Decile funding in for rejig

By Jimmy Ellingham

Education sector heavyweights appointed to consider possible changes to school system.
Education Minister Hekia Parata has appointed an advisory group of sector heavyweights to "consider possible changes to education funding systems".
Education Minister Hekia Parata has appointed an advisory group of sector heavyweights to "consider possible changes to education funding systems".

Scrapping the long-standing decile funding system for schools is now a step closer.

But one top educator says any replacement must include a form of "equity funding" to ensure poorer children aren't left behind.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has appointed an advisory group of sector heavyweights to "consider possible changes to education funding systems".

The move comes after the Herald this year revealed a radical shakeup was on the cards to replace the decile rating system, which increases funding for schools at the bottom end.

The plan being considered would use government data on preschoolers and school pupils and attach funding to those at risk of under-achievement in the classroom.

Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti welcomed the review and was pleased to see there would be wide consultation.

"I think that it's something that does need looking at. You always can look to see if you can do things better," she said.

However, she emphasised that any proposed change should still link funding to need.

"As far as the decile system is concerned, there has to be some level of equity funding. For me, I would be lost without the funding that comes in with a Decile 1 school."

Ms Tinetti agreed with the "blunt instrument" description of decile funding, saying there were children in higher decile schools who needed support too, as poverty was widespread.

Jan Tinetti, Merivale School principal.
Jan Tinetti, Merivale School principal.

The system did, however, come with a stigma attached in that some people wrongly thought lower decile schools were under-achievers.

Bruce McLachlan, principal of Decile 3 Swanson School in West Auckland, was pleased to see school, early childhood and union representatives in the advisory group.

"The decile system has always had its detractors, but the bottom line is that schools in areas of poverty need more money than schools in areas of plenty," he said.

"Let's hope that continues to be a guiding principle of any new funding mechanism."

In announcing the appointment yesterday, Ms Parata said the group would "test a number of proposed directions for change to improve the [early childhood] and school funding systems to better support our kids to receive the best possible education".

The group will meet for the first time next week.

"The Government agrees with the sector that the present systems are unduly complex and do not sufficiently direct resources to where they're needed, particularly for those most at risk of under-achievement.

"We also share the sector's concern that the decile system has created false perceptions about the quality of individual schools."

One of the group's 18 members is New Zealand Educational Institute president Louise Green. The head of the primary teachers' union said whatever changes were proposed, more funding was needed to properly meet learning needs.

- NZ Herald

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