School decile system: 'Stigmatisation' concerns lead to new Equity Index

School deciles could be scrapped in two years as the Education Minister moves to reduce "stigmatisation" around the current system.

They'd be replaced with a new Equity Index, which would be used to assess funding needs, and principals are hopeful the new formula will be better.

"It's a really hard thing to get right, funding schools, funding children," says Matt Bateman, principal Burnside Primary School in Christchurch.

He knows how quickly circumstances can change for a school community.

"Post-earthquake we had some big changes here. Once upon a time, we were a decile-six and pretty soon after the earthquake we looked more like a decile-three, although our funding level stayed at a decile-six."

It took years to redress the funding shortfall under the decile system, but it was finally given a new decile-four rating.

The current deciles give schools a socio-economic ranking of one to 10 every five years.  Lower decile schools have more students living in poorer communities. The lower a school's decile the more funding it gets.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says too many schools are judged on their decile rating and he wants it replaced with an Equity Index.

"It'll be a more sophisticated measure and it'll get the support where it needs to go," says Hipkins, "And it'll change regularly so you won't get that long-lasting stigmatisation that comes from a decile ranking that sticks around for five years."

So how will it work?

Schools will most likely get an annual score from one to 200.  It will take into consideration educational success and NCEA achievements as well as use Statistics New Zealand data to estimate socio-economic factors affecting students.

That will determine how much operating funding they get.

But the Education Minister admits there will be winners and losers, and he'll need to do his homework.

"If you're on the losing end of that equation that's not such good news for your school so we've got make sure we get that right," says Hipkins.

"I'm prepared to make some noises if that happens," says Matt Bateman, "But I'm really happy to trust that it's being put in place for the right reasons and that it'll work."

The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZIE) has also welcomed the new system.

"The need for extra support for our students is enormous," says NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart. "With current equity, or decile, funding making up just 2.9 percent of school resourcing, there's a clear need for greater resources to address the issues of inequity."

Cabinet has agreed to the new Equity Index, subject to consultation.

Newshub.