Schools pleased to see an end to deciles – but funding boost still needed

2017

 

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While schools are pleased to see the back of the decile system, many believe a funding boost is what is needed most.

Education Minister Nikki Kaye confirmed the Government will replace the decile system for schools with a ‘Risk Index’ in an effort to target funding towards supporting those students most at risk of not achieving.

“I’m announcing that the Cabinet has agreed to replace the decile system with a Risk Index that allows us to better target funding to schools with children and young people most at risk of not achieving due to disadvantage,” says Kaye.

The Government says the Risk Index will also replace the equity index used to allocate disadvantage funding in early childhood education.

Decile funding currently accounts for less than three per cent of a school’s resources. Kaye says schools have been stigmatised by their decile number for too long.

“Rather than allocating this funding on the basis of neighbourhood characteristics as the current decile system does, the Risk Index will instead provide fairer funding that better reflects the needs of children in our schools and services. This will mean extra resources are better targeted to support schools to lift achievement.”

The specific factors to be used in the index are yet to be finalised, but 16 draft factors include ethnicity, mother’s average income, how old the mother was when the child was born, and whether the male caregiver is not the biological father. The factors will be the indicators which have the greatest influence on student achievement.

Schools and parents will not be told which children are ‘at risk’.

“With any system, whether it’s with decile or the Risk Index it’s very important that children and young people’s privacy is protected at all times. The way the system is being designed it will not be possible to identify which children generate the additional funding,” says Kaye.

Kaye confirms that no school, early learning service or kōhanga reo will see a reduction in their funding as a direct result of this change and even expects some to gain significantly.

Teachers’ union NZEI says while they’re pleased to see the back of deciles, it believes more funding is needed to support any replacement system.

“Unless schools and early childhood services get a major and immediate funding jolt, any new way to divvy up funding will be a bit like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic,” NZEI president Lynda Stuart said.

“We’ll be glad to see the end of the stigmatising aspects of the decile funding scheme, but the main issue facing schools and early childhood services is a dire lack of funding.”

However, Labour’s education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says the proposed system will only serve to stigmatise schools more.

“For example, if it becomes public that your school has got many more parents in prison than the school down the road, which is going to create more stigma – the decile funding or that information? I think that information could well create huge stigma for schools,” he told Newstalk ZB.

He agrees that what schools need more than a new funding system, is more funding.

“They can carve it up whichever way they want but the reality is schools are desperate for more money and this announcement doesn’t give them any hope they are going to get it.”

Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty agreed, telling the Herald that scrapping deciles wouldn’t end the stigma unfairly attached to many schools and what was needed was a big boost in funding. Delahunty also said she felt uncomfortable with every child in the country being assessed according to their ethnicity and personal family information, even if the analysis was anonymised.

Early Childhood Council Peter Reynolds is relieved to hear that funding for early childhood education services won’t be reduced.

“While the Government says it is too early to say what the impact of the changes will be on schools and ECE services, it is good to hear current funding to early childhood education (ECE) services won’t be impacted as a result of changes to the way schools are funded,” says Reynolds.

Education Minister Kaye says the Government has been working with education leaders, such as those in the Ministerial Advisory Group for the Funding Review and a Technical Reference Group, which have advocated for change and further funding for disadvantage.

There will be further engagement before any changes are implemented, although it’s likely the new model of funding will take effect from 2019 or 2020.

“We are working on a number of initiatives to make it easier for parents to find and assess information about the quality of schools.

“This includes a project with ERO that improves their reports and key information as well as making it more accessible to parents. This will involve some investment in greater online tools.”

Further work on other aspects of education funding is also ongoing. The Ministry of Education is due to report back later this year on the other parts of the Funding Review.


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