Deciles and decile ratings are two terms we as parents hear a lot but what do they mean?  Find out and learn what deciles mean for your child’s school. 

Note: The following information is still currently relevant, however the Government has indicated that the New Zealand school decile rating system will be replaced with a new ‘equity index’ some time in 2022:
Government announcement – school decile rating

Replacing school deciles with an Equity Index will increase the education resourcing going to some of our most disadvantaged students. This increased resourcing is essential to support them to succeed in education, in life, in employment and in their communities.”

What are deciles?

You may have heard the term ‘decile’ or ‘decile rating’ being bandied about when talking with others about schools and education. It is a term used often but not always understood.

Deciles are otherwise known as Socio-Economic Decile Bands which gives you some indication of what they are all about.

A decile is a group into which similar schools in New Zealand are placed.

Schools are grouped in a way that reflects the average family or whanau situations and socio-economic backgrounds of the students at that school.

In other words the decile rating a school is given relates to the economic and social factors of the community.

There are ten deciles starting with decile one and moving through to decile ten. A decile is a statistical term, meaning that a group or population has been divided into ten equally sized groups, giving ten deciles.

Hence about 10% of schools are grouped within each decile; for example there are approximately 10% of New Zealand schools grouped in the decile two category and so on.

Schools in decile one have the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic backgrounds while schools in decile ten have the highest proportion of students from high socio-economic backgrounds.

What factors make up the decile?

There are five specific factors that are taken into account when deciding on the decile rating of a school. These are:

  • Household income – percentage of households with income in the lowest 20% nationally.
  • Occupation – percentage of employed parents in the lowest skilled occupational groups.
  • Household crowding – number of people in the household divided by the number of bedrooms.
  • Educational qualifications – percentage of parents with no tertiary or school qualifications.
  • Income support – percentage of parents who received a benefit in the previous year.

So poorer communities with fewer qualifications and lower incomes are likely to be in Decile One, whilst wealthier communities with more qualifications and higher incomes are likely to be in Decile 10.

Some Examples of Different Decile Ratings

To give you an idea of how the ratings apply in real life, here are some examples of Decile 1 and Decile 10 schools:

Decile 1

Northland College, Kaikohe

Ferguson Intermediate, Otara

Porirua College, Wellington

Phillipstown School, Christchurch

Decile 10

Devonport School, Auckland

Ponsonby Primary School, Auckland

Matua School, Tauranga

Karori Normal School, Wellington

Cashmere Primary, Christchurch

Why are schools grouped like this?

Schools are grouped into deciles for funding reasons. Deciles allow the Ministry of Education to allocate funding in the fairest way. The lower the school’s decile rating the more funding it will be given.

The greater amount of funding given to lower decile schools allows them to cover the increased learning needs of students who attend their school.

Does the decile of a school tell me anything about the quality of the education at that school?

Absolutely not. Deciles are a funding mechanism only and in no way reflect the quality of the education delivered at that school.

Are there any other Implications of Deciles for us?

The major implication will be the amount of funding given to the school by the government.  As a general overview, more money per child will be provided to Decile 1 schools, than to Decile 10 schools.  As a result, you will often find that parents of children at higher decile schools will be asked to contribute more in terms of fees, donations, time and equipment.

How do I find out what decile rating my child/ren’s school has been given?

There are several ways you can find out the decile rating of the school your child attends or you intend for him/her to attend:

Related information: Check out our School Enrolment & Zoning article.

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Kylie Valentine is a qualified secondary school teacher, trained journalist, and the mum of two fabulous children.

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“In other words the decile rating a school is given relates to the economic and social factors of the community immediately surrounding it.”

This statement is misleading. It indicates that deciles are based on a geographical area surrounding the school. It is not the community immediately surrounding the school. It is the community from which the school actually draws students from. In other words, it is based on the socio-economic status of where the students actually live, irrespective of the geography of the school.


Rochelle Gribble

Thanks Tash – we’ve updated the wording of that 🙂


Hello! I’ve found your posts very informative and useful, thanks a lot. I’m (hopefully) moving to Hamilton, NZ from the Philippines and obviously, I had no clue as to how the educational system worked in NZ. Because here, I’m a graduating high school senior at sixteen years old and I won’t get to graduate because school ends in March but the term starts there in February, if I’m not mistaken. Honestly, I’m a bit worried about having to go back a few grades or whatnot if I move there. If I do get to move there, what year would I… Read more »

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Cheska, Great to hear that you found the articles useful! It’s hard to say for sure where you would be placed in a New Zealand school – you’d need to talk to the particular school about that. If you are 16 now, you would, mostly likely, be placed in Year 12 or 13 – depending on the level of the courses you studied in the Philippines. Gosh – asking what makes the education unique is a big question! The most significant thing for you will be NCEA. You can find out more about that here: http://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/articles/ncea/ I’m sure that… Read more »

prick the nic

Hi, without wanting to be nasty here or prejudiced but in general (and yes, some low decile schools will be different) judging from my experience there is much less advancement in terms of learning going on in low decile schools than in high decile schools which has nothing to do with the teachers but with the pupils and their parents and their attitude towards learning. I mean be honest, if I do not bother to give my child breakfast or a school lunch, how much attention will I give to homework or their learning progress?. For a start, there is… Read more »

Julie Nelson

Hi, thanks for explaining this so well. I find that there is a stigma to higher decile rating meaning better school. My son is at a 6 decile school and it is fantastic. I’ve had conversations with other parents who brag about the decile of their school being high all the time. I wish more people would read this. It is not something to ‘seek out’ when choosing a school. GOOD teachers are what we need more of and they can be found in any school. Get a good teacher and you’re on to a real winner. Thanks so much… Read more »

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Julie,

Thanks for that feedback – great to hear that you found it useful! I totally agree with your comments about decile ratings!

