Educators hope to see end of decile system in schools

Vandhna Bhan
Source: 1News

Dozens of schools are applying for decile reviews to get extra funding in the aftermath of Covid as decile ratings continue to be based on wildly outdated 2013 census data.

Ministry of Education released data to 1News which showed 34 schools asked for a decile review last year, and of those, 18 schools dropped deciles, some quite significantly.

Kopane School in Manawatū had the biggest drop, falling five decile points from 8 to 3. This would mean tens of thousands of dollars in extra funding for the school to pay for teachers, more equipment, technology and better resources.

St Patrick’s Primary School in Wellington’s Kilbirnie didn’t have as significant of a drop in its decile rating, but by going from 5 to 3 it means the school gets an extra $65,000 in funding.

“That makes a huge difference. We're using this extra money with teacher aides to provide support for the students, we have extra money to buy chromebooks and just so the students can access the education they should be accessing,” said principal Tony Kelly-Smith.

He applied for a decile review because he knew his school community was struggling.

“When I did the review I knew that a lot of our parents had qualifications and were skilled professionals but were unable to have those skills recognised in New Zealand. They were working industriously as cleaners and taxi drivers and with Covid in the last two years there’s been no employment.

One parent said her husband had worked for 12 hours and got 20 bucks as a taxi driver,” he said.

Educators have been calling for the decile system to be thrown out for years.

“The census data that the decile system is being based on is well and truly out of date so we're finding that gap in resourcing is having a really negative impact in schools,” the NZEI President Liam Rutherford said.

“The decile system currently has a number of issues with it, it’s a pretty clunky way doing it because it just looks at criteria of who’s living within the schools communities and I think one of the more worrying things is we've seen the decile rating itself become a proxy out in the public for how good a school is,” he said.

This Government has promised to replace it with an equity index, which takes into account the entire school population when assessing the level of disadvantage, as well as other factors like NCEA grades.

The Covid pandemic is said to have delayed the switch, but in a statement, Education Minister Chris Hipkins told 1News, "we are still on track to introduce the equity index and we will have more to say very soon".

Kelly-Smith says the decile system is “too blunt” and he’s stoked to see it go soon.

“If they can come up with some tool that would treat us fairly and treat the other schools fairly that would be wonderful, but to have one system that fits all, that doesn’t work,” he said.

The switch to an equity index may take time and Rutherford hopes that during the transition period, schools won’t be in a worse off situation than before.

“The other thing we need to make sure is that we're not seeing the equity index as the proxy for school funding we know that over and above the equity index schools are calling out for more teachers, more teacher aides, and more specialist learning support help,” Rutherford said.

"It’s really important the Government commits to funding those areas over and above the equity index."

With a new budget on the horizon, schools want their funding to reflect the challenges of the past two years.