Richard Morrison, principal and CEO of Ipswich Grammar School.
Richard Morrison, principal and CEO of Ipswich Grammar School. David Nielsen

Two prestige schools urged to fix finances

TWO of regional Queensland's prestige grammar schools are running at a loss with an auditor's report recommending immediate action.

A report from the Queensland Audit Office, tabled in state parliament on Thursday, found Ipswich Grammar lost $482,000 and Rockhampton Girls Grammar School lost $269,000 in 2016.

The report said Ipswich Grammar had run at a deficit for nine years and Rockhampton Girls Grammar had lost money for the past two years.

The prestigious schools welcomed the report and pointed to ongoing reforms they are undergoing to fix their finances.

Acting Auditor-General Anthony Close said the two schools needed to take action to return to the black.

"We recommend that Ipswich Grammar School and Rockhampton Girls Grammar School ... reassess their revenue and expenditure policies and implement strategies to achieve operating surpluses as soon as possible," the report said.

"These deficits were caused by lower revenue, relating mainly to reductions in tuition and boarding fees, state government funding, and donations for capital purposes.

"If this trend continues, these schools will need to identify other revenue streams and reduce costs to maintain financial sustainability. Ensuring that their costs are aligned to student numbers as much as possible is one way of achieving financial sustainability - if enrolments fall, they should be able to reduce operating expenditure accordingly."

The report praised the financial performance of Queensland's six other grammar schools including Ipswich Girls Grammar and Rockhampton Grammar.

The report praised IGS for leading the way in improving financial disclosures and transparency and called on other schools to follow suit. Rockhampton Girls Grammar was the only school that had resolved all 2016 audit recommendations.

Ipswich Grammar School principal Richard Morrison said the school welcomed the report and was in the process of financial reform.

"It is pleasing that the report has found the financial position of all eight grammar schools, including Ipswich Grammar School, continues to be sound," Mr Morrison said.

"We are encouraged that the improvements we have made over the last four years in reducing debt and improving our operating ratio have been recognised. Our forecasted financial reports for 2017-18 indicate ongoing significant improvement as we continue to implement the five-year strategic plan released last year." 

Rockhampton Girls Grammar School principal Christine Hills said a process to return the school to surplus began last year.

"With regard to the report's recommendation about a returning to a surplus, the board of trustees of the Rockhampton Girls Grammar School is actively engaged in the continued streamlining of the school's expenditure and revenue policies and has been actively working with the Department of Education since 2016 to ensure that this occurs," she said.

"In 2016, the board enabled a significant analysis and review of the school by Independent School Queensland. This review saw the development of a corporate structure that was the first response to the need to ensure future surpluses."

Ms Hills said among the actions to improve revenue included increasing the number of international students, a partnership with CQUniversity and a sponsorship with the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy.

"In its 125th year Rockhampton Girls Grammar School remains as committed as it was in 1892 to the provision of education to the girls and young women of Central Queensland. The school since 2016 has been strategically developing a pathway to do exactly what has been recommended and will continue to do so."

- NewsRegional 

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