• Nick Smith

Education Minister Nick Smith today announced a new approach to funding rural schools through an Isolation Index at the Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast Principals Association Conference in Nelson. He also announced new funding for rural schools with students with high special needs, using the new index.

"We all know that schools in rural communities have greater costs, yet the tools we use to help these schools are quite crude. The decile system was developed to compensate for schools in lower socio-economic communities and is used to distribute several different types of funding. The Isolation Index is designed to work in a similar way to help rural schools."

The Isolation Index for a school is calculated on the distance to various population centres, reflecting the range of services used by schools from a plumber, through sporting and cultural activities, to specialist computer servicing and teacher professional development. For example, the index for a very remote school, like Franz Josef School is 9.1, Te Puia Springs School (on
the East Coast) is 6.6, Waiouru School is 4.7, and Oamaru Intermediate is 2. Schools less than 50km from a main centre have a zero index.

"The Isolation Index will enable us to carefully target funding to rural schools for distance related costs. A school with an index of 1 will get a 10% premium, of 5 a 50% premium, and of 10 a 100% premium. Previously, schools were either classified as rural or not, and no account was taken into how isolated they were."

"I am also announcing today the first use of the Isolation Index for special needs students on the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS). For next year, the ORS funding will be factored for schools with an Isolation Index. The current funding of $7,500 per year for high need, and $12,500 for very high need students will be factored for the portion of distance related costs by the Isolation Index. Thirty percent of the costs associated with meeting the needs of such students are purchased beyond the school and are distance related. This means a high needs ORS student at Franz Josef School would receive $9,547, at Te Puia Springs School $8,985, at Waiouru School $8,557 and Oamaru Intermediate
School $7,950. Government has provided an additional $2 million to fund this initiative. Further work is taking place in using the index to help fund teacher professional development and in allocating the general operations grant."

"Our objective is to ensure that every student in New Zealand, regardless of where they live, has access to a quality education. The Isolation Index helps us to advance this, and we are seeking feedback from schools on how we can best make it work."