'Wealthy' schools get $1000 a pupil more than 'poor'

21:00, Jun 28 2013

Schools in wealthy areas are raking in about $1000 more in funding a year for each student than their lower decile counterparts, while teacher morale has hit its lowest point in almost a decade, a new report has found.

A New Zealand Council for Educational Research report has found a growing disparity between schools in rich and poor areas.

The report reveals competition between elite secondary schools to attract pupils, with a quarter of 177 principals surveyed from all over New Zealand saying they are spending more than they would like on marketing their schools to parents.

The NZCER's Dr Cathy Wylie's insight into the state of our schools is featured in a book highlighting New Zealand's social inequality issues which was released yesterday.

She found more than half of principals at high decile secondary schools felt they had to compete with nearby wealthy and private schools for enrolments.

ERO removed decile ratings from schools' reports from last year, but many parents continued to use a high decile as a marker of a "good" school, Dr Wylie said.

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A comparison of the total income of five decile one and five decile 10 primary schools is highlighted in Dr Wylie's research in Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis.

A study found that the decile 10 schools had about $1100 more per pupil to spend each year than the decile one schools - despite lower decile schools receiving larger sums of government money.

The decile one schools' average spending money totalled $7500 per student while the decile 10 schools' amounted to about $8600. A United States study suggested that students from poor homes needed 40 per cent to 100 per cent more funding for each student to provide equitable learning opportunities, Dr Wylie said.

But it wasn't just low decile schools scratching to make ends meet. While schools in wealthy areas were more likely than their low decile counterparts to be able to tap into funding through donations from parents, fundraising, and attracting international fee-paying students - almost a quarter reported voluntary fees and donations from parents dropped in 2012.

Seven Manawatu mid to high decile state schools have begun using charitable foundations to collect money beyond school fees, including its biggest school, Palmerston North Boys' High, and Feilding High School.

Boys' High rector David Bovey said despite the school's decile nine rating, which classed it as wealthy, it struggled every year to get voluntary fees and donations from parents and had to look to alumni for support.

"We have always been a little bit dubious about our decile rating and I don't think it's an accurate reflection of our zone or roll. We have a number of families who can't afford to pay our fees, it's simply out of their reach."

The report also found that NCEA remains an issue after a decade since it was first rolled out with teacher morale dropping to its lowest point since the assessment system was introduced.

Manawatu Standard