Prime Minister John Key says a call by school principals to review the decile rating system is fair but he can't see an easy way around the system for ranking schools.

Parents often confused the decile ranking, based on the socio-economic background of the majority of students, with the academic achievement of a school, but they were a reasonably accurate assessment of the capacity of that school to raise funds in their community, he said.

"Some parents assume the decile ranking is a proxy for the quality of the school and that can be very unfair ... I have gone to a number of decile one to two schools that I would more than happily send my own children to, and decile 10 schools I wouldn't send them to."

Mr Key said the Government's move to national standards was an attempt to have "coherent data" for parents on the level of achievement in literacy and numeracy but said league tables could be a good idea.


Education leaders called for the Government to review the use of the decile system after figures revealed Pakeha parents were avoiding lower decile schools. Ministry of Education figures revealed 60,000 Pakeha children were attending decile one, two and three schools in 2000 but now only half that number were attending those schools. Decile eight, nine and 10 schools had more Pakeha students than they used to, while in low decile schools one-fifth of the students were Pakeha, down from a third.

Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said parents could more accurately measure performance by looking at the Education Review Office report on the school. He will meet Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone this week over the decile ranking system.

* Schools are ranked by decile for calculation of a number of operational funding components and for comparative purposes.

* The decile indicates the socio-economic group the school catchment area falls into. A rating of one indicates a low-income area, a rating 10 a high-income area.

* The Ministry of Education allocates funding to schools through the decile rating system.

* The lower a school's decile rating, the more funding it gets.