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Helsinki links school funding to student family backgrounds

Under the new criteria, 49 Finnish-language schools and seven Swedish-language schools would receive the support.

According to an Yle report, family income levels affect students' learning outcomes in comprehensive schools across Helsinki. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Helsinki is planning to change the criteria under which its schools receive means-tested support.

Rather than relying on the general situation of a school district, the new criteria will gather and use school-specific data on the parents or guardians of the students. Funds are to be allocated to schools whose pupils' families have high unemployment rates, low incomes, low educational attainment or speak minority languages.

This comes in an effort to narrow the gap between schools in terms of learning outcomes, as the city aims to ensure that all pupils reach a certain level of competence.

According to a June report by Yle, family income levels affected students' learning outcomes in comprehensive schools across Helsinki: the lower the parents' education level and the smaller their monthly income, the lower the average score of the pupil in ninth grade.

Under the city's new funding model, both primary and secondary schools will be assigned a needs-based index. The index is determined using criteria related to the socio-economic background of pupils and their guardians.

As a result, support would be provided to 49 Finnish languages schools and seven teaching in Swedish.

Helsinki's Education Committee approved the new model at its meeting on Tuesday. The new index and the funding based on it will be introduced next August.

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