Socioeconomic decile

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In the New Zealand education system, decile is a key measure of socioeconomic status used to target funding and support schools. In academic contexts the full term "socioeconomic decile" or "socioeconomic decile band" may be used.

A school's decile indicates the extent to which the school draws its students from low socioeconomic communities. Decile 1 schools are the 10% of schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic communities.[1][2]

This system was implemented in 1995. Its exact nature has changed since then.[3]


A school's socioeconomic decile is recalculated by the Ministry of Education every five years, using data collected after each Census of Population and Dwellings. They are calculated between censuses for new schools and merged schools, and other schools may move up or down one decile with school openings, mergers and closures to ensure each decile contains 10 percent of all schools. Current deciles were calculated in 2014 following the 2013 census (delayed two years due to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake). The previous deciles came into force in 2008 following the 2006 census.

Before the deciles are calculated, Statistics New Zealand calculates the following factors in each individual meshblock (the smallest census unit, consisting of about 50 households each), disregarding any household in the meshblock that does not have school-aged children:[4]

  • Household income: the proportion of households whose total income, adjusted for householder composition, is in the bottom 20 percent nationally
  • Occupation: the proportion of employed parents who work in low-skilled or unskilled occupations, specifically those that have skill-levels 4 and 5 on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO)
  • Household crowding: the proportion of households which are overcrowded, that is, in which there are more people living in the house than there are bedrooms, adjusting for couples and children under 10.
  • Educational qualifications: the proportion of parents who have no formal qualifications
  • Income support: the proportion of parents who receive the Domestic Purposes Benefit, Unemployment Benefit, Sickness Benefit or Invalid's Benefit

Each school provides a list of the addresses of its students to determine which meshblocks are used. For each of the five factors, the average for the school is found by adding together the factor in each of the applicable meshblocks, adjusting for the number of students at the school living in each meshblock. All schools in New Zealand are then listed in order for each factor, and given a percentile for that factor. The percentiles for each factor are then added together to give a score out of 500. When the score is ordered, the list of schools is divided into ten, giving one of the ten deciles.[4]

This gives a broad measure of the relative poverty, or aggregated socioeconomic (or social class), of the parents or care-givers of students at the school, with decile 1 schools being the 10% of schools with the lowest socioeconomic communities and decile 10 schools being at the other end of the scale.

Note that some types of schools acquire a decile rating regardless of the socioeconomic status of the school community. For example, teen-parent units always "belong" in decile 1, because of the inherent effect teenage pregnancy and parenthood has on teen parents' socioeconomic status, regardless whether the teen-parent unit is in a high SES area or attached to a high-decile school.

Decile ratings apply only for the funding of compulsory education, but a number of different central-government funding-streams and support services to schools are strongly affected by the decile rating of a school, with more funding available to lower-decile schools. The funding and support measures include:[5]

  1. Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement (TFEA) (Deciles 1–9)
  2. Special Education Grant (SEG) (Deciles 1–10)
  3. Careers Information Grant (CIG) (Deciles 1–10, Years 9–13 only)
  4. Kura Kaupapa Maori Transport (Deciles 1–10)
  5. Priority Teacher Supply Allowance (PTSA) (Deciles 1–2)
  6. National Relocation Grant (NRG) (Deciles 1–4)
  7. Decile Discretionary Funding for Principals (Deciles 1–4)
  8. Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs) Learning Support Funding (Deciles 1–10)
  9. RTLBs for years 11–13 (Deciles 1–10)
  10. School Property Financial Assistance scheme (Deciles 1–10)
  11. Study Support Centres (Deciles 1–3)
  12. Social Workers in Schools (Deciles 1–5)
  13. District Truancy Service (Deciles 1–10)

For the 2015 year, the decile-based funding rates are as follows:[6]

Decile Step TFEA (per student) SEG (per student) CIG (per Y9-13 student)
1 A $914.87 $74.68 $37.68
B $850.53
C $738.61
2 D $623.98 $72.55 $36.21
E $512.08
F $424.74
3 G $353.75 $68.28 $33.23
H $280.09
I $222.79
4 J $184.57 $64.02 $30.27
K $151.49
L $136.47
5 M $116.92 $59.75 $27.34
6 N $94.94 $55.48 $22.16
7 O $72.36 $51.23 $18.43
8 P $47.33 $46.97 $16.99
9 Q $29.22 $42.68 $16.25
10 Z $38.43 $15.51

Statistical data about primary and secondary schools and their students can be broken down into socioeconomic deciles.[citation needed] For example, data released by the Ministry of Education shows correlations between high decile schools and higher rates of attaining NCEA Level 2,[7] higher rates of tertiary education entrance,[8] and lower rates of truancy.[9] (Note that socioeconomic decile alone does not necessarily cause these statistics).


