Socio-economic decile (also known as Socio-economic decile band or simply decile) is a widely used measure of socioeconomic status in New Zealand education, primarily used to target funding and support to more needy schools.
A school's socio-economic decile is recalculated every five years, after each Census of Population and Dwellings using data collected during the census. Current deciles came into force in 2008 following the 2006 census. Following the 2013 census (delayed two years due to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake), work is now under way in determining new school deciles in time for the beginning of the 2015 school year. They are calculated between censuses for new schools and merged schools, and other schools may move up or down one decile with school openings, mergers and closures to ensure each decile contains 10 percent of all schools.
Before the deciles are calculated, Statistics New Zealand calculates the following factors in each individual meshblock (the smallest census unit, consisting of about 50 households each), disregarding any household in the meshblock that does not have school-aged children:
- Household income: the proportion of households whose total income, adjusted for householder composition, is in the bottom 20 percent nationally.
- Occupation: the proportion of employed parents who work in low skilled or unskilled occupations, specifically those that are skill levels 4 and 5 on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO)
- Household crowding: the proportion of households in which the number of householders exceeds the number of bedrooms, adjusting for couples and children under 10.
- Educational qualifications: the proportion of parents who have no formal qualifications.
- Income support: the proportion of parents who receive the Domestic Purposes Benefit, Unemployment Benefit, Sickness Benefit or Invalid's Benefit.
Each school provides a list of the addresses of its students to determine which meshblocks are used. For each of the five factors, the average for the school is found by adding together the factor in each of the applicable meshblocks, adjusting for the number of students at the school living in each meshblock. All schools in New Zealand are then listed in order for each factor, and given a percentile for that factor. The percentiles for each factor are then added together to give a score out of 500. When the score is ordered, the list of schools is divided into ten, each being one of the ten deciles.
This gives a broad measure of the relative poverty, or aggregated socio-economic (or social class), of the parents or care-givers of students at the school, with decile 1 schools being the 10% of schools with the lowest socio-economic communities and decile 10 schools being at the other end of the scale.
Note that some types of schools are given a respective decile regardless of the socioeconomic status of the school community. For example, teen parent units are always given a decile of 1, because of the inherent effect teenage pregnancy and parenthood has on the teen parent's socioeconomic status, regardless whether the teen parent unit is in a high SES area or attached to a high decile school.
The measure is only used for the funding of compulsory education, but a number of different central government funding streams and support services to schools are strongly affected by the decile rating of a school, with more funding available to lower decile schools. These funding and support measures include:
- Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement (TFEA) (Deciles 1–9)
- Special Education Grant (SEG) (Deciles 1–10)
- Careers Information Grant (CIG) (Deciles 1–10)
- Kura Kaupapa Maori Transport (Deciles 1–10)
- Priority Teacher Supply Allowance (PTSA) (Deciles 1–2)
- National Relocation Grant (NRG) (Deciles 1–4)
- Decile Discretionary Funding for Principals (Deciles 1–4)
- Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs) Learning Support Funding (Deciles 1-10)
- RTLBs for years 11–13 (Deciles 1–10)
- School Property Financial Assistance scheme (Deciles 1–10)
- Study Support Centres (Deciles 1–3)
- Social Workers in Schools (Deciles 1–5)
- District Truancy Service (Deciles 1–10)
Statistical data about primary and secondary schools and their students can be broken down into socio-economic deciles. For example, data released by the Ministry of Education shows there is a correlation between high decile schools and higher rates of attaining NCEA Level 2, higher rates of tertiary education entrance, and lower rates of truancy. (Note that socio-economic decile alone is not necessarily the cause of these figures).
The decile system has come in for criticism from teacher and principal associations in recent years for fomenting destructive competition between schools and the exacerbation of white flight. Data from the Ministry of Education indicated that 60,000 Pakeha/NZ European students attended low-decile schools in 2000, but that number had halved by 2010, while high-decile schools had a corresponding increase in Pakeha students. The Ministry claimed demographic changes were behind the shifts, but the Secondary Principals Association and PPTA have attributed white flight to racial and class stigmas of low-decile schools, which commonly have majority Maori and Pacific Islander rolls.
A visiting Fulbright Scholar, Professor Chris Lubienski, carried out research that found discrepancies in 36 of the 49 secondary school zones in Auckland. According to Prof Lubienski, principals of schools in the 36 zones anonymously confessed to deliberately skewing their zone boundaries, in order to encourage the enrolment of students from wealthier backgrounds, while preventing the enrolment of poorer students to these schools. In response, Mount Albert Grammar School headmaster Dale Burden countered that school zones "cannot be easily manipulated and changing them is a transparent process". The Ministry of Education issued the following statement:
The purpose of an enrolment zone is to ensure the selection of applicants for enrolment is fair and transparent and makes the best use of the school network.
As far as possible, an enrolment scheme must not exclude local students so that no more students are excluded from a school than is necessary to avoid over-crowding.If a school board is unable to agree a boundary arrangement the ministry can step in to resolve the matter. If necessary, the ministry has powers to require a board to amend a proposed enrolment zone.'
The ministry has recently updated guidelines on enrolments zones. They make clear that before drawing up an enrolment zone boards are required to consult parents and the wider community as well as other schools.
Householder income should not be considered when zones are drawn up.
The law requires a board to ensure all students can attend a reasonably convenient school while ensuring other schools do not experience enrolment problems.
The following table lists the decile ratings of thirty state secondary schools in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
- "How The Decile Is Calculated". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- "What Resources are Affected by Deciles?". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- "School leavers with NCEA Level 2 or above – Education Counts". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
- "School leavers entering tertiary education – Education Counts". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
- "Truancy from school – Education Counts". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
- Hana Garrett-Walker (2012-06-18). "Claim of 'white flight' from low decile schools". New Zealand Herald.
- "Some Pakeha parents stereotyping Maori pupils - principals". Radio New Zealand. 2012-06-19.
- Kate Shuttleworth (2012-06-25). "Call to review Tomorrow's Schools model". NZ Herald.
- "Skewed enrolment zones prompts calls for re-think". Radio New Zealand.