The hidden transport costs and subsidies of Australia's private schools


Australia has one of the highest rates of private schooling in the world at around 34%, supported by high levels of Commonwealth Government funding. This rate of private schooling puts far fewer Australian school children within easy walk or cycle distance of their school. Only a few prestige private schools are highly accessible by public transport; newer private schools on the edge of Australian cities are often choosing rather odd locations on the transport/land use network. This seminar explores why this might be occurring, and what the travel behaviour effects and transport costs of this private schooling regime are. Firstly, results of research undertaken with PhD student Yiping Yan are provided. 2017-2019 South East Queensland travel survey data for public and private school travel reveals differences in mode choices and trip distances. Most children are driven to school; 72.3% of public school students, 74.6% of private. But the private school children travel a lot further by car, especially at secondary school level. This travel is mostly on the arterial and sub-arterial road networks and takes place in morning peak hour, adding significantly to traffic congestion. Secondly, the rationale behind private school location decisions is explored, focusing on newer schools in sub-optimal peri-urban locations that have received both favourable land rezonings and Ministerial infrastructure charging exemptions. Rough estimates are made of the value-uplift attained and the infrastructure costs avoided. Third, other subsidies to private schools are provided, including disproportionate public transport concessions (due to longer trips) and conveyance payments to parents/guardians located on the urban fringe. Thankfully, many private schools are pro-actively implementing 'solutions' to these problems, including running their own buses and trialling car-pooling apps like Parachuute.


Associate Professor Matthew Burke leads the transport research team in the Cities Research Institute at Griffith University. Matthew undertook his PhD in Planning at UQ, graduating in 2005. Today he is Griffith's chair for two collaborative research agreements involving Griffith, UQ and QUT: the Transport Innovation and Research Hub with Brisbane City Council; and, the Transport Academic Partnership with Queensland Government. 


This seminar will be held using the video conferencing software Zoom. If you would like the link, please email