11 Aug 2016

Charter school wins decile one funding

7:35 am on 11 August 2016

A charter school has boosted its government funding by becoming the first of the publicly-funded private schools to have its decile rating changed.

Pupils at South Auckland Middle School.

Pupils at South Auckland Middle School. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

South Auckland Middle School asked for a review of its decile rating last year and in June the Ministry of Education decided it was a decile 1C school, meaning it had a high concentration of children from the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Charter schools - which the government calls partnership schools or kura hourua - are funded as if they are decile 3 schools, but can ask for a review once they reach their maximum roll.

South Auckland Middle School has received a backpayment of $66,358.40 (excluding GST) and more than $15,000 (ex GST) in its quarterly payments from the government so far this year, because of its new decile.

Academic manager Alwyn Poole said he applied because he thought the school was likely to be lower than a decile 3 and could be getting more funding.

"Having a look at the other schools in the locality we realised that they were all decile 1 or at most decile 2, so we asked for a decile review... because there is some incremental funding if you are at a lower decile."

Mr Poole recently compared his school's results for 2015 to those of two other decile 1 schools, which had much lower national standards pass rates.

He said the new decile would affect the way the school's results were viewed.

"I guess that's one of the things that's important for us, that if we are working with children and that's their demographic and they are achieving some remarkable results it does say back to the community and potentially back to other educators or people interested in education that you can work with children from this demographic and they can achieve outstanding results."

Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts said the school's results were not comparable to those of regular decile one schools.

She said the fact parents had to apply to enter a ballot to enrol at the charter school meant it was enrolling a different cohort from neighbouring schools which accepted whoever turned up, even if it was during the middle of the year.

"The moment you have even a ballot process, you are already in a selection process," she said.

"They're not the same kids."

The Educational Institute's matua takawaenga, Laures Park, said the decile decision made a mockery of the charter school system.

She said the schools were supposed to be a new way of doing things, but were getting access to the same funding systems as regular schools.

Ms Park was also unhappy that a charter school was getting more funding, at a time when state school funding was under review.

"What irks me more than anything is the fact that it is unfair. On one side the funding review is happening and the public system is looking to be screwed down in every possible way, but on the other side you can actually let things go willy nilly."

Ministry of Education head of early learning and student achievement Lisa Rodgers said the school's decile affected only the per student grant component of its funding.

"Funding was paid in June 2016 and was backdated to the date of the request, April 2015, for $66,358.40 excluding GST. Part of that figure was for the first half of 2016," she said.

"We're not able to say exactly how much funding the school will get this year as a result of the change in decile, as the fourth quarter payment will be dependent on the actual roll, and the school's roll continues to rise. What we can tell you is that the school has so far in 2016 received an extra $45,698.88 excluding GST as a result of the decile change. Approximately $30,000 of this amount was part of the back payment."

Ms Rodgers said two other charter schools, Rise UP Academy and Te Kura Māori O Waatea, had also sought a decile review, but were turned down because they were not at or near their maximum roll.