9 Sep 2020

Auckland secondary school principals say NCEA changes 'a sense of relief'

7:07 am on 9 September 2020

Auckland secondary school principals are confident changes to the NCEA will ease the stress on their students.

Auckland high school students. file image.

One Auckland high school principal says the second lockdown was harder on students than the first, and it's been difficult for them to return to learning. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

They say the government's decision to increase the number of bonus credits available to the city's teenagers would reduce the number of assessments they needed to complete before the end of the year.

But they warned that schools would still have to teach their students the full curriculum so that they were prepared for 2021.

The NCEA changes for Auckland built on changes announced earlier in the year to offset the loss of learning caused by the national lockdown.

The original changes created "learning recognition credits" allocated at a rate of one credit for every five credits that students achieved up to a maximum of 10 at level 1 and eight at levels 2-3.

Auckland students would be able to earn the bonus credits at a rate of one credit for every four achieved up to a maximum of 16 at level 1 and 12 at levels 2-3.

The threshold for achieving merit or excellence endorsements had been lowered from the usual 50 credits to 44 credits for Auckland students and 46 credits for other students.

The government also lifted the cap on the number of places available in the Correspondence School's summer school from 1000 students to 4000 for students who ended the year up to 10 credits short of the number needed to get their NCEA certificate.

Secondary Principals' Association president and Onehunga High School principal Deidre Shea, said she had spoken to students about the changes and their first reaction was relief.

Deidre Shea is the principal of Onehunga High School and the president of the Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand.

Deidre Shea is the principal of Onehunga High School and the president of the Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand. Photo: supplied

She said the changes were fair for students who had 13 days less classroom time than their peers elsewhere in the country.

"These students have not had the same deal as students in other years."

The government had simply extended its previous changes in proportion to the amount of classroom time that Auckland students had lost, Shea said.

"Students have to earn credits in order to earn a top up basically and it's a proportional top up to the amount of learning time that's been taken away from them through no fault of their own.

"What this will provide for all students is a sense of relief.

"It's a time when students are stressed particularly because things beyond their control have impacted their learning programme this year."

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault said the NCEA changes were needed because Auckland's second lockdown seemed to have a bigger impact on students than the first national lockdown.

He said students had lost motivation and it had been harder to encourage them back into learning.

"It's been more difficult to return from."

Couillault said the changes would ease the pressure on students.

"So the anxiety can drop a bit and they can engage with learning more," he said.

Massey High School principal Glen Denham said he was delighted with the changes.

"People have to understand that actually the 13 days that we've lost, two-and-a-half weeks, was at a time when kids are really drilling down into subject knowledge," he said.

Denham said the additional learning recognition credits for Auckland students would be a relief for many students and their families.

He said teachers and students had risen to the challenge posed by the pandemic but they would all benefit from knowing they would get extra credits.

Ōtāhuhu College principal Neil Watson said schools still had to find time to teach their students the full year's curriculum, even if they were not assessed on all of it.

He said the changes to the NCEA simply changed the measurement system.

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