While schools justify the notice period as a way to offset the financial cost to them if they lose a student – such as teachers they may have hired for the following year – Ferguson found that the losses for the school depended on factors such as the child’s ability to be quickly replaced by another.

The father said he found the experience very stressful. The school had lawyers, but he found no one to represent him, including consumer rights organizations.

The King’s School at North Parramatta.Credit:Wolter-Peeters

“It’s not just this school,” he told the Herald. “God knows how many other schools could do this. You sign something when you start, school change the condition [fee amount] every year, and yet, as a parent, I am held accountable. Is there something wrong?

Alex Haslam, the director of solicitors for Gilchrist Connell, expected NSW schools to review their contracts in light of the judgment.

“Because it’s only one [ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal] decision, it has no binding effect on anyone else, it doesn’t have the punch that an ACT Supreme Court decision might have, but I think it will inspire people to take a look at their contracts – it’s parents and schools,” he said.


Jodie Thomson, practice leader at LegalVision, said there was little judgment on the issue because most parents wouldn’t invest in lawyers to fight a few thousand dollars in fees.

“It’s a very interesting judgment, and it…sends a message to schools and parents that any contract can have holes in it,” Thomson said. “If a parent wanted to challenge it, they could certainly try to rely on it.”

Some schools would say they had budgeted for teaching staff and resources for the following year, so withdrawing a child even on 10 weeks’ notice would make them financially worse off. However, it would be more difficult to discuss if the school had a waiting list.

“If the school could not prove whether it had suffered or was going to suffer a loss, it would most likely fail to oppose an unfair contract claim,” Thomson said.

Jodie Jayatilaka, an advocate for greater parental rights in relations with non-governmental schools, said many parents sign contracts unaware of their vulnerabilities if they find themselves in a dispute with the school over issues such as than the fees.

“Parents certainly don’t hire lawyers to read their enrollment contracts before signing them,” she said. “They place great faith in the goodwill of the school.”

“Historically, it has been nearly impossible for parents to demonstrate any loss or impact on their children in terms of high teacher turnover, instability of leadership, or the consequences of poor school governance and management. , unmanaged bullying or simply poor delivery of education.”

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