Hira School students and teachers with principal Kevin Ward. Hira is a decile 10 school, according to the Ministry of Education. Photo: Andrew Board.

School ratings ‘not accurate’

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There are six schools in the Nelson-Tasman region with the highest decile rating of ten. But all that means is less Government funding and more pressure on the community to support the school.

The six schools are Hira School, Nelson College for Girls prep, Hope School, Appleby School, Lake Rotoiti School and Mahana School.

The decile rating system – which determines the allocation of three major grants – reviews household incomes, occupation, household crowding, educational qualifications and income support – all of which are based on census data for households with school-aged children in each catchment area.

Hira School principal Kevin Ward says the decile ten rating does not accurately depict where the school was at because there are only pockets of affluence within the community. “I don’t think they’re a true reflection. You have to adjust and have more parental input,” he says. “The question is do we need more money and the answer is yes. How do we do it? Well we budget carefully and apply the enthusiasm of the parents and the skill set they’ve got.”

Appleby School and Hope School held the most successful school fairs in the region last year, raising $70,000 between them to compensate for the lack of Government funding. While Hira School had previously linked up with the former Gentle Annie Fair, Kevin admits the school doesn’t have the affluent population to pull off a similarly successful fair. “That doesn’t mean we haven’t looked into it. The Gentle Annie Fair was part of the school and we are looking at bringing that back.”

Appleby principal Graham Avery says there is a funding shortfall for schools right across New Zealand and the rating system is the Government admitting that some schools can cope with that shortfall. “If you didn’t fill it with a fair then you’d have to fill it in some other way,” he says. “But if we didn’t have our fair then we’d really struggle to offer some of things we do.”

However, Graham admits he is a fan of the rating system. “I think there is a discrepancy as to what the community can achieve. But what I’m not a fan of is their financial starting point.”

Hope School principal Dave Pritchard says the decile rating doesn’t mean anything to his school other than the fact they miss out on grants and get less funding. “They asked how many bathrooms we had and if we had a video,” he jokes. “It doesn’t affect us, we just live with it. It’s not a thing that is bandied around and I don’t talk about it a lot. It’s pretty irrelevant.”

Principals from decile ten schools Nelson College for Girls prep and Lake Rotoiti School did not return calls. NCG prep is a private school with fees of $7180 and is the second of two decile ten schools within the Stoke-Nelson area.