Decile rating changes have forced a Bay school to cancel educational trips and apply to charities after missing out on tens of thousands of dollars of government funding.
Meeanee School principal Gillian Scarlett said a decile increase from two to three meant the school now received hundreds of dollars less per student, forcing the Napier school to juggle finances to make ends meet.
"We lost more than we were expecting to. We've had to refocus our priorities on what's important for us," Ms Scarlett said.
The Herald reported this morning that Education Minister Hekia Parata is reviewing ways to drop the controversial decile scheme to focus on the needs of individual students.
Schools would be paid more for students who had 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.
The 2014 review of school decile ratings led to almost 800 schools nationwide losing funding after their ratings increased, including 15 schools in Napier and Hastings.
Currently, the Government allocates schools funding based on decile ratings, which are calculated by factors including the wealth of the school's community. Schools with lower deciles receive more funding per student.
The bulk of decile funding comes under the banner of Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement (TFEA). Decile one schools receive a maximum of $905.81 per student, while decile 10 schools receive no TFEA funding.
While funding has been stretched thin school-wide, Ms Scarlett said classroom operations have not been affected.
"We've had to minimise educational visits outside of the classroom, which for low-decile children is quite important because they don't have the same experiences [as high-decile children] to draw on."
The school has applied to charities and trusts to pay for particular activities. Last year, the school missed out on funding for outdoor education but opted to go ahead with the programme after reducing some costs.
The Ministry of Education originally increased Meeanee School's decile rating to four, meaning the school would have received even less per student, but the 90-strong primary school successfully disputed the decision and the rating was moved down to a three.
"It was not fair what they put it to in the first place - definitely not. We would have had severe constraints on what we could provide for our children had we not been successful with the challenge," Ms Scarlett said.
Deciles are re-calculated after the census every five years. But with the 2011 census being delayed by two years after the Christchurch earthquake, schools that felt they were under-funded were doing it tough for a long time, according to the chairman of the NZ Secondary Principals Council Allan Vester.
"I know a lot of schools would complain they've lost money - the other way of looking at it is schools that have gone down in decile really should have had the additional money earlier. "If you were one of these schools, there would be a number of years where you were under-funded according to the real decile," said Mr Vester.
"In the seven years between those two censuses, you'd get significant social shifts throughout a community."
Mr Vester said funding drops almost never affected the number of teaching staff, but often hit administration staff and extracurricular activities.
To plug the gap in funding, some schools fundraise or ask for greater donations from parents while others look to cut costs, as did Meeanee School.
This morning the Herald reported the Ministry of Education has considered using Government-wide data on every preschooler and school student to peg extra funding to those at risk of educational underachievement.
If there is a "concentration" of at-risk students, the school could receive extra cash worked out by a formula.
It is thought the funding will cover about one-third of all children. It would not affect the number of teachers per school.