Low-decile schools are still lagging behind richer schools in joining a new scheme that funds extra teachers.

An update by the Ministry of Education shows that only 55.2 per cent of students in decile 1 schools, serving the poorest tenth of communities, joined the new Communities of Learning scheme by the end of December.

That was well below the national average of 65.6 per cent and the lowest of the 10 decile groups.

The scheme was the main focus of an extra $359 million allocated over four years from 2014 to lift student achievement, funding extra teacher time to work across groups of nearby schools.

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Outgoing Education Minister Hekia Parata said this month that more than 1100 teachers and principals had been appointed to generally part-time roles in Communities of Learning.

Top-decile schools were the first to set up communities, with almost half of the extra teachers appointed by March last year going into schools in the top two deciles.

The update shows that that imbalance largely disappeared by December, with the top two deciles both having slightly below-average proportions of their students in approved communities.

The highest uptakes are now in mid-rated decile 7 (71.7 per cent) and decile 3 (71.2 per cent).

Uptake rates for both Māori students (63.8 per cent) and Pacific students (62.5 per cent) are now only just below the national average.

However there is still a wide variation in regional uptake rates, which have been updated to this month, ranging from a high of 95.2 per cent in Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast to a low of 40.5 per cent in Otago/Southland.

The ministry's Tai Tokerau region (Northland) had the lowest uptake in December (24.3 per cent), but has jumped to 70.7 per cent in the April update after six new communities were approved there this month.

Altogether, the 197 communities approved by this month now cover 71.7 per cent of NZ school students.

Almost all of the 54 communities that had approved targets by December are targeting improved literacy and numeracy, mainly at primary school level where these are measured by National Standards, and a majority are targeting higher pass rates in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), normally achieved in Years 11 to 13.

Only half have set any targets for the first two years of secondary school, Years 9 and 10 - the only years in the school system where there are no current national targets.

"This means achievement challenges for some Communities of Learning do not cover the whole learner pathway," the ministry says.

"Focusing on early secondary is important for communities so they are able to influence later NCEA achievement."

Only 35 communities had appointed their leaders by mid-November. Boards and principals said their biggest challenges in appointing staff to the new roles were "lack of clarity about how best to use the new roles" (39 per cent), and employing part-time staff to fill in for classroom teachers who now spend part of each week working outside their own classes (30 per cent).

The 197 communities approved by this month include 1630 schools, an average of eight schools in each community. The numbers range from less than five schools in nine communities up to 20 or more schools in two communities in Blenheim (21 schools) and the Far North (20 schools).

Per cent of school students in Communities of Learning by Dec 2016

Decile 1: 55.2%

Decile 2: 61.3%

Decile 3: 71.2%

Decile 4: 64.9%

Decile 5: 69.9%

Decile 6: 69.0%

Decile 7: 71.7%

Decile 8: 64.3%

Decile 9: 61.5%

Decile 10: 65.3%

Māori: 63.8%

Pacific: 62.5%

NEW ZEALAND: 65.6%

Per cent of school students in Communities of Learning by April 2017

Tai Tokerau: 70.7%

Auckland: 72.0%

Waikato: 79.9%

Bay of Plenty: 78.6%

Taranaki/Whanganui/Manawatu: 59.8%

Hawke's Bay/Gisborne: 75.3%

Wellington: 59.5%

Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast: 95.2%

Canterbury: 64.3%

Otago/Southland: 40.5%

NEW ZEALAND: 71.7%