Sharon and Saul Milner with their daughters Gemma and Mia, who attend McKinnon Secondary College. (Eddie Jim)

Melbourne’s Jewish schools urged to merge as high fees push families away

Sharon Milner’s father, a Holocaust survivor, toiled so that his daughter could be educated at Mount Scopus Memorial College, one of Melbourne’s most esteemed Jewish schools.

Ms Milner says her school years gave her a grounding in Jewish tradition and identity, things she was determined to give to her daughters.

So it was a wrench for her and her husband when they withdrew their daughters from Melbourne’s tight-knit Jewish school system at the end of their primary years and enrolled them at McKinnon Secondary College, their local state school.

“I’d never been outside the Jewish school system,” Ms Milner said. “Both for myself and my kids I had this sense of guilt, that I was letting my parents down, who are no longer alive, that I was letting my community down.”

Almost 60 per cent of Jewish school-aged children in Victoria attend a fee-paying Jewish school, census data shows. But the proportion is waning as their fees become increasingly unaffordable for middle-income families, a report has found.

While some of these schools are renowned for their consistent ability to achieve among the best VCE results in the state, year 12 fees can range between $35,000 and $39,000.

“Higher fees are increasing the strain on household budgets at a time when the cost of housing, in particular, continues to rise,” the report titled Re-thinking the future of our schools warns, noting that a growing number of families must choose between a Jewish education and buying a home.

Read the article by Adam Carey in The Age.