David Macleod and Irene Symes say any new funding system needs to respect individual students and families, not stigmatise them.
A Government proposal that could see the current decile-based school funding system replaced by funding for individual ‘at risk’ students has been greeted with caution by senior school principals.
If adopted, the four qualifying risk factors for increased funding would be a child or sibling who had been abused, a parent who had been to prison, a long-term recipient of benefits or a mother with no qualifications.
The idea is part of the Government’s current review of school funding, with the aim of targeting resources to where they are needed most.
Rodney College principal Irene Symes says she is pleased the decile system is being reviewed, since its attempts to provide funding equity haven’t delivered.
“Also, it has been a very damaging policy because of the way it has been widely misinterpreted and labels students, teachers and schools,” she says, referring to the perception by some that the higher the decile rating, the better the school.
“As far as the new funding system goes, the devil will be in the detail. I’ll reserve judgment until I see it and only hope that it acknowledges the fact that schools need to be well resourced to address and support our most at risk students, and that this support can’t be piecemeal.
“Therefore, whatever replaces the current system needs to provide principals with certainty about the money coming in and have a long-term time frame.”
Mahurangi College principal David Macleod agrees that public perception has been a key issue with decile funding, despite research showing that children from stable and economically secure backgrounds will do just as well in a low decile school as they will in a high decile.
However, despite its faults, he believes this is preferable to a new system that could stigmatise individual students instead of their school.
“The new proposal could shift the unintended stigma of being a low decile school onto individual children and their families,” he says. “Disadvantaged students do need more support in their learning so it is essential we retain a system of providing extra funding to schools with a higher proportion of disadvantaged students. I am therefore in favour of the current system, as it provides this extra funding without labelling individual children.”
Ms Symes agrees that it is important that individual students and their families should not feel singled out.
“The new system needs to be respectful of parents and students, so in my view shouldn’t involve any form of means testing,” she says.
Otamatea High School principal Rachel Clothier-Simmonds said that as schools haven’t been given specific information regarding how the proposed system may operate, she felt it was too early to give an informed view.