I was recently buying a new book called ‘Becoming an innovative learning environment: The making of a New Zealand secondary school’ by Dr. Noeline Wright from Waikato University here in New Zealand. (Availablefrom https://www.springer.com/us/book/9789811307638  

During my research, I came ac cross the below blog post from Maurie Abraham, principal of Hobnsonville Point Secondary School – the focus of the book I was looking to purchase.

It’s absolutely in line with my own viewpoint and along the same lines as a number of others I have been speaking with -captured succinctly and with an ease of understanding – so here it is for you to consider too. Well worth a read.

NCEA Review – Let’s have one qualification – not 3.

Like a lot of education people I’ve thought deeply about the opportunity we have had to contribute to the review of NCEA. I have included in this post the submission I ended up making.

NCEA Submission

I submit that NCEA needs to be looked at as a single qualification, not three, which has three levels of attainment. I also submit that we have to move away from looking at NCEA qualifications as calendar year events that have to be achieved within the calendar year of Years 11, 12 and 13.

This can be achieved by thinking of Years 11, 12 and 13 as a 2 or 3 year journey to a quality qualification. For some this will be the equivalent of the current L3 and for some the equivalent of the current L2. I submit that results should only be uploaded at the point of leaving secondary schooling and mid year in Year 13 (for those still at school if universities still require to use our qualification for entry).

  • A person leaving school mid-year 12 would have their results submitted at that point and the level of qualification achieved awarded.
  • This would be the same for any student leaving during Year 13.
  • All students enrolled in Year 13 would have their results submitted at a point in the year required by universities for pre-enrolment and then on completion of their Year 13 year.

This breaks the calendar-year mindset and prevents the creation and publishing of calendar year, qualification level league tables. The only league tables that could be produced would be in relation to qualifications gained by all leavers in any one year.

This raises the question of what to provide for those who leave school before achieving the equivalent of the current L2. These students typically move into further training or employment. These students should graduate with a personal Statement of Capabilities which provides a summary of evidence of important capabilities. These capabilities would emerge from exploring the ‘soft skills’ from the front of the New Zealand Curriculum and be informed by input from the employer community. A template to be used by all schools across the country could easily be created with guidelines on how to summarise the evidence for each element. Students would collate the evidence over their total secondary school journey and have it finalised on graduation. Such a ‘document’ would be beneficial for all graduates, but for the 10 – 15% who currently leave without L2 it would have even more value and definitely more value than a completed or partially completed L1.

I also submit that it is important not to require the achievement of any literacy and numeracy requirement (either foundation or academic) in a single calendar year. Students should be free to collect the evidence of their level of literacy and numeracy throughout their qualification journey, however long that may be. As well, there should be no exclusions between Unit and Achievement Standards for the achievement of Literacy and Numeracy – eg students should be able to achieve the literacy requirements with a combination of Unit and Achievement Standards.

Rather than making project-based learning a compulsory requirement I submit that there be created a suite of standards (inquiry, collaborative problem-solving, communication etc) that could be used in a cross-curricula, authentic project for those schools who are well-placed to use such an approach. Digital, cultural and financial literacies could be incorporated in such a suite of standards.

I submit that subject endorsement be removed as it supports the siloisation of Learning Areas. The endorsement of qualifications at Merit or Excellence is sufficient to acknowledge deeper levels of learning and higher achievement.

I submit that all state schools should have to provide access for all students to NCEA and that for those schools who do not to be considered not as state schools and have their funding affected accordingly. State schools should not be allowed to opt out of providing our national qualification.

Further Discussion

I think there is much value in moving to one qualification to be awarded on graduation which is the point at which results would be uploaded to NZQA (obviously they will already have records of any externals).

The single qualification could have a range of levels of endorsement which would reflect the level of the NZC at which the learning is evidenced. Such a mechanism would recognise student performance at Levels 7 and 8 (+) and also incorporate the concepts of Merit and Excellence as the present system does.

Schools, obviously, would be tracking learners’ achievements as they do now for Years 9 and 10 learners and would be required to report such information to parents and BOT. By not reporting qualification assessments to NZQA until graduation then we move away from the “league tables” issue where schools and communities freak out about how their school will rank against other schools in relation to how their 15 year olds were going, a full 2 years before they graduate! I know for a fact that some of my colleagues show reluctance to bring about teaching, learning and assessment changes in their schools which they know will benefit deeper learning and reduce student stress and teacher workload simply because of league tables. That tail should definitely not be wagging the dog.

I also think there is huge value in creating a national “Statement of Capabilities” (needs another name) for each learner. This will enable schools to embrace the powerful dispositions, principles and values from the front end of the NZC.

Interested in any thoughts.

Mauri Abraham

Principal of Hobsonville Point Secondary School

You can find the article and  share your thoughts on Mauries blog here: http://principalpossum.blogspot.com/2018/10/ncea-review-lets-have-one-qualification.html – .