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Decile rankings: badge of honour or badge of shame

Decile rankings – a badge of honour or a badge of shame

The decile ranking system is not delivering what it was designed to achieve for New Zealand schools – and one of the country’s leading educators is calling for it to be overhauled.

Manukau Institute of Technology’s Executive Director of Student Affairs, Stuart Middleton says decile ranking is not fair or equitable. He will be addressing this issue in his keynote address at the New Zealand School Trustees Association Conference.

The New Zealand School Trustees Association conference is taking place in Palmerston North this weekend. More than 500 school trustees from throughout the country will be discussing issues pertinent to school governance and education.

Stuart Middleton says decile rankings have failed to spread resources evenly among the country’s schools and change for the better has to be made.

Decile rankings were intended to reflect the socio-economic make-up of a school’s community. Decile 1 schools have the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic communities, while decile 10 schools have the lowest proportion of these students.

“Decile rankings were going to be a currency for comparing schools so that resources could be delivered in a way that was more equitable. But it hasn’t worked. What decile ranking has done is deliver a total of a four percent difference in funding between decile one and decile 10 schools – that’s a drop in the bucket.

“The decile system has given the community at large and politicians in particular an easy way of labelling schools. So decile ratings have become either a badge of honour or a badge of shame, depending on where your school stands and your view of others.”

Stuart Middleton says one of the main themes of his keynote address is national unity in education.

“Schools are no longer in the competition mode they were in the 1990s. I think the time has come for people involved in education to ask how we can achieve excellence in the area we are working in.”


All New Zealand schools and the Government need to accept some schools need far greater financial help than others and move accordingly to make that change, he says. Low decile schools are missing out in key areas such as staffing, equipment and facilities.

Stuart Middleton says it is now time to go back to understanding what communities, trustees and politicians alike have to do to take responsibility for a national education system committed to success for all.

“Funding is needed to produce certain educational outcomes and successful students. That is going to cost a lot more at some stage.”

Stuart Middleton says the success of high decile schools has to be supported with further assistance for low decile schools for the education system to truly benefit all children.

“We cannot sustain the levels of failure we have at the moment. The theme of this conference is ‘Safeguarding our Future’ – we have to have a future to safeguard.”

Stuart Middleton is one of a diverse range of speakers at the New Zealand School Trustees Association conference. Other topics include restorative justice, waste management and childhood obesity.

Education Minister Trevor Mallard will be addressing the conference on Saturday, July 10.

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