ENROLMENTS in private high schools in NSW continued to rise last year while the number of students enrolled in public high schools fell again, in a trend that has been linked to the easing of the global financial crisis.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that while the number of school students in the country rose, there was a decline in enrolments in NSW public high schools for the second year in a row.
Last year there were 308,613 students enrolled in government secondary schools, compared with 310,558 the year before, a drop of about 1 per cent, the figures show.
The number of students enrolled in private secondary schools in NSW was 196,243 last year, up from 192,613 in 2011, a rise of about 2 per cent.
One likely factor in the decline was a natural ''correction'' following a marked jump in public high school enrolments in 2009, about the time of the global financial crisis, when parents may have been less inclined to choose fee-paying schools, the NSW Department of Education and Communities said.
The independent sector is the fastest growing in the country, growing by 1.8 per cent nationally between 2011 and 2012, compared with 1.7 per cent for Catholic schools and 1.2 per cent for public schools, the bureau found.
Jane Simmons, the relieving executive director of learning and leadership at the department, said there was no single reason to explain fluctuations in enrolments.
''Parents have got choices and parents make choices for a whole range of reasons,'' Mrs Simmons said.
Enrolments often also varied in different parts of Sydney and around the state.
''Whilst it looks like there is a decline, we've certainly got areas of the state where there's an increase in the numbers - northern Sydney and parts of inner Sydney,'' she said.
Overall, student enrolments in Australia rose by 1.4 per cent between 2011 and 2012.
Geoff Newcombe, the executive director of the Association of Independent Schools, said growth was most noticeable in lower-fee independent schools, such as some newer Islamic schools.
''Western and south-western Sydney are the areas where the real growth is,'' he said.
Public primary schools continue to have a higher proportion of students than public high schools.
Last year 69 per cent of all primary school enrolments were in public schools, compared with 61 per cent of secondary school enrolments.
The increase in enrolments in the state's public primary schools has continued, with numbers rising from 435,749 in 2011 to 440,549 last year. Enrolments in non-government primary schools also rose in 2012, from 191,736 in 2011 to 194,661 last year.
Tasmania was the only state to record a decline in student numbers - about 1 per cent - between 2011 and 2012. The highest overall growth was in Queensland, where enrolments rose by 2.1 per cent.
The data set, released by the bureau last week, counts the number of full-time and part-time students in schools across the country.