Performance-based funding slammed

Last updated 09:16 17/03/2014

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Opponents have slammed suggestions of performance-based funding for schools following claims the Government is considering a shift.

Education Minister Hekia Parata yesterday downplayed the idea and a spokeswoman for her office said it was not currently on the table.

Parata and unions agree that the current decile-based funding methods for schools is clumsy and "blunt" and Parata has already instructed the Ministry of Education to investigate alternatives.

After reports yesterday that the Government was looking to fund schools based on their performance, a spokeswoman for Parata said it could be looked at in any future overall funding review but not before the election.

The funding review currently under way was the re-calculation of school deciles based on last year's Census, she said.

Parata has instructed the ministry to explore new options that allowed, for example, for difference between schools to be taken into account.

Deciles 1 to 10 are based on the average number of socially and economically disadvantaged students at a school, with low-decile schools receiving more government funding.

"Current funding arrangements are very complicated. Any changes would have to be well thought through, be well foreshadowed, and would require work alongside the profession and sector groups," Parata said.

The current focus was on quality teaching which will create new specialist teaching positions and replace the New Zealand Teachers Council with the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand.

This morning, Parata said there was no shift to performance-based funding, instead it would be a "recalibration" of the decile system.

"There is no funding review on the table - there isn't one.

"What there is, is that now we have the census data we'll be able to look at what that means in the deciles and that won't be happening this year either because there will need to be a transition period," she told Breakfast.

"But let's be aware that decile funding only makes up 12 per cent of all the funding that goes into schools. Nevertheless, it is the proportion of funding that is most complained about, considered not to be most fairly distributed, and therefore we won't be moving on."

Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts said she supported a review of the "blunt" decile funding method and a more nuanced approach was needed. However, funding based on outcomes or "value-added" was not the answer.

"The evidence, very clear from overseas, is that all that does is take away funding from the most vulnerable students."

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In the United States, federal funding went to schools which performed most strongly, discouraging students with the greatest need from attending.

It also meant more time was spent on measuring students and less teaching them.

"If she's really serious about meeting the needs of our most vulnerable kids, neither of those models will work, so I just hope she doesn't even consider them."

NZEI president Judith Nowotarski said the claims had "horrified teachers" as the programmes had been so unsuccessful overseas.

"Linking funding to ropey National Standards data will effectively suck money out of the schools that need extra funding for high needs children and pump it into high-decile schools."

Recently-introduced initiatives suggested the education system was moving down the performance-based path, she said.

Labour's Education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the notion that schools could be funded on performance was "fatally flawed".

- The Dominion Post

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