Education Minister Hekia Parata's surprise proposal to overhaul funding for schools follows widespread sufferance from schools around New Zealand.

The Herald reported this morning Ms Parata has preliminary plans underway to drop the controversial decile scheme and instead focus on the needs of individual pre-schoolers and students.

In the past few weeks, NZME has spoken to schools around New Zealand about the pressures the decile funding system placed on them. Many schools have been hit hard by a decile review, which began in 2014.


Meanee School

Advertisement

A Hawke's Bay school has had to cancel educational trips and ask charities for cash 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.

Ms Scarlett said the drop in funding came as a shock.

"We lost more than we were expecting to. We've had to refocus our priorities on what's important for us," she said.

While funding has been stretched thin school-wide, 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 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.

Read more: Funding cut hurting Bay school
Golden Sands

In the Bay of Plenty, one school is receiving the same amount of money to operate - despite its roll growing by 400 per cent in the last five years.

Golden Sands School has grown from 83 students to 420 since it opened in 2011 but, after its decile was changed from five to nine, the Papamoa school is effectively losing $35,000 in Government funding, its principal said.

Principal Mel Taylor said the school now regularly applies for external funding to cover the shortfall.

"We have never got enough money to do what we try to do - that's very common. We try to get contributions both in time and donations from parents, but our parents are working parents so time is hard to get," said Ms Taylor. "Just because you've got a high decile school doesn't mean the community is able to contribute; that's an assumption."

Read more: Decile rise hurts Papamoa school financially
Te Wainui a Rua

A Whanganui area school said it doesn't have enough money to buy equipment for classrooms and has had to go without hiring teacher aides after its decile increased from two to three.

Te Wainui a Rua School principal Karleen Marshall said the last year had been incredibly tough: "It's affected everything. We just can't access as many resources as students need."

The Ministry of Education planned to move the school's decile rating to a five, but the school challenged the decision and it moved to a three.

"If it was five, it would have been a huge struggle. It was devastating when we got the news," Ms Marshall said. "A two is where we should be.

"The parents don't have any donations; we're just having to make do."

Read more: School struggles with decile change
Fernridge School

A Wairarapa school is thousands of dollars short and struggling to cover costs after its decile was increased from four to six.

The decile change left Fernridge School $9000 a year short - made even more difficult by a 10 per cent rise in school roll during that time.

Principal Janine Devenport said the changes have made it tough to make ends meet, but the school has managed without asking for anything more financially from parents or taking away from the classroom experience.

"We just have to be very mindful of how we're spending money. We have not reduced any of the services that we have in terms of children - the board made the decision we would just fundraise more.

"It's hard. We have to cover what we need to cover and nothing more."

Read more: Funding cut hits Masterton school
St Michael's

A Rotorua school increased from decile three to decile four early last year, losing $15,000 annually and forcing it to dial back teacher training.

St Michael's Catholic School principal Shelly Fitness said the loss of funding has hit the budget hard, but the school has ensured the level of education didn't change.

"We really put the kids first. We were determined it wouldn't affect what happens in the classroom and for the children."

Ms Fitness said the blow has been softened by the generous support of Ngati Whakaue, but the school has still felt an impact.

"It's more affected things for our teachers. We now consider more what we're doing for professional development."

However, the decile system is not an inaccurate way to allocate funds to schools, Ms Fitness said, particularly because it's so difficult to measure.

"As far as we can see, there's been very little change in our community, and yet we went up a whole decile and lost $15,000 in funding. We had the same clientele as the year before - the same kids, the same programmes - we just had to run it all on less money, so that just didn't make sense to us."


Purua School

In Northland, 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.

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

Some fundraising activities include a community motorbike trail ride, and the students' ukulele orchestra busks in town to practise their performance skills.

The school, 30 minutes northwest of Whangarei, also applies to funding bodies for grants to help out with specific activities or projects.

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."

Read more: School fundraises to combat decile changes