Good? Bad? Perception? Fact?



“I want to send my child to a good school.” This is a phrase often used by parents when looking at education for their children. Some of my family and friends are at that stage where their children are ready to start school.  As I am studying to be a teacher, they ask for my opinion. What I ask them is, what makes a good school? What do you want your child exposed to in order to receive a good education? “Good question” was their reply, then a massive variety of things followed. Online research, personal experiences, family traditions, conversations with other parents and decile ranking were just some of the topics discussed.

The conversations with parents and teachers, we considered questions such as;

  • What do you think the decile system is in place for, and what does it measure?
  • Are you worried about the other students that go to that school?
  • What was school like for you and how long ago were you in school?
  • Should you believe everything you hear?

It was interesting to see the difference in the way each person answered. We looked at schools being good or bad. I shared my experiences working in public schools both high and low decile, as well as a private school. I spoke about my experience going back into the school I attended all my life and the expectations I had, that were not met and how much it had changed since I was there. Finally, the decile system and the fact that because of social construction, public and low decile schools are perceived to be lesser in reputation.  People often perceive that a low decile school is not very good and that a high decile school is better. Because of this perception, people share their thoughts and this spreads through word of mouth.

I provide the correct information that the deciles are as on the education govt page, “a measure of the socio-economic position of a school’s student community, relative to other schools throughout the country.” I also let them know that it is used for funding purposes and to help overcome the barriers low socio economic families might face. The lower the decile the more funding the school receives.

We need to be careful when labelling schools, as these positive and negative words travel not only to parents and teachers, but to students. This can be detrimental, as students are already going through a crucial time in their development, where people’s impressions and words hurt. By labelling the school, this may re-affirm feelings going on personally. Intermediate is already a nerve racking time. When they are sent to a college, students, voice what they have heard through home or otherwise. They can make students feel second best as thoughts about the different schools are discussed or shared.

Anything being judged as bad or good, is mainly to do with perception. Most parents stated that they “based their judgments about the school quality primarily on information from individuals in their social networks… They passed around the opinions of other parents about the quality of particular schools, that is, whether the school was considered generally good or bad, by a number of high-status parents.” (Holme,2002.) Many of the judgements that arise about schools are from conversations between parents or reviews. Reputation plays a huge role in labelling a good or bad school. What is right for one student, may not be right for another. Throughout time schools change curriculum wise and generation wise.


“We are complicit in their social power.  And we also have the power to disrupt and change them.” – Jennifer Jellison Holme. (2002)





Holme. J., (2002). Buying Homes, Buying Schools: School Choice and the Social Construction of School Quality. Harvard Educational Review Vol. 72 No. 2 Summer 2002.


The social construction of school quality, (n.d.). Buying Homes, Buying Schools: School Choice and the Social Construction of School Quality. Retrieved from, 

5-19 years, (2018) School Deciles. Retrieved from, 


4 thoughts on “Good? Bad? Perception? Fact?

  1. Hi Lori,

    What a lovely read for a Saturday afternoon. You dot the i’s and cross the t’s of so many points and even take into consideration the viewpoint of students (to which myself and others I have read have failed to so) which is not only paramount but also refreshing.

    You have highlighted the prominent reason for the judgement of a ‘good or bad’ school; the publics misunderstanding/the misrepresentation of the decile system.

    Personally, you mention important points when discussing aspects to consider escpecially with respect to whether or not a certain school will be right for the individual. I am currently having this discussion with my mother regarding my siblings. To be fair I have suggested four different schools to her which would split all of my siblings up. I based this on them as individuals and how I feel they will fit into the suggested schools. For example one has a behaviour problem so I suggested a school that would work with him and not against him,also another is sporty so mentioned a school out of town in which he can board at yet highlighted the impact being so far from home can have yet it seemed better for him as opposed to a sporty school here in Auckland (not because of the school per say) but more so because he as an individual doesn’t have the tools needed to succeed in a big school.

    What do you think is the first step to changing this misrepresentation of decile ratings? Do as your friends/family are currently doing in asking someone in the know? research yourself? what if you don’t know a teacher etc?

    Thanks again for the read bud

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks glad you enjoyed! I think open days and even possible interviews with schools allowing not only the parents but the kids to go along to get a feel for the environment would be a good first step. The internet can be a wormhole but get yourself sucked in and put the time in to do the research rather than taking things for face value and look at the kids interest and talents as some schools are well known for having an amazing since unit or performing arts department. Just a few thoughts there hope they are helpful!!


  2. Hi Lori, the decile system really is a strange creature, right?

    I had never actually read any official take on the decile system before so your post was an interesting read. Obviously there is more to what makes a good school than just the decile ranking, as you indicate, but I feel like we can do something about the decile system. It’s like a tangible sociological experiment that we can actually measure and see whether it works as intended.

    I’m not sure it really does function as intended when you think about it. For example, even though low decile schools supposedly receive more government funding, my practicum experience of a Decile 10 school versus a Decile 3 school… they’re poles apart. The decile 3 kids were lucky to have functioning microscopes in their labs. Most didn’t have access to textbooks!

    It just makes me think that parents are going to continue to push kids into higher decile schools wherever possible because of this which kinda makes the low decile curse a self-fulfilling prophesy. The poorer schools get poorer as people give more praise and attention to the higher decile ones. Ugh.

    What do you think? Is there anything we can do about that vicious cycle?



    1. That is too true! It does seem to be a self-fulfilling prophecy! Yet these types of things never get addressed in the New Zealand government. I believe they try to patch up the holes instead of going to the root of the problem as for how to correct it…. I’m definitely not qualified for that! Although if they need other viewpoints on the matter they should come into our class!
      Thanks Iain!!


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