Is the decile rating system in schools working?
A Palmerston North primary school in a three-year campaign for a lower decile rating is calling for more consideration to be given to how schools are ranked amid national concerns the systems are flawed.
Linton Camp School has been protesting its decile-10 rating since 2010, saying that transient army parents don't earn enough on average to warrant the high decile - which means they get less government funding.
Fresh concern follows an announcement from the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, that she is considering scrapping school decile ratings and creating a new funding system for schools.
Linton Camp School principal Geoff Franks said decile systems were failing some schools because of a mathematical formula averaging out pupils' demographics.
"If you're the most needy community, your school is going to need the most support. But where the problem comes, in my view, is when you're in a community like this and every house is a rented house, the community here is made up of soldiers and their families, and they aren't on big incomes."
Part of how a decile rating is calculated is based on things like occupation, the number of people in a household and educational qualifications, factors which were predetermined for parents in the defence force.
Linton's budget struggles to cover some basic house-keeping needs at the 130-pupil school, like repairing cracked concrete in the school's courtyard and installing new blinds in classrooms. Jobs have been put on the backburner because of budget woes.
Mr Franks has invited Ms Parata to Linton Camp School to see how it works, and was told that on her next visit to Manawatu she would call in.
"For lots of schools, the decile rating is probably a good mechanism, but for some of us it's just not fair at all.
"We just want a fair suck of the sav."
Ms Parata said the ratings, introduced in 1995, were well-intentioned but also "really clumsy".
She has asked the ministry to explore new options for funding because, at present, deciles did not account for differentiation within schools. "There are some significantly disadvantaged kids and families in deciles seven, eight, nine and 10 schools, but overall the average masks that," she said.
"Deciles one, two and three are where the economic disadvantage is used to explain or excuse everything."
The ministry is expected to report back in the next couple of months.
Manawatu Principals' Association president David Reardon said consideration of different options suggested the current system didn't work - a common feeling among schools. A review was welcomed and would open up discussion about broader issues such as appropriate levels of resourcing in 21st century schools.
What is a decile? A school's decile indicates how many students, on average, are from low socio-economic communities.
Decile 1 schools are the 10 per cent of schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic communities, whereas decile 10 schools are the 10 per cent with the lowest proportion of such students.
How is a decile calculated? Each school provides a random sample of student addresses and those are used to determine from which areas each school is drawing its students. The addresses are assigned to small census areas called meshblocks. Census information, including household income, occupation, the number of people in a household, educational qualifications and income support, is used to calculate the decile. The Ministry of Education then places schools into 10 equal groups.
What is the funding difference between deciles? Decile ratings account for about 13 per cent of all operational funding.
The decile funding examples below are based on a secondary school with a roll of 1000. Decile 1: $979,884.69 of decile-based funding. Decile 2: $699,354.69. Decile 3: $435,034.69. Decile 8: $107,354.69. Decile 9: $85,324.69. Decile 10: $52,734.69.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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