Northland principals are happy to wave goodbye to the school decile system and the stigma that comes with it.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced the Government plans to scrap the current decile-based school funding system - which allocates about 3 per cent of total school funding to schools based on the socio-economic status of the areas where students live - by 2021 or 2022.
It will be replaced by a new "equity index" which will give schools more money based on 26 measures of the family backgrounds of each child in the school.
Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president and Hora Hora Primary School principal Pat Newman was pleased the decile system was being abolished as it was often incorrectly used to judge the quality of a school, but he wasn't sure it would change much.
"The actual funding getting through to the schools isn't the problem with the current system. The problem is people are judging schools on the deciles, not what they're actually doing."
The 26 measures used in the equity index include
• Four measures relating to whether a child has involvement with Oranga Tamariki
• Three measures based on parental criminal history
•The parents' education levels
• Two measures of the parents' age when the child was born and when the mother's first child was born
• How many other children the mother had before the child was born
• Five measures of how often the child has changed houses and schools
• Two measures of whether the child was born overseas and how long they lived overseas
• Three measures of how long the child's parents have been on benefits and their income from benefits
• Two measures of the parents' incomes during the child's lifetime
• Three measures of whether the child itself has been involved in the youth justice system.
Newman believed the new system was very similar to a proposal developed by the former National Government, which Hipkins put on hold last year.
"I think both parties are both trying to do the same thing which was to get rid of the real estate views on deciles and make sure the money went where it needed," he said.
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Tauraroa Area School principal Grant Burns is on the Equity Resourcing Project Sector Reference Group - a group of principals who've been asked by the Government to meet regularly in Wellington to thrash out issues around replacing the decile system.
He said there were still some mechanics that needed working out but overall he liked the idea.
"There's a real problem with the stigma attached to being a low decile school. Data across the country shows that almost without exception the largest school in any community is the highest decile school, so there's a real pattern that high decile schools are seen as more desirable.
"There's a very poor understanding of how the decile system works - even among educators - but especially among the general population. Too often low decile schools have a stigma of being poor schools when in fact they are often outstanding schools."
Burns said the current decile system was a "blunt instrument" which hadn't effectively targeted the needs of schools, whereas this new system more accurately targeted the funding.
"A lot of larger schools are not funded for students with real needs. A decile one school of 100 children will actually get significantly more funding per child than say a decile 7 school with 1000 kids...yet in their school population they could well have 100 decile one kids in there."