Hale private boys’ school in Perth received more than $7m in jobkeeper

Government subsidies were second-largest source of income for school in 2020, which declared a surplus of $8.31m and offered discounts to parents

A private boys’ school in Perth that charges up to $27,000 a year in fees received more than $7m in jobkeeper subsidies in 2020 while declaring an operating surplus of more than $8m.

The Hale School in Perth counts cabinet minister Christian Porter and Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith as alumni.

According to the school’s annual report, it received $7.45m in jobkeeper payments last year. At the same time, the school declared an operating surplus in 2020 of $8.31m and also offered discounts to parents.

Jobkeeper subsidies were the second-largest source of income for the private school in 2020, contributing more than commonwealth funding, state funding and boarding fees.

Losses declared under “discounts” also grew over 2020. The school spent $1.93m on discounts, the 2020 annual report states, up $1.2m from $714,332 declared in 2019. Total tuition fees received by the school also rose from $46.1m in 2019 to $46.8m in 2020.

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The Hale School is a member of the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia which requires schools to “demonstrate the effective use of government funding”.

Hale declined to answer when asked what made the school eligible for jobkeeper or what the $7.4m in government funding was spent on.

Electronics company Harvey Norman received $22m in jobkeeper in 2020, even as its profits more than doubled during the pandemic, with billionaire owner Gerry Harvey refusing to pay the funds back.

Wesley College, a private school in Melbourne that charges more than $34,000 for year 12 students, received nearly $20m in jobkeeper subsidies last year despite declaring a surplus. The college offered parents a 20% reduction in term two tuition fees.

The Hale School did not respond to questions about whether it would pay any jobkeeper funds back to the federal government.

Valerie Gould, the executive director of the AISWA, said member schools made their own decisions about whether they would apply for jobkeeper.

“Schools followed federal government guidelines when applying for jobkeeper, as did many other organisations,” she told Guardian Australia.

“Schools made their own decisions as to whether they were eligible to apply for jobkeeper where they met the criteria, and then their applications were put through government processes as were applications from a wide range of organisations.”

The Hale School’s foundation – a separate fund that provides scholarships and pays for major building projects – had assets of over $24m at the end of 2020, according to financial documents lodged with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

The school charges fees of $26,910 a year for students in years 9-12, $26,790 for years 7-8, and between $16,290 and $23,160 for students from pre-primary to year 6. It charges $24,750 a year for boarding.

The federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh said the amount of jobkeeper given to private schools showed that the federal government was “wasting” money.

“It didn’t have any trouble finding $7.5m in jobkeeper for Hale School in a year they increased their revenue,” he said.

“In 2020, the government could have bought enough Pfizer vaccine for every Australian adult for about $1bn. Instead, it wasted more than $10bn of jobkeeper on firms with rising earnings.”


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Naaman Zhou

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