Private Schools Melbourne, Sydney and Perth – Regent Consulting

In the wake of the MLC fiasco, we have seen a vigorous debate about what is the appropriate salary for a Principal. There have been several articles written comparing the former MLC heads package to what a government school principal or a company CEO gets paid. It didn’t read well with Rosa Storelli allegedly being paid in excess of  three times her state school colleagues (approx 500k). I also read another piece in a Melbourne daily essentially suggesting she was “just a promoted school teacher” and how on earth could she be paid that amount of money?


As someone who works full time in the education advice industry, I obviously have a close relationship with the independent schools. I also spent many years working in these schools in a previous life, so I have a good handle on how they operate. Without making any comment or judgement on the goings on at MLC, the notion that Ms Storelli was somehow overpaid is short sighted, often politically motivated and actually quite ignorant. To compare her wage with a State School principal, CEO or even another private school principal, is not valid.


Let’s look at some facts about MLC. It is clearly the biggest private girls school in Melbourne (2200 girls) with the next largest having some 1400 ( there are only three independent girls schools in Melbourne with over 1000 students) . The school employs 460 staff , generates revenue of over 57 million per year and has assets in excess of 100 million dollars. These figures alone differentiate it from a government school and put it on a par with a large corporation.


Significantly, MLC is also a boarding school (unlike any government school) and is accountable to parents in over 27 different countries. A boarding school not only increases the complexity of the nature of a number of relationships the school has but it also means  the Principal has a raft of out of hours “duties and/commitments” involving the boarders and their families. Add to this- international marketing activities aimed at trying to fill the boarding house( which is always a struggle) and the existence of boarders adds a another layer of staff, administration etc. It also gives rise to unique problems that can come up on weekends and after hours. E.g a student who hasn’t returned from a trip to the shop on a Sunday.



In a more general sense, the extensive raft of extra –curricular activities that these schools are involved in gives rise to a lot more out of hours commitments than a government school or even a corporate job. I recently spoke to  the Personal Assistant for a Leading independent school Principal, who told me that in 50 weeknights of term one ( ie 10 weeks times 5 nights) the Principal was at a school commitment 38 of those nights. She told me most would run from 7.30 until 10.00 ish (some later) and that this was a fairly typical term. They are at :music recitals, parent information nights, sport presentation night, school plays , old collegians dinners, fundraisers etc etc. At every single one they are on “duty” with every aspect –from what they are wearing to whether or not they have a red wine- being scrutinised and internalised by a demanding parent body.


If the school is an APS or AGS school, these Principals will also work all day Saturday, attending sport, which is compulsory for students. To those of you who think they get all those school holidays, think again. Most Principals at independent school would barely take the standard four weeks. Can you imagine the daily, almost hourly unpredictable dramas that would arise in the job being responsible for so many students and staff? I can assure you parents that pay $22k per year for education won’t be shy in approaching the Principal if they perceive there is an issue.


The other unique facet of being a Head/Principal is that you are on duty 24/7. Do you think they can go the local pub and “let loose”? Everywhere they go they are under intense scrutiny regarding their behaviour and standards etc given they are leading large organisations that are espousing these values and educating children. Many of them are also constantly pestered by parents trying to secure a place at the school, a situation unique to the private system.


So, I wonder what a CEO running a corporation that generates revenue of approximately 60 million dollars per year, had nearly 500 employees, 10,000’s of stakeholders (families, former students etc), had to work a majority of evenings and  most Saturdays would get paid? Mmm…. let me think…I reckon more than 500k! Do you think there would be people writing articles questioning their worth and saying they are only “executives”? Would they travel business class? The great irony in all of this is the majority of people questioning this have comfortable 9-5 jobs and  are really  ignorant of the incredible complexity of the jobs these Principals have. I would love to see them take on the job for a few months as I am sure it would change their thinking.