One of New Zealand's largest secondary schools is considering introducing an overseas exam system because it lacks confidence in NCEA.
Avondale College - which has about 2600 students, making it the third largest in the country - is seeking parents' support for Cambridge International Exams as an alternative to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement.
At least five other state schools are also believed to be considering the British qualification, and the principal of one said some parents were threatening to withdraw their children if there was no alternative to NCEA.
Avondale principal Brent Lewis said the school's move was prompted by parent lobbying and dissatisfaction with NCEA.
He said the response was overwhelmingly in favour of Cambridge.
Last year's NCEA results were released on Wednesday, and the Government said they "highlighted the success of the NCEA system".
Education Minister Steve Maharey said last night to move towards adopting the Cambridge exams did not indicate a lack of confidence in NCEA.
Schools were able to offer international qualifications as long as they also offered NCEA.
But when asked if the move was prompted by a lack of confidence in NCEA, Mr Lewis said: "There are major concerns among myself, my staff and parents about what is happening and significant pressure from the community to do this.
"I have been lobbied for a while by quite a few parents to make this a pathway as well as NCEA."
Thirty-eight secondary schools now offer the Cambridge exams. They include 17 state schools, seven state-integrated schools and 14 private schools.
Another seven schools offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
About a quarter of the schools using the Cambridge exams are in Auckland.
Papatoetoe High School principal Peter Gall, who is also an executive member of the Secondary Principals' Association, said schools with only NCEA were under pressure from parents who threatened to withdraw their children in favour of a school offering other choices.
"I don't necessarily think it [Cambridge] is a very good qualification, but that does not mean I think NCEA is all wonderful and rosy," Mr Gall said.
Sacred Heart College is doing an academic review to look at how NCEA has bedded down and investigate other exam systems.
Mr Lewis said Avondale College was surveying 98 parents of Year nine students in the top three streamed classes.
Responses were still coming in, but of the 42 received, 38 supported the move.
"There are significant pros and cons with both. But NCEA is full of difficulties at the moment."
There was a high error rate in the grading of internally-assessed NCEA work and internally assessed work was being marked more highly than that externally assessed.
About 10 per cent of work set for internal assessment was not hard enough.
Mr Lewis said the final decision on whether to adopt Cambridge would be made by the end of this term or early next term.
If adopted, the new qualification would initially be available for 15 to 20 per cent of senior students.
Some schools use Cambridge only as a restricted option for a small number of students and in a small number of subjects.
But at schools such as Macleans College and Auckland Grammar, it has become the mainstream qualification, taken by about 60 per cent of senior students.
Cambridge Exam Schools
* Whangarei Boys' High
* Westlake Boys' High
* Westlake Girls' High
* Auckland Grammar
* Macleans College (Auckland)
* Hamilton Boys' High
* Hillcrest High (Hamilton)
* Rotorua Boys' High
* Western Heights High (Rotorua)
* Trident High School (Whakatane)
* Whakatane High
* Gisborne Boys' High
* Napier Boys' High
* Hastings Boys' High
* Palmerston North Boys' High
* Wellington College
* Christchurch Boys' High