School decile system scrapped in signposted move

Education Minister Nikki Kaye has announced the scrapping of the school decile system. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

In an unsurprising move, the Government has announced plans to abolish New Zealand's school decile rating system.

The system, which ranks schools from one to 10 based on the socio-economic ranking of each school's community, will be replaced with a new risk index that assesses individual children enrolled at a school.

Unlike the decile rankings this will not be published publicly, in an attempt to stop parents judging a school by its number.

Education Minister Nikki Kaye had already signalled her distaste of the decile system and announced on Monday that Cabinet had agreed it would come to an end in either 2019 or 2020.

“At the moment some parents have seen the decile number and thought that that is somehow a measurement of the school when actually it’s just a crude calibration of the socio-economic income of a particular neighbourhood,” Kaye said.

What's the risk index?

The new system will estimate the number of children in each school or ECE service who are at greater risk of educational underachievement.

Although yet to be finalised, it will include a range of factors that will attempt to estimate the likelihood a child would not achieve NCEA Level 2. The draft factors being considered include:
* proportion of time spent supported by benefits since birth;
* whether the child has a Child, Youth and Family notification;
* the mother's age at the child's birth;
* father's offending and sentence history;
* ethnicity;
* Youth Justice referrals;
* mother's qualifications;
* proportion of time spent overseas since birth
* mother's average earned income over the previous five years;
* school transience;
* country of birth;
* father's average earned income over the previous five years;
* whether the child is a migrant or New Zealand born;
* the number of other children the mother has;
* whether the mother received third tier benefits (payments directed to alleviating hardship); and
* if the child's most recent male caregiver is not the birth father.

The draft factors will now be reviewed by the Social Investment Agency and the Chief Science Advisors.

Currently the decile system is only recalibrated every five years, but Kaye said the new index system would be reassessed and updated annually.

She described the move as a cultural shift for the country, with parents needing to pay more attention to Education Review Office and Strategic Reports of schools to decide if they were up to scratch for their children.

“This is the shift that we need to make as a nation, to get parents thinking about what is the achievement information about a school, what’s happening at the leadership level, what’s happening at the environment level, not what the income is of particular parents.”

Changes to funding received by schools?

The decile system makes up about three percent of each school's operational budget.

Kaye said extra funding would be provided to each school or service based on the new index, but the amounts will not be announced publicly.

She pledged that no school would be worse off under the new system, while most would receive more money.

“No school will lose and some schools will get significantly more, so the Government is going to be investing more in funding for those children at risk of not achieving. Most people are going to go up and it’s going to be a question of how much they’re going to go up," she said.

“Let’s be really clear, it is anonymised and it will be provided in a sort of lump sum to schools because we don’t want to replace one discriminatory system with another, and that’s a key aspect of this, it’s up to schools to then determine how they then choose to use that funding.”

Kaye said it was too early to say how much extra funding would be provided.