Head: Deciles dropped and it’s about time

Education Minister Nikki Kaye at Pakuranga College recently. Times photo Wayne Martin

By Therese Henkin, Nick Krause

Dumping the school decile system will remove the stigma attached to the rankings and help do away with misconceptions and bias, the president of Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand has said.

Michael Williams, who is also principal at Pakuranga College, said the decile modelling is a crude mechanism for schools that have students who need a bit of extra resourcing because of disadvantage. It was time for a change.

“I think its good news. It’s long overdue.”

Education Minister Nikki Kaye on Monday confirmed the Government will replace the decile system for schools with targeted funding to better support those students most at risk of not achieving.

“For too long schools have been stigmatised and wrongly judged by their decile number,” Ms Kaye said in a media statement.

“Children and young people deserve to take pride in their school and we need to better target funding to where the need is greatest to support all children to achieve.

She announced on Monday that the Cabinet had agreed to replace the decile system with a Risk Index that allows the government to better target funding to schools with children and young people most at risk of not achieving due to disadvantage.

“We will also be replacing the equity index used to allocate disadvantage funding in early childhood education with the Risk Index.”

Decile funding currently accounts for less than 3 per cent of a school’s resources.

“Rather than allocating this funding on the basis of neighbourhood characteristics as the current decile system does, the Risk Index will instead provide fairer funding that better reflects the needs of children in our schools and services,” she said.

“This will mean extra resources are better targeted to support schools to lift achievement.”

The specific factors to be used in the index are subject to further analysis before being finalised. But, they will be the indicators which evidence tells us have the greatest influence on student achievement.

“However, I’m pleased to be able to confirm that no school, early learning service or nga kohanga reo will see a reduction in their funding as a direct result of this change,” says Ms Kaye.

“In fact, we expect some will gain significantly.”

Mr Williams recounted changing from being a principal of a low decile school to a high decile school.

“I had ignorant people who said ‘oh you’re going to a good school’. No I was going to a richer school, not a better one’,” he said.

“There’s huge confusion in the community mainly because of the media, who use the tag quite quickly to label schools. So if we can remove that, it will be a success.

“No doubt the media and real estate agents will frantically try to find out how they can categorise schools still, because there will be extra funding going into schools, but it will be anonymous data and nobody will know who the students are.

“So no doubt media and others will do investigations to find out who’s getting money, but it won’t be so tidy because it will be a continual system, not a nice, tidy decile one, decile two system.

Macleans College Principal Byron Bentley said the change “looks to be very sensible and workable.”

He said there is no doubt the decile system is a genuine attempt to assist schools with funding.

“Having taught in several lower decile schools the extra money was always welcome and never in my experience begrudged by higher decile schools who received proportionally less through this system.

It is a great pity that so much reliance on school quality is aligned with the decile rating.  Therefore, if you are a lower decile school you must be a poor performer relative to the high decile.  In a large number of cases this is untrue and unjust and there are a number of higher decile schools who do under-perform.  The decile rating was for funding purposes only.  The new system makes it even more targeted for students in need, removes the stigma of lower decile school branding and is a very good move.”