The following table lists the decile ratings of thirty state secondary schools in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Decile Schools
1 Otahuhu College, Tangaroa College, James Cook High School
2 Manurewa High School, Mana College, Te Aratai College
3 Alfriston College, Papatoetoe High School, Hornby High School
4 Avondale College, Wainuiomata High School, Mairehau High School
5 Massey High School, Aotea College, Hagley Community College
6 Rutherford College, Rongotai College, Papanui High School
7 Mount Albert Grammar School, Upper Hutt College, Riccarton High School
8 Palmerston North Boys' High School, Wellington East Girls' College, Cashmere High School
9 Westlake Girls High School, Newlands College, Macleans College
10 Rangitoto College, Wellington Girls' College, John McGlashan College


The decile system has come in for criticism from the teacher and principal associations in recent years for fomenting destructive competition between schools and the exacerbation of white flight. Data from the Ministry of Education indicated that 60,000 Pakeha/NZ European students attended low-decile schools in 2000, but that number had halved by 2010, while high-decile schools had a corresponding increase in Pakeha students.[10] The Ministry claimed demographic changes were behind the shifts, but the Secondary Principals Association and PPTA have attributed white flight to racial and class stigmas of low-decile schools, which commonly have majority Maori and Pacific Islander rolls.[11]

A visiting Fulbright Scholar, Professor Chris Lubienski, carried out research that found discrepancies in 36 of the 49 secondary school zones in Auckland. According to Prof Lubienski, principals of schools in the 36 zones anonymously confessed to deliberately skewing their zone boundaries, in order to encourage the enrolment of students from wealthier backgrounds, while preventing the enrolment of poorer students to these schools.[12] In response, Mount Albert Grammar School headmaster Dale Burden countered that school zones "cannot be easily manipulated and changing them is a transparent process". The Ministry of Education issued the following statement:

The purpose of an enrolment zone is to ensure the selection of applicants for enrolment is fair and transparent and makes the best use of the school network.

As far as possible, an enrolment scheme must not exclude local students so that no more students are excluded from a school than is necessary to avoid over-crowding.
The ministry has recently updated guidelines on enrolments zones. They make clear that before drawing up an enrolment zone boards are required to consult parents and the wider community as well as other schools.
Householder income should not be considered when zones are drawn up.
The law requires a board to ensure all students can attend a reasonably convenient school while ensuring other schools do not experience enrolment problems.

If a school board is unable to agree a boundary arrangement the ministry can step in to resolve the matter. If necessary, the ministry has powers to require a board to amend a proposed enrolment zone.[13]

Proposals to replace[edit]

In July 2017 Education Minister Nikki Kaye of the Fifth National Government announced plans to replace the system " early as 2019..." by a system of targeted funding based on how many "at risk" children a particular school has enrolled.[14] Her government lost power later in 2017.

In September 2019 the Sixth Labour Government announced the decile system would be replaced by a new ""Equity Index" which would come into effect as early as 2021.[15]

In mid-May 2022, the 2022 New Zealand budget allocated $8 million for the capital cost and $293 million for operating costs for the new Equity index, but no date of introduction was given.[16]

Equity Index (EQI)[edit]

In July 2022 their Equity Index (EQI) rating numbers were advised to New Zealand (public) schools to be introduced next year, with the amount of equity funding for each school to be announced in September 2022. The Statistics Department utilised 37 socio-economic factors for each pupil, including both parents’ educational levels, imprisonment data and benefit history plus Oranga Tamariki notifications and student transience to calculate a school index number between 344 and 569 for each school, with a national average of 463 and a higher index number meaning more EQI index funding. The New Zealand educational system was claimed to be “one of the world’s least equal education systems" (actually 33 out of 38 in the OECD).[17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "School deciles". Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  2. ^ "NZ Schools: The decile system". PPTA. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  3. ^ "Inquiry into decile funding in New Zealand State and integrated schools". New Zealand Parliament. NZ Government. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  4. ^ a b "How The Decile Is Calculated". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 3 April 2009.
  5. ^ "What Resources are Affected by Deciles?". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 3 April 2009.
  6. ^ "Operational Funding Rates 2016 & 2017" (PDF). Ministry of Education. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  7. ^ "School leavers with NCEA Level 2 or above – Education Counts". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  8. ^ "School leavers entering tertiary education – Education Counts". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  9. ^ "Truancy from school – Education Counts". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  10. ^ Hana Garrett-Walker (18 June 2012). "Claim of 'white flight' from low decile schools". New Zealand Herald.
  11. ^ "Some Pakeha parents stereotyping Maori pupils – principals". Radio New Zealand. 19 June 2012.
  12. ^ Kate Shuttleworth (25 June 2012). "Call to review Tomorrow's Schools model". NZ Herald.
  13. ^ "Skewed enrolment zones prompts calls for re-think". Radio New Zealand. 25 June 2012.
  14. ^ Jones, Nicholas (31 July 2017). "Scrapping deciles will bring 'culture change': Education Minister Nikki Kaye". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Replacing Deciles with the Equity Index". 24 September 2019. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  16. ^ Palmer, Russell (19 May 2022). "Budget 2022 at a glance: What you need to know". Radio New Zealand. Archived from the original on 19 May 2022. Retrieved 19 May 2022.
  17. ^ "Schools learn all-important equity index number to replace outdated deciles". Stuff/Fairfax. 12 July 2022.
  18. ^ "How to fix one of the worlds' least equal education systems". Stuff/Fairfax. 2 July 2022.

External links[edit]