The chairperson of the Education Council, Barbara Ala’alatoa agrees deciles are a blunt instrument when it comes to helping lift student achievement.

Every student in the New Zealand school system has a right to succeed and thrive.

Lifting student achievement for all is a complex task, especially when it comes to addressing the issues those at risk of falling behind. But good progress has and is being made. We are not starting at ground zero when it comes to thinking about how else the system might operate.

It is hard to disagree, however, that the time is right to review the decile system. Most educators acknowledge the current system is far too blunt an instrument to resource the complex environments schools exist in.

Any changes must support teachers to lift achievement for all of our children. Helping schools and teachers focus on the things that work for the students in their school, while building the professionalism and quality of our teachers and teaching will be critical to raising achievement.


The greatest thing we can do for our most vulnerable children is have our most skilled teachers teaching them.

The Education Council will work with teachers across New Zealand to hear their ideas and concerns and help actualise ways of ensuring any new funding system gives teachers the ability to get the right resources in place to meet the needs of individual students. Some of the ideas in the proposal go some way to making that work more effectively than now.

We need to understand that those at-risk students could be in any school. In saying that we need to be careful about understanding the varying levels of need that exist, and ensure student the needs of students who are not necessarily in the high risk category are also well catered for.

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Fear about stigmatising students is one the teaching profession can deal with. We manage lots of funding and resources issues for particular students without labelling, and we are good at it.

We look forward to the profession contributing to a fairer and more equitable system. We are committed to working through the impacts of this proposal with our teachers as this develops.

Barbara Ala'alatoa is the chair of the NZ Education Council and principal of Sylvia Park School in Auckland.