Kind regards,



my teacher said Queenspark School in Christchurch is in the top 10 in NZ but I havent seen
it anywhere


Hi, without wanting to be nasty here or prejudiced but in general (and yes, some low decile schools will be different) judging from my experience there is much less advancement in terms of learning going on in low decile schools than in high decile schools which has nothing to do with the teachers but with the pupils and their parents and their attitude towards learning. I mean be honest, if I do not bother to give my child breakfast or a school lunch, how much attention will I give to homework or their learning progress?. For a start, there is… Read more »

Christina Medlycott

some people don’t have the choice to give their children food, its not always a choice, and why should the children be the ones to suffer in that case of “parents not being bothered”???. and children see the way that we as adults are “grouped” from our own income earnings- and expect very little of themselves, if people treat them and their parents like dirt. Alot of these parents are hard working but just hardly meeting enough to make ends meet. Someone has to do their job, so maybe looking at how much us at adults earn and adjusting it… Read more »


Gosh I went to some very low decile schools and have a Masters degree with Distinction and an Honours degree in another subject. I am in the process of beginning a first piece of health based research for publication. Most of the teaching I experienced was good – both in low and high decile schools. Some of the not so great teaching was experienced in decile 10 schools. I know from experience that emotional and physical abuse, stealing and drugs occurs in all sorts of environments including that of middle class families and school environments. Not every low income parent… Read more »


I’m a mum and a relief teacher, I love teaching at low decile schools, there are so many amazing and dedicated teachers there, I always find inspiration. The kids are awesome, many of them love school so much because they crave learning and some of them don’t get it at home. A really different experience to high decile, but not one we should be afraid of. Embrace your community and enroll your kid locally. 

Rochelle Gribble

Thanks Lily- well said!!!! 


I would like more details to be included in the ERO review like how many of the children have been bullied or sexually abused. Teacher ratings etc. My daughter had a severe beating at school and this is not recorded in the stats. My son was sexually abused at the same school this also is not recorded. (swept under the table)  

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Agent, 

That’s awful! You can find out more about teacher registration from The Teachers Council: http://www.teacherscouncil.govt.nz/ This will at least tell you if a teacher is registered… You can always contact them if you have concerns about an individual teacher.

Kind regards, 



Thanks for a great article.  How often are decile ratings updated?  Is it following every census, or more frequently?

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Kylie, 

So glad to hear that you found the article useful 🙂 Thanks for the feedback! Decile ratings are recalculated yearly- you can find out more about this process here: http://www.minedu.govt.nz/NZEducation/EducationPolicies/Schools/SchoolOperations/Resourcing/ResourcingHandbook/Chapter1/DecileRatings.aspx#when 

Kind regards,



Hi, what is the effect on student achievement from attending a low decile school?

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Duncan,  There’s certainly not a line between achievement and the decile rating of schools- especially as decile ratings are a broad measure of the income of the families in the school and have nothing to do with the quality of teaching… I’ve looked for some research about this but can’t find anything… sorry!  If you’re thinking about schools for your child/ren, the best thing to do is talk to other parents in the community and find out what their experiences are. You can also check out the school’s ero report: http://www.ero.govt.nz There is also a new smart phone app… Read more »


My name is Liz and we are moving to Auckland in May of 2012.  Our daughter is 11 years old. Could you suggested a god school for her, please.  We’re moving from India.  Do you suggest we pick a school first and then find a house in that neighborhood ? any info will be much appreciated. Thanks.

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Liz,  I’m not sure how much you know about New Zealand schools but 11 is an in-between kind of age. Some schools primary schools go all the way from Year 1 – Year 8 (aprox 12-13 year old), whereas others only go to Year 6 (10-11 year olds) and the children then go to Intermediate School for two years. There are also some areas where there are ‘Middle Schools’ – Years 7-10 (11-15 year olds) and a few secondary schools that start at Year 7. All of which doesn’t help you very much, I know!  In terms of finding… Read more »


Thanks for responding to my query. I’m happy to report that we have found a school for our daughter. We have filled out the application and admission forms.  The school has also assured us a seat.  Now we’re just waiting for our Visas to get into NZ.  that’s going painstakingly slow.
Thanks again.


Rochelle Gribble

That’s great news, Liz! How did you go about finding a school? 

Hope all goes smoothly! 


Student at motueka high school

Hello 🙂 i am 13 and go to brooklyn school in motueka. It is such a lovely school and you get a true sense of belonging 🙂 motueka is beautiful and was rated the best town in New zealand. Its just minutes away from some of the worlds nicestbeaches, its clean and free of polition and litter and it is also really safe. I think your daughter would love motueka high school! Brooklyn is just 7minutes away from motueka.

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