Low-decile schools face cash tri­als


Mis­taken per­cep­tions of the qual­ity of low-decile schools are lead­ing to a record num­ber of schools go­ing into statu­tory man­age­ment over fi­nan­cial prob­lems, prin­ci­pals say.

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion made more statu­tory in­ter­ven­tions in fi­nan­cially-trou­bled Welling­ton schools last year than in the pre­vi­ous four years com­bined, ac­cord­ing to Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion fig­ures re­leased un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act.

The new prin­ci­pal of one of them, Mana Col­lege, said one of the rea­sons was the un­fair­ness of the fi­nan­cial self­man­age­ment model in­tro­duced un­der the Tomorrow’s Schools re­forms in 1989.

‘‘It’s not a level play­ing field, and the fund­ing for­mula for that play­ing field is out of kil­ter, ‘‘ said John Mur­doch, who took over Mana Col­lege this month af­ter it was put into statu­tory man­age­ment last year.

The model al­lo­cates fund­ing per stu­dent, us­ing a decile sys­tem where lower-in­come ar­eas get more.

School boards that avoided fi­nan­cial prob­lems had mem­bers who were good at long-term strate­gic plan­ning, fundrais­ing, ad­vo­cacy and mar­ket­ing, he said.

‘‘Other schools get bogged down into just get­ting through the year and man­ag­ing what lit­tle re­source they have.

‘‘If you’re bas­ing a fund­ing model on bums on seats, then schools with a roll in de­cline have less with which to build up their rep­u­ta­tion to ad­dress that.’’

Mur­doch called for more fi­nan­cial train­ing for boards and prin­ci­pals, and for the min­istry to in­ter­vene sooner when prob­lems emerged.

Changes to leg­is­la­tion, along­side in­creased em­pha­sis on na­tional stan­dards, tech­nol­ogy and ‘‘mod­ern learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments’’, meant they were con­stantly ex­pected to do more with fixed, or shrink­ing, fund­ing.

In 2015, there were 17 statu­tory in­ter­ven­tions in schools na­tion­wide where fi­nan­cial prob­lems were among the rea­sons. This con­tin­ued a three­year rise, with eight fi­nan­cial in­ter­ven­tions in 2012, 14 in 2014 and 16 in 2014.

Seven of the 2015 in­ter­ven­tions were in the Welling­ton re­gion, where there were only two with a fi­nan­cial as­pect in the pre­vi­ous four years.

Labour ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Chris Hip­kins said the decile sys­tem of­ten cre­ated a ‘‘stigma’’, which was es­pe­cially un­wel­come if a school’s roll was al­ready drop­ping. Be­ing put into statu­tory man­age­ment of­ten wors­ened that, he said.

Mana Col­lege prin­ci­pal John Mur­doch says the cur­rent sys­tem is not a level play­ing field.

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