Students in the bottom decile work harder, study finds


Inequitable results across the decile system may be corrected by the future equity index system, although the stigma of schools of stratification may persist

The government is scrapping the decile funding system for schools, but principals and researchers fear it will solve the problems that truly divide schools between deciles.

The move to the new Equity Index is a major overhaul of a funding system that has proven controversial since its introduction in the mid-1990s, and recent surveys of students across the country have found that inequality for which the funding distribution system was put in place are still very real.

The April student survey from digital learning company LearnCoach posed a series of questions to more than 1,000 students and revealed that there was work to be done to support students in bottom decile schools.

“Students in lower decile schools tend to juggle a lot more responsibilities, perhaps in large families where the parents work. It is quite common for students to work part-time or even full-time, and this has been more prevalent compared to Covid in cases where parents have lost their jobs.
–Adam Walmsley, LearnCoach

As expected, just over a third of decile 1 schools reported an average grade of excellence throughout the first term, compared to 60% of students attending decile 10 schools.

But more unexpectedly, more than two-thirds of students in decile 1 said they studied during their break to meet deadlines, catch up and anticipate their workload, compared to 51% of students in decile 10.

LearnCoach business development manager Adam Walmsley attributes this to the responsibilities that often fall on students from lower socioeconomic communities, as well as the difficulties schools may have in applying unique funding to the individual circumstances of their students.

“Students in lower decile schools tend to juggle a lot more responsibilities, perhaps in large families where the parents work,” he says. “It’s quite common for students to work part-time or even full-time, and this has been more prevalent compared to Covid in cases where parents have lost their jobs.”

And then there are the education barriers for these students, which could come in the form of multiple children having to share access to a single device — a problem exacerbated by the shift to digital learning during the pandemic.

A score below the decile could mean an extra $800 per student in funding, but that extra money doesn’t necessarily mean schools have the tools to eliminate access issues like this for all students.

“Support resources don’t reach students effectively and don’t really solve student problems,” says Walmsley.

“There are barriers like lack of internet at home… they may have access to a cell phone but not necessarily a laptop, and if there is one it may be shared between five or six children . There may not be enough space in the house to have a quiet space to learn.

Walmsley hopes the Equity Funding Index, which considers more individual indicators when categorizing schools, will allow for a more flexible and accurate approach.

“While the decile system paints everyone with a broad brush, the equity-based system is more individualized,” he says. “It takes into account the factors that have been shown to have the greatest influence on negative outcomes.”

It is also hoped that the new model will be more flexible, able to respond to new compositions of student groups rather than relying on 2013 census data, as in the current decile system.

LearnCoach business development manager Adam Walmsley said a wide range of tools need to be considered to tackle inequality in educational outcomes. Photo: Supplied

And, as a new generation arrives in high school with a different set of needs and wants than those that came before, the system may well have to change and adapt at a faster rate than in the past.

Generation Alpha are largely the children of Generation Y, born within the last decade. They grew up in a world of readily available social media and streaming services and the few pandemic years quickly grew in proportion to the rest of their lives.

Walmsley said education systems must adapt to their needs, which means abandoning one-size-fits-all approaches.

“These are kids who were born with a device in their hands, accustomed to a high degree of customization,” he said. “Technology allows you to live most of your life in a personal way. We see that education has lagged behind in this regard.

But some of the optimism around change is more cautious. Karl Vasau, headmaster of Decile 1 Rowandale school in south Auckland, welcomes the announcement that the decile system will be replaced with something more accurate and up to date, but warns that this will not be enough to eliminate the stigmatization of schools in low socio-economic zones.

“Remuera’s parents are not going to come and enroll their children in our school,” he told Newsroom. “What I’m looking for is a system that fully supports schools in bridging the gap created by poverty and hardship. But that will not prevent parents from making judgments about the quality of the school.

He says schools work hard to ensure the funding they receive goes far and in low socio-economic areas, principals use decile funding to bridge the gaps created by poverty and hardship.

“Whatever you call the new funding system, parents will still make assumptions or decisions about a school based on what they see and the community the school is in,” he says. “Whatever the name of the new system, it must be aimed at helping schools provide the best education for their students.”

Rowandale School Principal Karl Vasau wants to see a system that fully supports schools to bridge the gap created by poverty and hardship. Photo: Supplied

The overhaul of the decile system is being funded by $300 million from last week’s Budget 2022 and will mean that instead of the current decile levels, starting in January 2023, students will be measured on a range of indicators that measure social inequality, and schools will receive a score on the equity funding system.

It’s a change that Education Minister Chris Hipkins says would give every New Zealander the best chance of succeeding.

“We are increasing the amount for schools with students facing equity issues and replacing the outdated system of school deciles, which is a government commitment that I am proud to uphold,” he says.

The package includes $75 million per year in additional equity funding – a 50% increase – for schools with higher levels of socio-economic need, with similar advances expected for early learning in the future .

Budget 2022 builds on and continues key changes across the education system to provide better support for education providers and learners, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said . Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Instead of targeting funding through the decile system, which indicates how many of a school’s students come from lower socio-economic communities, the money will be distributed according to the equity index.

A given school’s equity index will be calculated by gathering student data over the past 20 years and evaluating characteristics that are indicators of NCEA performance, such as immigration and socio-economic status. economic status of their parents, whether the student has experienced poverty or abuse, and how often they change schools.

Rather than a 10-point scale, schools will be scored on a scale of up to 225, allowing for a more nuanced approach to classification.

Intended as a number to distribute funds fairly, New Zealand’s decile numbers have become a selling point for expectant parents looking for where to send their children.

During research for the Department of Education in 2018, Edgewater College principal Allan Vester found that the label had a major impact on how people perceived the quality of the school, and that it was a tough judgment for schools to escape.

The 10-point system may be on its way out, but in its place there will be an additional 215 levels of stratification on which people can judge schools as inferior or superior.

One of the benefits of this is that it will reduce the “funding cliffs” that the Department for Education currently notes in the decile system, where a leap from one decile to another can lead to gains or reductions in significant funding. A more nuanced range of funding categories should allow for greater stability.

Respondents to Vester’s research noted that a low decile impacts a school’s ability to attract and retain students and staff, leading to low decile labels dumping those schools of many of the best. academic role models within their communities.

Vester wrote, “Just changing labels won’t change much. The ultimate success of any new funding system is not its ability to reduce stigma, but its ability to change the life trajectories of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. »

“How the level of need is calibrated, how the resource is provided and how it is reported are all critical. Schools are just one part of what must be a multi-faceted approach alongside a range of connected social initiatives. »

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