26 Aug 2021

NCEA exam delays: Relief and frustration for students

6:16 pm on 26 August 2021

Some teenagers and principals are relieved the government has agreed to delay the start of NCEA and scholarship exams by two weeks.

High school students on their way home, teenagers.

Photo: 123RF

They say learning from home is no substitute for face-to-face lessons and postponing the exams will help young people prepare.

The Education Ministry has told schools that due to the disruption to learning caused by the level 4 lockdown, exams will begin on 22 November.

Students, spoken to by RNZ, agreed lockdown learning was not as good as being in a classroom with a teacher.

But they had differing views on the decision to postpone exams.

Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate head girl Ledwina Katuke said she was expecting the decision because the Qualifications Authority had done the same thing last year.

"I guess the decision is actually a great thing for our students because it gives us more preparation time. It's way more difficult to be preparing at home rather than at school because you don't get the face-to-face contact you would get with your teachers," she said.

Mike Wanoa, a 15-year-old from Ōtorohanga, also backed the postponement.

"I think it's going to be pretty helpful for other people if they are struggling with certain subjects," he said.

Ruby Smedley, a Year 12 student from Canterbury, said the lockdown had created stress and undermined her confidence ahead of exams.

Despite that, she did not support the delay.

"I feel like it won't make much of a difference and, I, amongst many of my friends, are angered and frustrated about this decision," she said.

She said she would prefer to have more study leave to focus on exams.

"I value my study leave because it is a time you can get together with classmates and have study sessions on one topic for a good amount of time instead of the one hour a day we get in class," she said.

"I know for myself I also have a summer job and have already put my hand up for work after I saw the timetable and when my last exams were. I will now have to go through the rosters with my boss and change everything now."

Ruby was not alone in her sentiments - a petition opposing the delayed start to exams had more than 12,000 signatures by 5pm on Thursday.

Whangaparaoa College principal Steve McCracken was last year one of the first to call for NCEA changes because of Auckland's lockdowns.

He said he was happy the Qualifications Authority had changed the exam dates this year.

"This is a really positive start in terms of allowing learners and the teaching staff as well to adapt and be flexible because nothing actually replaces that face-to-face contact time between teachers and students," he said.

McCracken said he was expecting the government would also have to make other changes, such as giving bonus credits, like it did last year.

"For Auckland itself, it's the third time we've been in lockdown this school year and it's taken a huge impact on the learners and teachers alike. I think there's a definite need for it to be considered quite strongly, but I think it also depends upon how long we're actually going stay at this alert level 4."

Auckland's Carmel College principal Chris Allen, said students were getting less contact time with their teachers during lockdown so the exam delay was helpful.

"This gives the students some certainty, they know now that they will have an opportunity later on to hopefully get back to school and do some more study before they have to sit the externals," she said.

She said she was expecting further changes to ensure the teenagers most affected by the lockdown are not disadvantaged.

"That would be very helpful and lowers the stress level and helps their anxiety levels," she said.

The Education Ministry has told schools it is working with a professional advisory group so it will be ready to introduce any extra changes to NCEA that might be needed.

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