Changes to the decile system
Equity funding is additional resourcing provided to schools to help close the educational gap created by socio-economic, family and health factors beyond students' control.
PPTA policy is to have education funding that is needs based. While we supported the introduction of the targeted funding for educational achievement (TFEA) which was the basis of the decile system we have also been pushing for changes to the decile system for three key reasons:
- The decile concentrates only on the distribution of the bottom 20% of students across schools and is not an accurate reflection of the actual needs of students in any school. Two schools with the same decile could have quite significantly different student profiles, needs and local resources. In fact, when measured on the broader index for need we can see there is a group of schools which have similar needs ranged right across the 10 deciles. So, while it was better than nothing, the time is past for its replacement with a more sophisticated model.
- The decile rating has also become a measure of something that was never intended – like school quality or wealth. It also became an inaccurate proxy against which schools were measured – ‘if this decile 1 school can achieve these results why can’t this other decile 1 school?’
- Individual students can be stigmatised and subject to incorrect assumptions if they attend a low decile school.
PPTA involvement from the beginning
PPTA has been part of the sector reference group established to provide advice on the development of the index. We have observed its development from the fairly basic model used to allocate the ‘at risk’ funding in the 2016 budget to a significantly more sophisticated and robust model.
We began from the basis of needing to be convinced that the new system will be robust, an improvement on the old and less stigmatising of schools and students than the decile system.
It needed to be no more disruptive than the 'renorming' process for the decile system and maintain anonymity for individual students. Schools would need to be funded in proportion to the number of students with high educational needs and the new system would have to recognise the compounding effects of concentrations of problems. It would catch all groups of students we were aware currently faced relatively poor educational outcomes.
An unusually robust and open process
The unusually robust and open development process and sector engagement used to steadily improve the equity funding model has given us confidence in the new mechanism achieving these things.
Essentially anonymised information for each student is assessed against a range of factors which can effect academic outcomes to produce an individual ‘score’, the ’scores’ of all students are combined to give a value against which equity funding can be calculated. Schools will not know the score of any individual student, only the combined equity measure for the whole roll. The equity funding is then a product of a per student equity amount and the ‘score’. The school’s equity score will change from year to year as its students change.
With decile, the only factors considered was information (gathered at census time) from the areas in which students lived. These were measures of the households with the lowest 20% of incomes nationally, the proportion of parents employed in the lowest skills categories, household overcrowding, the proportion of parents with no educational qualifications and the proportion of parents on benefits.
Funding for equity will be more fairly distributed
The new model currently uses 26 variables that effect educational outcome and is capable of introducing new ones when there is sufficient information available or if other factors were shown to influence educational outcomes.
Funding for equity will be more fairly distributed and, as the rating will change each year with the student profile, no school will be identified by a single number in future.
- Every child will contribute to the equity funding a school receives.
- The greater the degree of need the greater the funding provided.
- As school needs change the funding will change – rather than every five years with the defile system.
- The more regular changes will mean less dramatic swings in the funding provided to schools than can occur with the decile changes.
Welcoming the proposal
Currently about 2.9% of school resourcing is delivered as equity funding, linked to the school decile and provided substantial as cash in the operations grant – there is, for example, no link between school decile and the amount of staffing received by schools. This is very low by international standards and 10-15% may be more reasonable.
Adding to this are positive indications from government that the total amount of equity funding will increase across the sector so that there is minimal impact on those currently benefiting from the decile system in a shift to the alternative, and ongoing discussions about how other resourcing (such as staffing or student support resources) might be linked to the equity index.
We therefore welcome the proposal to replace the decile system in 2021 with one which anonymously measures students against a wide range of factors known to have influence on educational outcomes. One that will provide an overall measure of the additional support required by every school to eliminate educational disadvantage of the students currently on their roles. We also endorse the intention to use the interim year for wider consultation on the change with the wider sector and any consequent refinements.