Minister: I don't like deciles

SUE FEA IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2013

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Decile ranking was a "very clumsy" method of funding schools, as it simply averaged everything out, Education Minister Hekia Parata said in Queenstown on Saturday.

She told almost 200 delegates at the Independent Schools of New Zealand (ISNZ) annual conference that decile rankings - the socioeconomic status of pupils - were too often used "as an excuse and an explanation" for everything that happened in schools.

"I think that is unacceptable," she said.

"I don't like deciles. I never have," she said in an interview after the conference.

Ms Parata said she was unable to comment on a New Zealand Council for Educational Research report that found decile 10 schools in wealthy areas had about $1100 more per pupil to spend a year than decile one schools, despite lower decile schools receiving larger sums of government money.

The report found the decile one schools' average spending money totalled $7500 per pupil per year, while the decile 10 schools' amounted to about $8600

However, she said she would be surprised if that figure was right. The government had increased investment into schools by 30 per cent increase since 2008 and some New Zealand schools had dropped their requests for school donations, because they were managing without them.

"I'm interested to understand what's going on there . . . We need to understand why it's happening."

Ms Parata had already asked the Ministry of Education for a report on how New Zealand schools should be funded across the sector. However, that report was not expected to be completed quickly. It would involve a long and complicated look at how New Zealand funded its schools.

Although the intention of the decile system - to recognise different socio-economic challenges - was good, it appeared to have become become outdated.

"Over time any system becomes less useful. We do need to review the way we fund schools and focus more on outcomes rather than blunt proxy," she said.

Experts had found that four consecutive years of quality teaching eliminated any trace of socio-economic disadvantage.

"In New Zealand we provide 13 years. You'd think it would not be too much to expect that four of those are good quality."

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- The Southland Times

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