A welcome shake-up

Martine Udahemuka
Insights Newsletter
25 November, 2016

I almost did not read The Herald’s exclusive ‘classroom shake-up’ coverage last week. Quake stories were getting me down. But I am glad I read it as I swiftly found out I was wrong. The piece was referring to the Government’s proposed overhaul of the school funding system - not earthquakes.

The overhaul wasn’t news but some of the details were. National plans to use government-wide data to better tag funding to the needs of individual students.

The information held by Statistics New Zealand in its Integrated Database Infrastructure (IDI) makes it possible to identify the early warning signs of those most likely to fail at school. In April this year the Government announced a set of four indicators to this effect. Although not yet finalised, they have since used more granular data from IDI to come up with a more predictive index.

The initial set was parental Corrections history, Child, Youth and Family notification, long-term beneficiary status, and the primary caregiver or mother’s qualifications. Last week’s refined list included a student’s gender and the mother’s age at the child’s birth.

The Government talked too about its focus on developing a system in which students are supported to make a year’s worth of curriculum progress, in every year of their education.

Hopefully this recognises how each student moves along the learning journey when compared with students who face similar challenges at the start of that journey. One year’s progress can be very different for each student. If a student gains seven additional months of learning in a year where other students with similar challenges gained five; then the student has made stellar progress. Knowing individual risk-factors will matter.

Worryingly, in a paper to Cabinet, the Education Minister highlighted that if they cannot get around regulatory restrictions to use the IDI at the level of individual schools, they may have to rely on a less predictive and less accurate index. This would be a shame.

Using rich information to better support students is a welcome shake-up. Let’s hope its potential does not get killed by unnecessary constraints.

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