Parents are now paying more than $37,000 to send their children to some of Sydney's top private schools, with fees rising by as much as 5 per cent this year, and industry experts say the upward trend is unlikely to stop.
Cranbrook in Sydney's east is one of the city's most expensive private schools, with its annual year 12 fees rising to $37,230 in 2018, up 4 per cent from $35,805 last year.
SCEGGS Darlinghurst is charging parents $37,282 per annum for year 12, up 1 per cent from $36,896 last year.
Fees have also exceeded $35,000 for the first time at the King's School and St Catherine's School, which are charging $35,697 and $35,098, respectively, for year 12 students in 2018.
Private schools, costly private pain
Cranbrook headmaster Nicholas Sampson said that the school "works determinedly to ensure maximum value for educational investment, with annual fees inclusive of many activities and programs".
Daven Timms, who has two children at Barker College, which is charging $31,630 for year 12 students this year, said fees and the cost of extra-curricular activities can eat up about 50 per cent of the household budget in some months.
"At the beginning of every term we get the invoice and you have to move money around, you just have to budget ahead and draw on savings," Mr Timms said.
Mr Timms said he has been putting money into an education investment fund since his children were born.
"I'm a lawyer and my wife's a psychologist and we have a good income … but we would have struggled without [those investments]," he said.
Private schools, costly private pain
A Herald survey of a dozen top independent schools has revealed that fees have risen by an average of 3.9 per cent this year, although some schools including North Sydney's Shore school have increased fees by as much as 4.6 per cent.
This comes despite wage growth of only 2 per cent and inflation of 1.8 per cent in the 12 months to September.
A five-year analysis of school fees also shows that fees have gone up by an average of 23.5 per cent and as much as 35 per cent at schools such as St Catherine's School Waverley, which is charging parents $35,098 for year 12 in 2018, compared to $26,000 in 2013.
Chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW Geoff Newcombe said teachers' salaries and technology costs are the main contributors to rising fees.
"Fees clearly have to go up because you can't freeze wages," Dr Newcombe said.
"But schools are very conscious of costs to parents and this is the lowest increase to keep providing a quality service, and people obviously see the value of having their children in independent schools."
However, senior lecturer in education at Monash University David Zyngier said that a Victorian analysis of year 12 results has shown that private schools do not outperform public schools when socioeconomic advantage is taken into account.
"Public schools are meeting the performance of private schools with a third of the resources," Dr Zyngier said.
The latest HSC results show that while the top 10 schools are dominated by public selective schools, the top state comprehensive schools also outrank a number of high-fee private schools.
Cheltenham Girls High, last year's top-performing public comprehensive school, was ranked at 53, followed by Willoughby Girls High at 61, Cherrybrook Technology High at 68 and Killara High at 78.
One of the most expensive private schools in the state, Cranbrook, was ranked at 41, while St Catherine's was ranked at 57 and Hills Grammar was ranked at 100.
Overall, the top-ranked private school was the academically selective Sydney Grammar School in sixth place, followed by Ascham at 9, Abbotsleigh at 14 and Moriah College at 15.
"As a return on investment, purely from an economic perspective, there's no advantage to sending your child to a private school," Dr Zyngier said.
"Children from the middle class are going to do well anywhere and all the extra-curricular activities like boating and horse riding do not have any impact on a child's academic achievement.
"And if a parent chose to send their child to a public school, they'd have a lot of money left over to do all that and a lot more."