23 May 2018

Demise of school deciles cancelled for new plan

From Checkpoint, 5:20 pm on 23 May 2018

The government has ditched its predecessor's plans to get rid of the school decile system while it considers greatly expanding a new system of targetted funding to children with the highest needs.

Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The previous government wanted to abandon the decile system intending to allocate the same pool of about $130 million-a-year to targetting individual children with identified risk factors, such as parents on benefits. 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the government would keep the decile system for now because it was considering more uses for the risk index.

"It's not necessarily going to be applied in the way the previous government had intended. 

"What we are looking at is how the insights from that data set can be used to better target learning support. For example, additional teacher aides, how it might be used to better inform decisions we make about additional teachers or other additional resources for schools."

New Zealand Principals' Federation president Whetu Cormick said he was confident the government's proposal would result in improvements for schools.

"This may come as a surprise to many of our colleagues and teachers given the previous government had done quite a lot of work around reviewing the decile rating."

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Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Otahuhu College is a decile one school and principal Neil Watson said the system was sometimes misunderstood.

"If there's going to be a change to funding formulas for schools and possibly staffing formulas, then it makes sense to do that change in one go and do that change in detail."

Low decile schools needed more funding than high decile schools - and a way of attracting the best teachers, Mr Watson said.

"Some schools are in the fortunate position where they can effectively just add a field trip on to the parents' bill at the end of each term.

"For us, we can't do that. So we've got to look at other ways where we can get our students having experiences outside the classroom and having good quality resources inside the classroom."

The "key issue" was not teacher numbers but attracting and retaining "the very best" staff, he said.

Porirua's Windley School is decile one and principal Rhys McKinley said he was not convinced targetting at-risk children would be better than deciles for allocating extra funding.

But schools in less affluent communities needed more help, he said, so a new system would need to provide increased funding and more teachers.