The number of Pakeha attending low decile schools has halved in the past decade, figures show.

Ministry of Education figures revealed 60,000 Pakeha were attending decile one, two and three schools in 2000, but now only half that number are attending those schools, Radio New Zealand reported.

Schools in rich neighbourhoods - with decile eight, nine and 10 schools - had more Pakeha students than they used to, the figures showed, while in low decile schools one fifth of the students are Pakeha, down from one third.

The Ministry of Education told Radio NZ the figures did not mean Pakeha were avoiding low decile schools, rather changing demographics were behind the drop.


It said population change, the creation of new schools, and movements in schools' decile ratings as their communities' wealth changed could be behind the decrease.

But Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said the Government needed to review the decile system, and he doubted the Ministry of Education's reasons were the main factors behind the drop.

"The only credible reason would appear to be 'white flight' from low decile schools and that would indicate that, in the school sector at least, there is a growing division on ethnic and socio-economic lines, which I would suggest is not a good thing for New Zealand society.''

The decile funding needed to stay, but the labels needed to be dropped, he said.