A school principal wants Auckland students to get an extra four bonus credits in this year's national exams because of the extended regional Covid-19 lockdown.
Auckland Secondary Schools Principals' Association president Steve Hargreaves said an extra four credits for the latest 13-day Auckland shutdown would be proportionate to an extra 10 credits granted to all NZ students after the first lockdown which cost students 30 school days.
His call came as South Auckland's Botany Downs Secondary College agreed to defer senior school exams after a petition signed by more than 500 students.
Hargreaves' school, Macleans College, has also moved internal school exams for its National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) students from the week starting September 7 to the first week of term four starting on October 12 because of the latest lockdown.
But he said school exams would still go ahead on September 7 for the half of Macleans' senior students who do Cambridge International exams, which run from October 1 to November 18.
He said Auckland principals had been discussing possible compensation for Auckland NCEA students since the region was placed under alert level 3 restrictions from August 12, but decided to push for the extra four credits only after Cabinet decided yesterdayto extend the restrictions until next Sunday August 30.
"This has just tipped us over the tipping point," he said. "It feels like more has been added on and therefore what else do we need to do to support our students?"
The NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) agreed in June to give all NCEA students one extra credit for every five credits they achieve this year, up to a maximum of 10 credits in NCEA Level 1 and eight credits at Levels 2 and 3.
Hargreaves said Auckland secondary principals would hold a Zoom meeting tomorrow to finalise a proposal, but he felt that "on a pro-rata basis" Auckland NCEA students should now get up to an additional four bonus credits.
"We are going to make an appeal to NZQA for that, or for other mechanisms that we know that a group is working on within NZQA," he said.
He said the other mechanisms could be around the evidence students have to submit or "maybe some adjustment of other work that they have done that we could use to award credits".
Botany Downs had also been due to start its school exams on Monday September 7, but a petition, signed by 529 students by 1.30pm today, asked for the exams to be cancelled or postponed to "ensure that there is a minimum of three weeks classroom time prior to the first exam".
If schools reopen next Monday as planned, that would mean postponing the exams until at least September 21, the last week of this term.
College principal Karen Brinsden said the timing of exams would now change.
She told parents last night: "Based on today's announcement we are now able to finalise a new timeline for the senior school examinations.
"I am disappointed to learn that a student or group of students have started a change.org petition entitled 'BDSC Cancel or Postpone the Upcoming School Exams'," she told parents.
"In my Parent/Student Update dated August 19, I stated that we had some flexibility to move the school exams back depending on how long we were going to be kept in Alert Level 3.
"Now that we have definite dates from the Government, we are now able to progress these plans. We will have a revised senior school exam schedule available on Wednesday of this week."
The Botany Downs students, who posted their petition anonymously, said they were "severely disadvantaged in comparison with previous years and lately compared with the rest of the country" because of Auckland's two Covid-19 lockdowns that will have totalled eight weeks and three days - almost the equivalent of a 10-week school term.
"A significant proportion of senior students are struggling to be in the right state of mind to be able to study or prepare for their exams," they said.
"We have lost almost a term's worth of in-school learning. We have been left to learn much of the content on our own, with little help from online learning.
"Ironically a number of important internals that are currently being worked on are due during the mock exam period. How are students meant to complete multiple internals during this time as well as study for school exams that may, in the end, determine final NCEA grades - it is an unreasonable burden to put on students."
They said isolation "elevates stress and anxiety levels, and the importance of our final year school exams increases this stress significantly".
"Not all students have optimal spaces to remotely learn without distraction, whether it is due to having to share rooms with other siblings also trying to do school work or others locked down in the house," they said.
"Remote learning is not the same as classroom study and many things have diminished its effectiveness. From device and access capabilities through to insufficient wi-fi/internet capacity."
Their parents were also under "enormous pressure".
"The distinct possibility of job loss in households as a result of yet another lockdown makes this school year unlike any before it," the students said.
"This has had a tremendous impact on our overall mental wellbeing and ability to keep finding the motivation to learn, study and prepare for the upcoming exams."
However, Brinsden said the college had given students "strong wraparound support".
"Our teachers continue to collect valid, standard-specific evidence for internal assessment, derived grades or Unexpected Event Grades in the event that the external NCEA exams are disrupted," she said.
"This evidence along with topic tests is gathered from school exams in an authentic exam setting.
"Despite disruption, learning has continued for all students. The vast majority of our students have access to digital technologies and have used these to good effect. Teachers have worked very hard to upskill in a range of digital platforms to provide the very best learning opportunities for our students.
"Exposure to an authentic assessment setting is critical to ensure students test their understanding of key skills and concepts before entering high stakes external assessment."
She said some courses have reduced the number of assessments, moved assessment deadlines, shifted units of work to better suit online learning during lockdown and modified pre-requisites for 2021 courses.
The college is one of 45 Auckland schools that took up an option approved by the Government last week to bring some Years 12 and 13 students back to school in alert level 3.
Brinsden said this was initially for small groups "to access specialist machinery and tools to progress their practical related assessments", but she was now "looking at making a further application with alert level 3 now being extended".
Secondary Principals' Association national president Deidre Shea said most other schools were not planning exams as early as Botany Downs. Her own school, Onehunga High School, still has "a lot more time" before exams, but others might have earlier timetables.
"We all do things slightly differently so there may well be other schools in that situation," she said.
"I think all schools are trying to be mindful of the time that students have been away from school and will be looking to adjust what they can."
The NZ Qualifications Authority is offering practice exams over four weeks from this coming Monday, August 31, for schools that are doing NCEA exams online for the first time this year.
Its deputy chief executive Kristine Kilkelly said on Friday that "at this stage the plan is to proceed as normal".
She said today that NZQA "already has some mechanisms in place to ensure that students are not disadvantaged due to the disruption caused by Covid-19".
"If any more changes are needed, we'll work with the sector to make sure students will have a fair opportunity to achieve NCEA, while also protecting the integrity of the qualification."