Rich school, poor school


Don’t compare Waka High’s poor NCEA results with other Decile 10s – head.

Principal Lyn Cooper’s reacting badly – and not fully accurately – to Wakatipu High’s showing in recent NCEA national league tables.

Pass rates at Queenstown’s 860-pupil state high school compare unfavourably with other Decile 10 school results released this month.

But our results shouldn’t be compared with other Decile 10 schools, Cooper tells parents in her May 15 newsletter.

“The majority of Decile 10 schools are private or integrated schools, where parents pay between $11,000-$16,000 per year,” she says.

“[Wakatipu High] does not fit the profile of other Decile 10 schools throughout New Zealand.”

Deciles are calculated from census data and determine state funding – the “richer” the parents of students, the higher the decile. The higher the rating, the fewer Government dollars are dished out.

Wakatipu High scores a perfect 10 – and gets minimum bucks.

But we’re not wealthy, Cooper tells parents: “Last year, 38 per cent of our course, material and camp fees were unpaid [by parents] and 45 per cent of school donations [voluntary fees from parents] remained unpaid.”

Only a dozen NZ state schools still rank as Decile 10, she claims.

And: “Wakatipu High is the only Decile 10 state school left in the South Island.”

Hang on a mo – there’s another state school just over the Crown Range called Mount Aspiring College and that’s Decile 10, too.

Unlike Wakatipu High, Wanaka’s school shines in national NCEA tables.

Decile ratings have been a bone of contention since coming in with Tomorrow’s Schools 20 years ago – yet lowering the rating to get a funding boost is in the too-hard basket at Wakatipu High. “I don’t know how you’d even go about it,” school chairman Peter Doyle says.

“Obviously we’d like it lower – every school would because you get more funding. We’ve talked to [the Ministry of Education] and said we’re not really Decile 10 any longer.”

But according to the MoE, schools can have yearly decile reviews so why not give it a go?

“What you’ve got to do is get the census figures and go out and do surveys – and it’s a really big job,” Doyle says. “So we’ve never tackled it. [And the MoE] puts up a brick wall to stop you from doing it.”

Reviews are done “on the basis of a perceived change in the socio-economic status of students in a school’s catchment”, says the MoE.

So far so good for Doyle. “We’ve got a huge influx of people from overseas … [parents with children] from all over the world [and] a lot of them are unskilled [and] so are a lot of other [local student households].

“[And] I wouldn’t even know how many of our students’ parents are on benefits.”

Wakatipu High would have to survey parents on specific socio-economic criteria – household income, occupational skill levels of parents, household crowding, percentage of parents with low educational qualifications, and the percentage on income support.

But Doyle’s right, the MoE would still have a catch-22 up their sleeve. “A school’s decile does not indicate the overall socio-economic mix of the school,” according to MoE Official Information.


Fab five fend off lager louts

Five fasting teens got mixed reactions from Queenstown’s party crowd during a 40-hour stint in a small cage last weekend.

Wakatipu High Year 13 students Nina Riddell, Matt Milliken and Matiu Gourlay (pictured right, from left), and their classmates Alice Sheehy and Anna Kirkwood camped at the top of The Mall for World Vision’s 40-Hour Famine fundraising drive. After entering the 5sq m cage at 6pm last Friday, the starving five endured drunken punters trying to attack the cage and feed them fast food.

But kinder passersby helped them raise more than $1000 for the annual appeal, to help improve the lives of children in poor countries.