29 July 2014

Families in NSW to Save Thousands on Fees for Private Schools

From today, families in New South Wales can secure substantial discounts on places at a range of private schools as the world’s first competitive online marketplace for private school places expands into New South Wales.

“School Places” (schoolplaces.com.au) helps private schools maximise student numbers and optimise revenue by connecting them with families who are searching for discounted, last minute private school vacancies. The service received a phenomenal response when it launched in Victoria in April, including 35,000 website searches on its official launch day. Since then, more than $1M in school fees have been delivered to School Places’ partner schools, and parents have taken up offers that will save them almost $200,000 in total.

Meanwhile, nearly 500 people from NSW have registered on schoolplaces.com.au to be alerted when a discounted vacancy that matches their search criteria is loaded by a NSW school onto the site.

School Places’ CEO Natalie Mactier said: “We are delighted to be expanding School Places into NSW today, with a core group of partner schools on board offering discounts of between 15 to 40 per cent and a number of other schools planning to join us later in the year. Our experience in Victoria has been that vacant places have been claimed extremely quickly so if families see a place they like they should claim it quickly.

Ms Mactier said that while many private schools can be difficult to get into, places are actually opening up all the time due to our transient population. “People are moving into, out of and around NSW all the time which leaves many private schools with vacant places they are very keen to fill.

“While many parents prefer to lock in their options well ahead of time, School Places caters to those who prefer to keep their options open or who need to find a new school in a hurry.”

Ms Mactier said that while the benefits of securing a discounted place are obvious for families, it is also a win for the incumbent school community.

“The cost of running schools is growing faster than family incomes, so the kinds of fee increases we’ve seen in recent years just aren’t sustainable. Schools need to find new ways to increase their revenue and ensuring every vacant place is filled is a very good option.

“We estimate that schools could increase their revenue by more than $350,000 over a 13-year period by filling one early learning vacancy alone. When a school is able to use this additional revenue to avoid or minimise fee increases, or even improve facilities and resources then that’s good for the entire school community”, she said.

The idea for School Places came from twenty-five year old Jeremy Wein who was using an online travel site while his father discussed a friend’s struggle with rising school fees. School Places has the support of an experienced team including Chairman Paul Sheahan AM (formerly Housemaster of Geelong Grammar, Principal of Geelong College from 1986-1995, and Headmaster of Melbourne Grammar School from 1995-2009). Bob Grant AM, who was Head of Sydney’s Shore College for nearly two decades, heads up business development in NSW and the ACT, while Natalie Mactier, former CEO of News Corp’s kidspot.com.au, is CEO.

Investment support has also been secured from Square Peg Capital, Tank Stream Ventures and rampersand.

School Places plans to expand nationally by the end of the year.

About School Places

School Places works by inviting participating schools to load details of vacancies, including the year level, the full published fee and any discounts on offer in to the back end of the School Places website.

When parents go to schoolplaces.com.au and type in the class, region and enrolment year they are specifically interested in, the website advises whether places are available. Parents can filter the search results in a number of ways such as boys/girls/co-ed schools and by geographic distance from their home.

If parents find a place they wish to apply for, they can temporarily reserve it by providing a credit card ‘swipe’. This process doubles as a security measure to prevent false applications, and spambots and hackers from rorting the system, and no charge is made to the credit card unless the terms and conditions of the website are breached.

Next, parents’ details are automatically forwarded to the partner school, and they have three days to contact the school and complete the school’s usual enrolment process.

Parents have the option to register for alerts if a place is not currently available.