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Call to hide decile ratings from parents

Published: 8:45PM Monday June 18, 2012 Source: ONE News

Education experts are calling for the decile ratings of public schools to be kept out of the public arena in order to stop parents picking schools based on their socioeconomic rating. 

Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said he has anecdotal evidence Pakeha families were choosing to move their children from low to high decile schools in a trend dubbed 'white-flight'.

The decile system, based on the socioeconomic factors of the school's students and the surrounding neighbourhood, was first introduced in 1995 to help Governments ascertain the level of funding given to each school.

However, Walsh said parents were using the decile rating as a "blunt instrument" to judge the quality of a school instead of objective information, such as Education Review Office reports and NCEA results.

"I think decile funding should remain in place because it supports students in need, but it's not necessary or desirable for that to be publically available," said Walsh. 

"It's simply a funding mechanism. What parents need to ask is 'is this a high quality school'?"

Auckland University education lecturer Vicki Carpenter agreed decile ratings should be hidden from the public but believed the 'white-flight' problem was not necessarily to do with the rating system but rather the politics surrounding zoning.

She said the zoning system, where parents are required to enrol their children in a school based on where they live, can often be avoided by joining a ballot to go to another school. 

"When you bring in that choice, when you bring in that competition, usually in those situations the middle class do quite well because they understand the system and others don't," said Carpenter.

Key calls for league tables

The call to hide decile ratings from parents comes as Prime Minister John Key faces another battle with the education sector after calling for schools to be ranked according to student performance.

Known as league tables, the controversial system would use numeracy and literacy scores of primary school students to rank schools. 

Key said news media and parents can already gain the information about the rates of National Standard achievement through the Official Information Act but he wants the Education Ministry to compile the data in a cohesive form. 

"How that data gets put together and in what form is a debate the ministry has to have with the sector," said Key.

"The whole aim around National Standards to a certain degree is to inform schools, teachers, parents and the community better about the progress of their child."