Senior school qualification requirements won't be reduced despite the Covid-19 restrictions on classroom teaching.
NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) chief executive Dr Grant Klinkum has rejected calls from several school principals for a one-off reduction in the credits required for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).
Kaipara College principal Steve McCracken wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern proposing that NCEA level 1 should be abandoned for this year and that the requirements for levels 2 and 3 should be reduced by 20 credits because of the pandemic.
"What we were hearing is that there is a severe increase in stress and anxiety around NCEA and what that is going to mean for them post-secondary school," he said.
"The students are really concerned about their ability to receive a quality education, rather than teaching to assessments and being forced to just tick the box."
Aorere College principal Greg Pierce said students in lower-income families would be particularly disadvantaged by the physical closure of schools during the lockdown
because many lacked the quiet spaces, computers and Wi-Fi required to learn effectively at home.
All schools have been physically closed since March 26 under level 4 of the coronavirus alert system.
Schools are expected to reopen for some students up to Year 10 when the country moves down to alert level 3, but all NCEA students in Years 11 to 13 will have to keep learning at home until the alert level drops to level 2.
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Klinkum said NZQA was providing advice and support to schools "to develop effective plans for NCEA assessment during the Covid-19 lockdown".
"NCEA is a flexible qualification, with no prerequisites to entry at any level," he said.
"Students may be assessed against fewer standards than planned for in a normal school year, and still meet the requirements for NCEA.
"NCEA also allows schools to maintain valid and credible assessment outcomes by changing the ways they gather and record evidence of learning.
"There are no plans to reduce the number of credits in the qualification."
He said schools "are able to make decisions about how to reduce the assessment load without compromising curriculum and programme integrity, or their students' ability to gain qualifications".
"NZQA is using its regular channels to keep in close contact with schools and, alongside the Ministry of Education, will be closely monitoring schools and assessment results to identify emerging issues to help ensure that any specific students, schools, or regions that need further support can receive it," Klinkum said.
"NZQA has well established processes to mitigate the effects of unexpected events on a student's ability to be fairly assessed and will draw upon these where and when it is appropriate.
"For example, NZQA and the ministry are assisting schools and wharekura to develop effective plans to manage internal assessment through distance learning, and generate grades derived from learning programmes, should attendance at school practice examinations be disrupted.
"Schools will make their own decisions about their teaching and learning programmes and we will support them to manage their students' assessment requirements. We will also be reviewing the key dates schedule to ensure they remain workable for schools.
"NZQA is working with closely with the Ministry of Education to minimise the impact of these disruptions on students leaving schooling at the end of 2020."
Kaipara College has told its NCEA students that they should not focus on assessments in the meantime.
"The Prime Minister's directive that all Year 11 to 13 students are to remain at home and continue with online learning will likely have raised further questions for you about NCEA assessments and what long-term effect this might have on your ability to earn your qualification this year," the college said on its Facebook page.
"You may be feeling very stressed about this. This is completely understandable and normal in these circumstances."
The college said its online classes would not focus on NCEA assessment "until we have a clear idea of when we will be moving to alert level 3 and how long we are likely to be at that level".
"We will, however, be preparing you for future assessment by focusing on the subject skills and key competencies that you need to be successful when you are assessed against the NCEA standard(s)."
• Level 3 rules for education: covid19.govt.nz.