Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

School says 'at risk' funding means it will lose out on $85,000

Rangitoto College on Auckland's North Shore says it has been hit hard by school funding changes. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Dean Purcell.
Rangitoto College on Auckland's North Shore says it has been hit hard by school funding changes. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Dean Purcell.

The largest school in the country estimates it will be down $85,000 as a result of a radical new funding system designed to target "at risk" students.

Rangitoto College has more than 3000 students but will only get just over $4500 of the new targeted funding - meaning about 50 students on its roll have been identified as at risk of educational underachievement.

The new funding mechanism was introduced as part of this year's Budget.

Schools operations funding, which greatly affect resources and day-to-day operations, normally keeps pace with inflation.

That will not happen next year. Each school will get the same amount, and the money that would normally help cover inflation, $12.3 million, will be split between schools that have some of the 133,171 students judged to be at risk - schools will get about $92 for each such student.

It means higher decile schools will be worse off compared to the amount they would have received had the inflation adjustment been made.

Rangitoto principal David Hodge said had his school's operations grant been increased to match inflation as had happened in past years, it would get an extra $90,000 next year.

Taken with the at risk funding, that meant the decile 10 school was down about $85,000.

Hodge said equity funding already existed through the decile system, which gives more money to schools that draw students from poorer families.

"Some schools will win out because their targeted funding is higher but the majority will not.

"The reality is that all high decile schools will be very significantly worse off after this manipulation of the operations grant than before."

Schools were told yesterday how much extra funding they will get next year as a result of having students "at risk" of educational underachievement enrolled.

The vast majority will receive some extra money, ranging from a few hundred dollars to $109,000. Those that get nothing are likely to be schools with smaller rolls.

But while the total amount will be revealed, the names of students who have been identified as needing extra support will not. It will be up to schools as to how they spend the extra money.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the new funding on its own would not be a silver bullet.

But it was more targeted than the $16 per student increase had the operations funding been increased by 1 per cent.

"Some schools will receive a few hundred dollars whilst others are getting up to $57,000 with one exception receiving the most at $109,000, reflecting the challenges their students face."

Education Minister Hekia Parata is overseeing major changes to school funding. Herald On Sunday Photograph by Doug Sherring
Education Minister Hekia Parata is overseeing major changes to school funding. Herald On Sunday Photograph by Doug Sherring

Every school in Waikato, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua and Taupo will get extra funding from Term 1 next year.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said the increases detailed today were simply not enough to help schools do the best for at risk students.

"An equity funding approach that includes funding specifically for extra teaching and support staff, as well as operational funding, is most likely to lift achievement. The PPTA believes the government should... prioritise this approach.

"An increase in equity funding must be new money. There is no fat in the system, so shuffling budgets from one school to another is not a solution."

Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said the "hyper targeting" would miss many students that needed extra help.

"This is a Government doing the bare minimum that they can do to maintain education standards, but this is woefully short."

The at risk students are identified by the Ministry of Social Development using a powerful anonymised database.

It is part of wider "social investment" being championed by Finance Minister Bill English. Its aim is to share data across government agencies to identify and map New Zealanders at risk of poor outcomes later in life.

The aim is to then target support accordingly.

The at risk targeted funding is not a replacement for decile funding.

However, a sector review team are looking at possible alternatives to the decile system, which Parata has said needs to go.

It is likely the at risk model could be extended to eventually replace the decile system.

A report by the team, released today, rejected another "global budget" funding idea, that unions have criticised as a return to bulk funding.

- NZ Herald

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