Australian parents are shunning public education in favour of independent schools, new data shows. The latest schools data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that the number of students in the independent sector grew 25 per cent in last decade. The proportion of students enrolled in government schools dropped from just over 68 per cent in 2002 to to 64.5 per cent last year. Melbourne Graduate School of Education associate professor Jenny Chesters told ACM parents were 'following the money'. "In some cases private schools get more from the state and federal government than the local public school, so we're overfunding private schools, and parents are saying, well those schools have all the resources, I'm going to send my kid there," she said. "It's about class and status. It's this belief that if you pay for something it's got to be better, and the more you pay for it the better it is, but that's not always the case when it comes to education." The findings come as two states have set a new benchmark of $46,000 for annual private school fees in 2023. Including tuition and compulsory fees, Victoria's Geelong Grammar School topped the country with $46,344, just inching out the $46,300 cost of attending NSW's Kambala School. The median non government school fee across all states is between $8,985 and $13,150, with the majority of students attending low to middle fee schools. Independent Schools Australia CEO Carolyn Grantskalns told ACM varied factors influenced the decision to choose independent schooling. "The options offered by Independent schools are diverse. Families have a choice of learning styles, cultural values, and religions," she said. "What we do know is that families value the autonomy of Independent schools. ISA's survey of families reveals this ability of Independent schools to adapt and innovate is important. This has proved especially valuable in the pandemic." Independent Schools Australia's research indicates that the Independent schools seeing the greatest growth were those with low or mid-range fees. Only Western Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory experienced marginal increases in public school enrolments. Student-to-teacher ratio, a key concern for parents, was lower at private schools. Across all schools, at private schools there were 11.7 students to one teacher, while at government schools it was 13.4 students to one teacher, and 13.6 students to one teacher at Catholic schools. Education is the main driver of social mobility and research suggests the education level of the parent was the main factor of a child's educational success. A recently published Productivity Commission report found that a year three student whose parents did not finish secondary school are an average of 1.3 years behind in numeracy, compared to a student whose parents have a bachelor degree or higher. Professor Chesters said Australian schools were becoming segregated along socioeconomic lines. "What happens in Australia is if you live in an area where a lot of the parents have high levels of education, it doesn't matter whether you send your kids to a government school, a catholic school or an independent school, because the children in that school all have highly educated parents, so that has a positive impact on childrens' learning," she said. "So we have a concentration of poorer children attending the same schools together and wealthier children attending the same school together." IN OTHER NEWS: Rates for students completing schooling through to year 12 have also declined, dropping significantly compared with 2002. Just over 76 per cent of students in public education completed year 12 in 2022, down from 83.1 per cent from 2018. Professor Chesters puts that down to the flow on effects of remote learning during the pandemic. "COVID has changed young peoples attitudes to education. We can't promise them good jobs anymore, because going to university doesn't equate to getting a job at the end. So they question that, and think maybe I'll do something else," she said. "They can go to university later on down the track, that's the great thing about our education system, it's totally open."