Students sitting scholarship exams this year will need to stump up $30 per exam - a change that Labour says will put another hurdle before teenagers in poorer communities.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) recently published information that outlined the fees change.

Previously, students could sit up to three scholarship exams for free if they paid a $76 fee for NCEA exams. If they wanted to sit more than three, each extra exam cost $76
Now, there will be a $30 charge per scholarship subject.

New Zealand Scholarship gives recognition and monetary reward to top students in their last year of schooling.

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The changes were floated by NZQA in 2013 as a way to try and counter the large number of students who entered scholarship exams but never turned up.

NZQA divisional manager Kristine Kilkelly told the Herald that the fees change would enable the authority to better plan the necessary number of exam booklets, markers, and exam supervisors.

A financial assistance fund was available to help students take part in scholarship exams, Ms Kilkelly said.

"Those that are eligible for assistance, and are paying for one child sitting NCEA, can have their NCEA fee come down to as little as $20. If paying for two or more children, the fee to pay can come down to $30 per family.

"Students who are granted full financial assistance will continue to be entitled to free scholarship entries."

However, Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the new charges could put off students in low-decile schools putting their hand up for the exams.

"It just creates another hurdle for kids from poorer backgrounds and in lower socioeconomic areas. It also undermines the monetary value of the scholarships, because some of those scholarships you've got to do three subjects in them in order to be eligible.

"It is another barrier. And we should be looking to eliminate financial barriers to kids participating in these kind of things."

Secondary Principals' Association chairman Allan Vester, principal at Pakuranga's Edgewater College, said he did not think $30 was a major barrier, and was confident top students would be supported by their school if necessary.

"NZQA are correct - lots of student enter and then some/many don't turn up. There might well be a temptation to enter just in case you decide to give it a go and certainly Mum and Dad might be pleased with you for entering."

Mr Vester said he believed there were bigger issues with scholarship exams - including a big advantage to students who could be put in a special 'scholarship class' at their school.

"Staffing and time tabling is much easier in large higher-decile schools, as is staffing the extra scholarship sessions that help the candidates. That might well be a factor in the concentration of scholarships in a small number of schools," Mr Vester said.

"Schools might well argue that their success is attributable to the great programmes they run, but I don't think there is any question that economies of scale can assist.

"In schools with smaller numbers...staffing and timetable constraints make that much harder. Students may still get scholarship, but that would have to be an add-on to an existing timetable and involve teachers running most of the support in addition to the normal class."