Ministry of Education officials and Auckland Grammar will today discuss the school's decision to offer Cambridge examinations instead of the national qualification, NCEA, this year.

The school has been criticised for the move, which will mean the majority of its Year 11 students will sit Cambridge International Examinations this year.

NCEA, which is largely an internally assessed qualification, will still be offered to about 10 per cent of the Year 11 students - mainly those struggling in maths and English.

Questions have been raised about whether it is legal for Auckland Grammar to effectively ditch New Zealand's main qualification system, and there have been calls for Education Minister Anne Tolley to step in.

PPTA president Kate Gainsford has gone as far as to write to the minister urging her to publicly criticise Grammar and order the school to use NCEA and, if it refuses, sack the board of trustees.

Labour's associate education spokesman, Kelvin Davis, has gone a step further, calling for Ms Tolley to be sacked for remaining quiet on the topic for so long.

He said the country could not have a minister who was "ambivalent about such an important issue", especially given she was so outspoken last year about the repercussions for primary schools that refused to implement national standards.

"She should be coming out in full support of NCEA ... She's got to make a stand one way or the other."

Last night the minister told the Herald NCEA was a world-class system she had "absolute confidence in".

She said schools were accountable to their parents and she hoped Grammar had thoroughly consulted parents.

"This is one secondary school out of nearly 500 throughout the country and I'm advised that Auckland Grammar is still offering NCEA to students and parents."

But, when asked if that meant she would not be taking action against the board as the PPTA had suggested, her spokesman said she would not make any further comments.

She also referred questions about the legality of the school's actions back to the ministry.

The ministry's principal adviser, Kevin Wilson, said the Education Act gave schools the flexibility to provide other qualifications alongside NCEA if they wanted to.

He said a meeting would be held with the school today to discuss its plans, but implied the school was keeping within the law.

"Schools are entitled to offer a mix of qualifications and Auckland Grammar has said it is still offering NCEA."

Grammar's headmaster, John Morris, has also hit back, yesterday writing to Ms Gainsford, whom he describes as being "really out of line".

"She's trying to dictate here to the Minister of Education what she should do and she's also trying to dictate to every school what they should do.

"That's not the PPTA's role, particularly as we are not doing anything illegal.

"We are still offering NCEA. We have done it successfully for 10 years; the only difference is more boys will be doing Cambridge than in previous years but we are still offering both qualifications."

Mr Morris said about 60 per cent of Year 11 students had done Cambridge examinations in the past but that would increase to about 90 per cent this year.

He said end of term reports showed that Cambridge students were generally doing better than their NCEA colleagues.

The school had received enormous support from its board, staff and the majority of parents, who were told of the decision last April.


* Jeff Blackburn - chairman
* Grant Helsby
* Phillipa Muir
* David Hay
* Martin Poulsen
* Simon Longuet-Higgins
* Warren Lincoln - staff representative