Getting rid of the stigma associated with low deciles will be welcomed by many Rotorua and Bay of Plenty principals - although some are uncertain the proposed new system will be any different.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced this week the Government planned to abolish the decile-based school funding system by 2021 or 2022.
It will be replaced by a new "equity index" which will give schools and early childhood services more money based on 26 measures of the family backgrounds of each child in the school.
Rotorua Principals' Association president Rawiri Wihapi, who is the principal at decile 5 school Mokoia Intermediate, said decile ratings came with a stigma.
"I think it's misunderstood in terms of an indication of quality. It's a stigmatised thing. Parents think decile is about quality of education."
Wihapi believed the new system would also be updated more frequently than the existing decile system which was positive.
The principal of decile 5 Rotorua Girls' High School, Sarah Davis, said scrapping deciles was a "step in the right direction" as they did not fairly reflect a school's socioeconomic status.
"There is information constantly going between schools and the Ministry [of Education] about the school population. That to me is a far more accurate way of knowing how funding should be matched."
Despite some perceptions, Davis said decile ratings did not reflect a school's quality of education.
"If a family looks at that as a reason to make a choice, it is not going below the surface to know the staff, which I think is important."
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Sunset Primary School principal Eden Chapman believed decile ratings were used to judge the quality of a school. The equality index could have the same result, she said.
Chapman said the school's decile 1 rating fairly reflected the hardship in the school community. The school used, and was grateful for, the additional resources available.
Kaitao Intermediate School principal Phil Palfrey agreed with Chapman and was concerned the stigma attached to decile ratings would not be challenged or changed with the index.
He said the effectiveness of the equality index would be judged by how much his decile 2 school would receive under the new measures.
Schools would become equitable if everyone went to their local school and equity barriers were removed, Palfrey said.
Merivale School principal Tom Paekau said deciles did not define a school's identity. The only importance Merivale's decile 1 rating had was entitling it to more support from the ministry, he said.
While replacing deciles would help change the stigma associated with decile 1 schools, they could also decrease the support they received, Paekau said.
Lynmore Primary School principal Lorraine Taylor was "unconvinced" an equity index would work but said the decile rating system needed to be replaced.
Taylor said as a decile 9 school, Lynmore received poor Government funding.
She said families of the school would also be impacted by the Government's decision to scrap school donations for low and middle decile schools next year.
Principal of decile 9 school Bethlehem College Eoin Crosbie said the decile system was "a very blunt instrument".
"We accept that we get less money than lower decile schools but still have significant challenges that require resourcing well over and above what the Ministry provides," he said.
"We keep getting asked to do more with less ... We just need to trust the professionals and fund schools properly."
Ministry of Education deputy secretary of education system policy Dr Andrea Schōllmann said the changes will only be introduced with extra funding to better support schools and reduce the impacts of socio-economic disadvantage for many students.
"The Ministry has been working with a representative reference group of principals to test the thinking behind the index, understand their concerns and to seek information on how to mitigate stigma.
"We will be inviting school principals and key sector stakeholders to meetings in each region next month."
Public engagement will take place in early 2020.
Principal of decile 2 Greerton Village School Anne Mackintosh said anything that will bring increased funding to disadvantaged schools and students would be a "boon".
"There is also an overall erroneous belief that the quality of education is lower in a low decile school. Nothing could be further from the truth."
What the changes would mean
- Decile ratings reflect the percentage of a school's students living in low socio-economic communities.
- Possible changes would give schools more money based on 26 measures of the family backgrounds of students and pupils. Funding will be finely graduated, not divided into 10 deciles.
The 26 measures are
- 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.
-Additional reporting Zoe Hunter and Cira Olivier