Education funding review: What will replace school deciles?

Education Minister Hekia Parata says school unions agree that the decile system needs to change.
FAIRFAX NZ

Education Minister Hekia Parata says school unions agree that the decile system needs to change.

Labour is warning a new school funding system that measures "at-risk" children could do more damage than good.

The Ministry of Education has proposed using Government-wide data on every preschooler and school student, including their mother's qualifications, to give extra funding to those at risk of failing.

​Education Minister Hekia Parata has been on the record for years saying the decile system is too "blunt", and wants a model that targets resources to where they're needed the most.

A preliminary proposal floated the concept of paying schools more for students that met one of four risk factors: a parent who had been to prison; if they or a sibling had suffered child abuse; if their family had relied on a benefit for a prolonged period; or if the child's mother had no formal qualifications.

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But Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins said there is huge risks with labelling kids at such a young age.

"Are mothers going to have to show up with evidence of what their qualifications are and if that changes during a student's time at school does the funding get cut?"

Hipkins said there was potential under the proposed system to create more "inequalities if it is poorly designed".

While he wouldn't go into detail about how Labour would look to fund schools, he said socio-economics would have to play a big factor in any model.

"I would like the Government to work with us to create a new funding system for schools and early childhood centres that lasts the distance, rather than being a political football," he said.

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Parata said the next recalculation of decile ratings wasn't due until 2019 so the Government had time to work on a new system.

"We're exploring all options and what I think the public knows is that our Government is very committed to the social investment approach where we understand who needs what kind of support and how quickly they can get it, and it applies as much in education as it might do in Child, Youth and Family, for instance."

Parata said the sector agrees that the current system doesn't work.

"We need to look at instead of kids going on to the justice system, rather than being successful in the education system, and how do we get the right amount of resources to the right kid at the right time to make a difference," she said.

Under the decile system, each school is allocated a number between one and 10. A higher number reflects a higher socio-economic school community and a lower number a lower one.

Prime Minister John Key said the discussions are very preliminary and a new funding system wouldn't be progressed unless the unions and other stakeholders were on board.

"It's not impossible there would be a change but there's also no guarantee there would be change - if it was to occur, it's some way into the future," he said.

Labour leader Andrew Little said he didn't disagree with Parata that the decile system was "a little too crude".

"We do know there are issues with the whole decile system - it's treated by some parents as a grading of how good a school is. The main thing is that the right amount of funding goes to support those kids who need more help at school," he said.

HOW FUNDING IS TARGETED IN OTHER COUNTRIES

In Australia, school funding is targeted through the Low Socio-Economic Status School Communities initiative. About 1750 schools serving disadvantaged communities, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and many schools in rural and remote areas, are eligible. Each school gets a $5000 grant to first assess the challenges, an additional "highly accomplished teacher" appointed and funding of approximately $200 per student per year for two years.

In Britain, a system called "Pupil Premium" gives schools extra funding to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. It is based on eligibility to free school meals, which go to most children of beneficiaries. Every primary school-age child eligible for free school meals at any point in the last six years attracts NZ$2657 each year for their school. The rate for secondary schools is $1911 per student. Children who have been looked after for one day or more, are adopted or leave care under a special guardianship order, attract $3883 in extra funding to their school each year.

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 - Stuff

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