School deciles gone in two years, says Education Minister

School deciles will be replaced in 2021 or 2022 by an Equity Index that better aligns equity funding to actual levels of socio-economic disadvantage in our schools, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

“Replacing school deciles with an Equity Index will increase the education resourcing going to some of our most disadvantaged students. This increased resourcing is essential to support them to succeed in education, in life, in employment and in their communities,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Getting rid of school deciles will also reduce the stigma associated with them whereby too many of our schools are being judged on their decile rating, rather than what they achieve for their students. This is unfair and needs to stop,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Cabinet has agreed to the in-principle replacement of deciles with an Equity Index. This is subject to the results of a widespread consultation with principals and sector stakeholders in 2019, public engagement on the replacement in 2020, and additional funding in Budget 2020 or 2021 being available to allow the Equity Index to go ahead.”

“I have asked the Ministry of Education to discuss with the sector how the Equity Index will work, how it could be used, the supports and services that it might apply to, and how any transition might be managed. These discussions are not about funding impacts on individual schools. But these conversations will help shape a package of supports for future budgets. We want to get this right before making any final decisions,” Chris Hipkins said.

Chris Hipkins said there are big differences between the Government’s proposal for an Equity Index, and the previous Government’s attempt to replace deciles with a Risk Index.

“The Equity Index considers the whole school population when assessing the level of disadvantage in a school. The Risk Index, by contrast, tried to ‘predict’ which individual students were most ‘at risk’ of not achieving. This means that the Equity Index is more aligned with research which shows that concentrations of disadvantage in a school matters for the achievement of all students, not just those who are most disadvantaged.

The Equity Index uses a broad measure of educational success that considers the spectrum of students’ achievement across NCEA. This gives a more nuanced view of the equity challenge at each schools than the simple pass/fail measure used in the Risk Index.

The Equity Index will also allow better comparisons on how schools are doing to achieve equity for particular groups. This will enable us to learn from the schools that are achieving equity and provide additional support for those who need it,” Chris Hipkins said.

Currently, 2.9 percent of resourcing for schools, or around $150 million, is targeted for equity. This means the majority of school funding would be unaffected by any change.

“However, it is clear to the Government that current equity resourcing is not enough for schools to reduce the impacts of socio-economic disadvantage for many of our students. I consider that the Equity Index should be introduced with additional funding to help ensure success for more of these students,” Chris Hipkins said.

The Equity Index uses information in Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data infrastructure (IDI) to estimate the socio-economic factors present in the lives of children at each school, rather than the neighbourhoods in which they live. The methodology has strict measures in place to protect children’s privacy.