News clipping – The Mercury – 28 April 2011

Quintile system to be dumped - New school fees plan next year

The Government is set to abandon the problematic quintile system that determines the allocation of funding to schools, and by this time next year will replace it with a simpler system based on two categories – fee-paying and non-fee-paying schools.

Currently schools are divided into five categories, or quintiles, which are used to determine whether they may charge fees. The quintiles are also used to differentiate the funding allocated to schools in a pro-poor manner.

But many principals and teachers complained that they were ranked incorrectly and that parents of pupils at their schools could not afford to pay fees. This led to schools not having enough money to function effectively.

The Basic Education Department undertook two years ago to review the quintile system, which was introduced in 2006. The review had been expected to be completed at the end of March. Although the review had not yet been completed, the department aimed to implement the new system by April 2012, said spokesman Granville Whittle.

From then, schools should be divided into just two funding allocation categories – fee-paying and no-fee. About R1 billion would be allocated to the two categories, with the majority going to the poorer schools, Whittle said.

About 60 percent of schools across the country are classified as no-fee schools. The department plans to increase this to 80 percent with the new system.
“Research and consultation on alternative mechanisms have not been concluded. The envisaged changes have budgetary implications and implementation is dependent on available funding. As soon as the research is concluded, a report will be presented to the council of education ministers and it will then be published for public comment. We are not yet certain how soon this will happen.”

Whittle said it was planned that the two categories would be implemented, subject to the availability of funds, by April next year. It had been proposed that all no-fee schools would be allocated a per pupil amount comparable to the current quintile 1 per pupil amount.

The national quintile amounts per pupil this year are: Q1 = R960; Q2 = R880; Q3 = R720; Q4 = R480; Q5 = R165. The quintile or poverty score of a school is based on the poverty level of the community where it is located. It is calculated using census data of income per household, unemployment rates and education levels of surrounding communities.

Whittle said schools would be able to be classified as fee-paying rather than no-fee schools. Fee-paying schools that disagreed with their classification would be able to appeal to the department.

In 2008, six KwaZulu-Natal schools launched a challenge against the policy in the Durban High Court. They asked the court to allocate sufficient money to address the specific level of poverty in each school to ensure their smooth running. They also argued that allocations were flawed and had no “rational” connection to the poverty of pupils.

The KZN Parents’ Association also called for the system to be re-examined. DA basic education spokesman James Wilmot said a new model would be “most welcome”, as long as it was practical and not ideological.

Mahendra Chetty, director of the Legal Resources Centre in Durban, which has represented several schools in their battles with the department over alleged unfair rankings, said schools serving poor communities had been most affected. He said the system was based on the infrastructure and economic status of the community surrounding a school, but often ignored, for example, the fact that many pupils came from an informal settlement nearby.

By: Michelle Jones and Tania Broughton