End-of-year exams will start 10 days later than planned this year because of the disruption caused by Covid-19.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced that the start of National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) exams will be postponed from November 6 to November 16.
The last exam will now be on December 9 instead of December 2.
The submission date for subjects which require students to submit a portfolio, such as Design and Visual Communication, will be put back from October 28 to November 12.
A requirement for NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) verification of levels 1 and 2 visual arts portfolios will be waived, meaning students will have more time to complete their portfolios and teachers will have more time for marking.
"The wellbeing of students is a priority, and these changes recognise that disruption to learning and assessment may affect students' ability to attain NCEA," Hipkins said.
"The Ministry of Education and NZQA will also work with my NCEA Professional Advisory Group to consider how to address equity issues arising from the disruption.
"We need to ensure that students who reach the level of the graduate profile described in the NCEAs will be awarded their qualification this year without being adversely affected by disruption to their teaching and learning caused by Covid-19."
He has not, or at least not yet, taken up calls from some principals to reduce the credits required for NCEA this year because schools have been closed since March 25 except for online learning.
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"It's important to get the balance right," he said.
"Any further changes will need to be carefully considered, so the credibility and reputation of the qualification are maintained and allow those who leave school after this year to continue with tertiary study, vocational education or employment.
"This will need rigorous analysis, which can be done quickly, to ensure the confidence of the sector in the decisions that are made."
However Hipkins told journalists that NZQA was still consulting with Universities New Zealand on whether there should be changes to the requirements for University Entrance this year, in light of Covid-19's impact, and he is still considering other adjustments to NCEA.
"There are some other factors that we will consider, including whether there should be changes to University Entrance requirements and things like credits, but we have got to tread very carefully," he said.
"I don't want one cohort of school leavers to be seen to have a lesser qualification than another cohort. But I do acknowledge that there may need to be some flexibility in there to ensure that kids are not being disadvantaged."
He was "having a conversation with the universities about how we can best give them confidence that school leavers are ready for university study in an environment where the traditional University Entrance measures may not be achieved by everybody in the way that they normally would".
"I haven't made any commitment to make a change in that space, but I've said I would be open to having a conversation," he said.
He noted that the universities agreed to a "special credit inclusion" process for Christchurch students affected by the earthquakes in 2011 who narrowly missed achieving their level 3 NCEA and/or University Entrance.
"It's along those lines that we are having conversations with them again now," he said.
"I don't think this will be a long process, we'll do it very quickly, but it's got to be comprehensive at the same time, so that is going to take a week or two."
Secondary Principals Association president Deidre Shea welcomed both the delayed exams and the work on a special credit inclusion process.
"It will take a lot of stress off for students and for teachers and families, just knowing that that end point has been moved out a bit," she said.
"The minister is right to make sure he has all the facts at his disposal to make the right decision [on special credits]. It's great that he has signalled that really clearly today."
Hipkins said the ministry had been working to provide a range of learning resources and technology services to support senior secondary students amid the disruption.
"This includes distributing internet-enabled devices and hard copy NCEA learning resources, and facilitating internet connectivity to students without access to digital technologies at home," he said.
NZQA has also provided detailed guidance to support schools as they adapt to delivering valid distance teaching, learning and assessment amid the disruption.
• Level 2 rules: covid19.govt.nz.