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This Startup Has Hired Big Names To Help Place Your Kids In Prestigious Australian Private Schools

School children watch proceedings at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Kristian Dowling/Getty Images)

Getting your child into a good private school can be harder, and more stressful, than winning the job of your dreams.

Parents go all out, spending cash on application fees for positions which are not guaranteed, networking with old boy friends and even begging gilt-edged references to go with applications for their children.

And if they do manage to get them in, a private school education costs can cost $30,000 a year. That’s a total cost running into hundreds of thousands, depending on the school and which year the child starts.

But a new startup, backed by Seek co-founder Paul Bassat’s venture capital firm Square Peg Capital, promises to make it easier and, perhaps, sometimes cheaper.

It’s billed as the first competitive online marketplace for private school places and is a little like those airline and hotel seat aggregation sites which promise cheap seats and rooms.

This is the pitch:

School Places helps families search for and secure a discounted place in a private school via a transparent and simple online enrolment process. At the same time, it benefits schools and their communities by helping them optimise student numbers and revenue, and minimise the need to increase fees.”

The idea was conceived by Jeremy Wein, aged 25, who was using an online travel site while his father discussed a friend’s struggle with rising school fees.

He’s brought in some serious establishment people to help.

The chairman of School Places is Paul Sheahan, former Housemaster of Geelong Grammar, Principal of Geelong College and Headmaster of Melbourne Grammar School. He is also a former Australian test cricketer and Chairman of the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Heading business development is Bob Grant, who was Head of Sydney’s Shore College for nearly two decades and the School Places’ CEO is Natalie Mactier, former CEO of News Corp’s Kidspot.com.au.

Founding shareholder Paul Bassat said: “We are excited about the opportunities for families to benefit from market efficiencies which may include reduced fees in some cases. Meanwhile, for private schools, the business case for optimising revenue and appealing to new audiences is also compelling,” he said.

In the lead up to launching, School Places has been meeting with private schools in Victoria and New South Wales, introducing the concept and answering questions.

School Places is launching with 11 private schools in Victoria initially, including Wesley College, Ivanhoe Grammar School and Shelford Girls’ Grammar, with expansion into New South Wales planned for July.

School Places works by inviting participating schools to load details of vacancies, including the year level, the full published fee and any discounts on offer in to the back end of the School Places website.

When parents go to schoolplaces.com.au and type in the class, region and enrolment year they are specifically interested in, the website advises whether places are available.

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