Active and engaged students at Purua School have lent a helping hand after a decile change meant the school lost some of its government funding.

After a reduction of around $40 in funding per child, Purua School's DIY attitude and fundraising efforts have buffered the school against any larger effects.

Principal Autumn Ede said the small roll of 32 means a number of fundraising events bring in more money than decile funding provides, allowing the school to send students on camps, hire a teacher aide, and contribute towards a curriculum that includes computer coding and robot building at the school, 30 minutes northwest of Whangarei.

"We're pretty used to being DIY; when you're this size with this few staff, you make things happen yourself."

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Some fundraising activities include a community motorbike trail ride, and the students' ukulele orchestra busks in town to practise their performance skills. The school also applies to funding bodies for grants to help out with specific activities or projects.

A 2014 review of school decile ratings led to almost 800 schools nationwide losing funding after their ratings increased, including seven in Whangarei. The Government allocates schools' funding based on decile ratings, which are calculated by factors including the make up of the roll and the wealth of the school's community. Schools with lower deciles receive more funding.

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.

Although the decile change wasn't a big problem for Purua School, Ms Ede admits there are other schools who are finding the change tough.

"Some of those schools have gone from decile one or two to a decile five, and that's a really significant change," said Ms Ede. "I understand there's limited money, but there never seems to be enough."

Deciles are recalculated after the census every five years. But with the 2011 census being delayed by two years after the Christchurch earthquake, schools who felt they were under-funded were doing it tough for a long time, according to the chairman of the New Zealand 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 censuses, you'd get significant social shifts throughout a community."

He said funding drops almost never affect the number of teaching staff, but often hit administration staff and extracurricular activities.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has called the decile system complicated and clumsy, and is looking at how it can be improved. She said a review into the system is in its early stages.