa, or pay $300 a week to stay with a local family.

The state school fees rival those of top private schools - All Hallows charges $11,670 and Brisbane Grammar charges $25,900 for senior students.

But the fees charged to foreign students barely cover the cost of their education - the State Government spends $16,867 for every domestic student in state schools.

State Education Minister Grace Grace yesterday said the department "is not selling places at schools".

Sunnybank was also on the list.
Sunnybank was also on the list.

"It is a school-based decision whether or not to accept international students," she said.

"That Queensland public schools have gained an international reputation for the high-quality education they provide is testament to the hard work and dedication of their teachers and students."

The number of paying international students averages 27 per school - but the Education Department refused to reveal school-by-school enrolments as "it could identify individuals and may personally affect the students enrolled in the schools".

Chairman of Brisbane State High’s school council, David Gillespie. Picture: AAP/Steve Pohlner
Chairman of Brisbane State High’s school council, David Gillespie. Picture: AAP/Steve Pohlner

Chairman of Brisbane State High's school council, David Gillespie, said the principal had told him that only a couple of international students were paying to attend the selective academic school, which was so popular that desperate families have been caught pretending to live in its catchment.

"Thousands of families can't get into State High, that's the problem,'' Mr Gillespie said.

Brisbane State High School's website for international students says it is a "selective-entry school for high-achieving international students" and that "if you are a high-achieving student, we welcome you to begin your studies with us in Year 10".

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said the benefits of diversity should be "balanced with the need for places to be available for students in their local community".

"Most international students attend state schools," he said. "We are facing acute capacity issues and this needs to be considered further."

Education Minister Grace Grace denied the Government was selling places, saying it was a school-based decision: Liam Kidston
Education Minister Grace Grace denied the Government was selling places, saying it was a school-based decision: Liam Kidston

P&Cs Queensland chief executive Kevan Goodworth said international students "bring a richness to schools".

"But we do need to be quite careful in knowing our Queensland kids are getting a fair go," he said.

"The international education sector is an extremely profitable business but obviously we're interested in Queensland kids being able to get into school."

Education bureaucrats, principals and teachers spent nearly $1 million on overseas travel last year, including trips for "promotion and marketing" in Asia and study tours to China, Singapore and Japan.

The Kimber family — Alasdair, 6, Autumn, 4, mum Chrystal, Quinlan, 8, and dad Sam. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning
The Kimber family — Alasdair, 6, Autumn, 4, mum Chrystal, Quinlan, 8, and dad Sam. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning

The Education Department said international students came from a range of countries including China, Germany, Vietnam, Japan and Korea. Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said private and public schools had "benefited from a strong uplift in international student enrolments" this year.

Opposition education spokesman Jarrod Bleijie said the LNP supported international students but "Queensland students should be the priority".

The Kimber family says bringing in international students is a good thing as long as there remained a balance.

"As long as … local families who want to go to the school are able to go to their chosen school," dad Sam Kimber said.

LEARNING BY NUMBERS

• 2200 foreign students in 80 public schools

• 14% rise in foreign enrolments this year

• $67m in tuition fees raised, up 76 per cent

• $13,076 per year fee for foreign primary school students

• $16,188 per year fee for foreign senior high school students

• $22,908 per year fee for foreign students of elite academies