Our Socioeconomic contexts

Marlborough Boys College is a decile 6 school.  In terms of family or community economics Blenheim is a very mixed region with a broad economic continuum.  We have students that in larger urban areas would live in areas with low socioeconomic demographics.  We have the opposite extreme and all other levels of income in between. An average decile rating in an area that contains all deciles from 1 to 10 would be 5.5.  If we round that up you get MBC.  Decile 6

Decile is purely an indicator of average income and is one of three factors that the American Psychological Association (APA) use to define the term ‘socioeconomic’.  They state that the socioeconomic status of a family is “a combination of education, income and occupation” (APA, 2016).


The NZ Index of Multiple Deprivation was put together by Dr Daniel John Exeter, Dr Jinfeng Zhao, Dr Sue Crengle, Dr Arier Chi Lun Lee and Michael Browne and is based at the University of Auckland.  http://nihiviewprd01.its.auckland.ac.nz/NZIMD_Double/atlas.html

Using 2013 census data and Geographic Visualisations/GIS we can gain a rough idea of the levels of education for our region and therefore the families our students come from.

map education.png

The data shown on this choropleth map represents:

  • School leavers <17 years old
  • School leavers without NCEA level 2
  • School leavers not enrolling in tertiary study
  • Working age people without qualifications
  • Youth not in training or employment

Urban Benheim shows up as having significant deprivation data.  Meanwhile rural areas in the Wairau Valley show less deprivation.  Further evidence of our diversity.


Using the StatsNZ  2013 census data set Marlborough’s we see further evidence of our bredth of student background.

chart occupation.png

Managers and Labourers make up roughly one third of the chart between them which typifies the wide spread that exists in our regional job market.

Overall MBC has a very wide range of student and community expectations, requirements and success trajectories.

In 2016 of our 251 senior students who left the college 60 went on to attend university or Polytech.  117 entered the workforce either in fulltime employment or an apprenticeship.  We have no data on a further 48 leavers.

Those who entered employment took a wide range of roles.  The pie chart below shows the numbers and the roles they took up.

chart leavers

In order to cater to this wide range of students the school must operate a very broad subject base.  This is particularly true of our Level 2 courses which range from traditional subjects such as Geography and English to more wide ranging courses such as Viticulture and Furniture Making.

The result is a tight timetable that can be painful and inflexible to operate under with frequent clashes of student timetables. Over the years we have developed a wide range of courses that focus on differing contexts and content to meet the needs of our students.  Stoll (1998) presents the importance of understanding school culture when moving towards school improvement.  As we move closer to the building of our new school it is timely for us to reconnect with our community and spend more time thinking about who we teach, why we teach them and how we teach as opposed to what we teach.

“In order for integrated, constructivist education to evolve, we believe that educators must accept the challenge to remain open to emergent, validated approaches that can be integrated into an effective pedagogical repertoire”  Harris, K. R., & Alexander, P. A. (1998). Integrated, constructivist education: Challenge and reality. Educational Psychology Review10(2), 115-127.

A less siloed stance with a focus on a mix of constructivist, constructionist and traditional approaches could, ultimately, meet the needs of all our diverse learners.


APA. (2016). Education and Socioeconomic Status.

Exeter, D. J., Zhao, J., Browne, M., & Lee, A. C. (2016). Towards a new Index of Multiple Area‐Level Deprivation for Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand Geographer72(2), 92-106.

Harris, K. R., & Alexander, P. A. (1998). Integrated, constructivist education: Challenge and reality. Educational Psychology Review10(2), 115-127.

Sinek, S. (2009). How great leaders inspire action. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talk at TEDxPuget Sound, WA.

Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London.


8 thoughts on “Our Socioeconomic contexts

  1. Hi Chris,

    Some great statistics presented. I’m curious to know, with only 24% of your students moving onto university subjects, what percent of your senior course subjects are still weighted towards university entrance and academic achievement?

    It seems to me that in education we need to stop favouring the hierarchical place of the traditional academic subjects as we are not catering for the majority of our students. I believe that our traditional mindsets and NCEA are quite unyielding to changes and we need to be more flexible, both within our timetables and with the subjects that we offer/focus on.

    A more truncated academic syllabus could possibly make room for passion projects and trades based courses.

    What are your thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    • A Good point. I would suggest that a great deal of what we do is still based on what is measured/measurable. We have the same 85% level 2 pass requirement as everyone else and we pour a lot of energy into NCEA success. I think our biggest issue in this regard is that we have a range of successes. But the only one that can be found in our professional reporting structures is ‘academic outcomes’. NCEA pass rates, NCEA endoresments, NCEA based prizegiving etc. How do we celebrate other successes? How do we create a climate where those employment or apprenticeship successes carry the same weight. Short answer……..I don’t know……..yet.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Chris, what a presentation on data. I have learnt few new statistics about our local community. I will use it when we will try to alter junior science as it might shape our values and visions. I like the comment from Thomas. I am Physics teacher at this school and our course is promoting the university entrance credits. However, over the past 2 years, we have been shifting towards the students’ interest and will be introducing different topics.


  2. hi Chris

    Your detailed report suggests real tension in the school’s purpose and the needs of the community.
    Years ago we chatted and you said you thought is was dumb that school is basically a 5 year university entrance test…. dumb because so few attend uni and because so many are therefore marginalised and knocked down in an education that is supposed to support them.
    Are our new thoughts causing any change to the system?
    Are we in positions of responsibility to cause change?
    What would happen if local iwi, business leaders and community reps could influence the timetable, syllabus and curriculum?
    Are these community groups not already represented in your school’s Board of Trustees?
    If not, why not?! (In my experience, some BoTs are homogenous clans of lawyers)
    Are the BoT allowed to suggest/discuss community needs for the timetable, syllabus and curriculum?
    Would we be terrified of their ideas?


    • We definately have a voice for change and I feel that we need to exercise that voice. But can we make people listen and follow. As always there are early adopters and laggards. We are early adopters by nature of being on the course/journey we are on. Can we develop our own early adopters as a follow up?


  3. Hi Chirs
    Having a great range of students from a diverse range of socio economic backgrounds, what are the challenges in your day to day classes? Do different students need different motivators? Does poverty in the form of student going without lunch an issue? Do you believe that this diverse backgrounds contributes to the 24% leaving for university?


    • Our big challenge is meeting all their needs and findng ways to celebrate successes that are not necessarily NCEA related. I do think it contributes to our university stats but that is also a measure of geographic isolation. We do have a local further education institution but it has a much more limited number of courses than could be found in a major city. The cost of travel and accommodation at a Uni out of town is a bigger barrier than we possibly perceive.


  4. Pingback: Building a culture of success – Radka McKendry

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