There's a little-known trick to scoring a sizeable discount at an elite private school in Melbourne's south-east.
Shelford Girls Grammar has been quietly offering students at neighbouring state school Ripponlea Primary a discount of up to 50 per cent under an unofficial "Ripponlea Deal".
Apart from this deal, fierce competition between schools, particularly private girls' schools vying for the same students, has seen schools resort to the sales tactics of electricity companies, offering bonuses to parents who manage to get their friends' children signed up.
The Shelford discount, which now sits at 30 per cent, is a sweet offer for Ripponlea girls, who do not have to fulfil any other criteria to be eligible for it.
Shelford principal Polly Flanagan acknowledged that it was an "unusual arrangement". She said the deal was struck between Ripponlea parents and her predecessor about 10 years ago, presumably to boost enrolments.
It is understood that Ripponlea Primary has not played any part in the deal. ( That seems hard to believe? They wouldn't be taking just any student, so who recommends the children they offer the discount too?)
"It's an informal arrangement, that was not initiated by the school. It was initiated by a keen group of Ripponlea parents who wanted to send their girls to Shelford," Ms Flanagan said. ''They were very active in fundraising and worked hard for the school."
She flagged that the school was bursting with enrolments and would soon phase out the discount.
"I'm sure many schools have arrangements or special circumstances that are not common knowledge. In our case, we are educating young women to be amazing citizens. If we have five places filled by girls from Ripponlea, that's great."
Neither school promotes the deal on its website, yet the arrangement clearly benefits both parties. It serves as an incentive for families to enrol at Ripponlea Primary School, while Shelford has access to a cohort of relatively wealthy students who are achieving above-average NAPLAN scores.
Ripponlea Primary School did not want to comment on the story.( I bet they didn't )
Natalie Mactier, chief executive of School Places, an online business arranging discounted deals for parents in last-minute private school bookings, said private schools were coming up with creative ways to fill spots.
She said schools were now offering bonuses of a few hundred dollars to families who managed to get friends' children enrolled.
"It's about bringing the same type of families from the local community into the school. It's not so much that schools are in dire straits. It's a fairly cheap marketing technique rather than going externally and spending a lot of money to bring families into the community."
Melbourne University's Professor Stephen Dinham said private schools have also used scholarships as a way to secure enrolments. School representatives are even attending sporting events to scout for talent and offer generous scholarships.
"What they're doing in some cases is ensuring their own success by having high-performing kids in sport and music, in the arts and in academic areas.
"Non-government schools have always been able to reject people as well as being been able to select, and that's another form of selection."
Nonetheless, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the proportion of Australian students in public schools has increased for the first time in decades, albeit slightly.
Some 65.2 per cent of Australian students attended public schools in 2015, up from 65.1 per cent the previous year. The proportion of students in non-government schools dropped from 34.9 per cent in 2014 to 34.8 per cent.
In Victoria, 63 per cent of students attended public schools in 2015, up from 62.8 per cent the previous year.
I wonder what the local state secondary school thinks about this perverse little 'arrangement' I certainly hope DET get to the bottom of this and come down like the preferable ton of bricks!
@theage on Twitter | theageAustralia on Facebook