An increasing number of students are passing NCEA and gaining University Entrance, although many pupils from lower decile schools are still struggling to achieve.

New Zealand Qualifications Authority statistics show that three-quarters of Year 11 students sitting NCEA Level 1 last year passed - up three percentage points on 2009.

A detailed analysis of the results is expected to be made public within the next few days, but a Herald search of the NZQA database shows students from higher decile schools are still generally doing much better than those from lower ones.

About 60 per cent of Year 11 students at low decile schools passed Level 1 - nearly 25 percentage points lower than those at the top, and about 12 per cent lower than those in the middle decile schools.

Eighty per cent of Year 12 students sitting Level 2 passed, and nearly three quarters of the Year 13 students sitting Level 3 passed.

Two-thirds of the 22,034 Year 13 students gained University Entrance - an increase of nearly 2 percentage points on the previous year.

Just over 300 Year 12 and 23 Year 11 students also gained University Entrance, a qualification that was generally achieved by more girls than boys.

The percentage of low decile students gaining UE was just under half, compared with nearly two thirds of mid-decile students and three quarters of high decile students.

Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said it was a reality of life that students at higher decile schools often had better literacy and numeracy skills and more supportive families. As a result, they tended to do better at school.

Mr Walsh said it was also important to realise that not everyone was destined for university; many students were more suited to trades academies or "blue collar" work, which was not reflected in the statistics.

Overall, Mr Walsh said the results showed a positive trend towards students getting better results across most years and levels.

It was particularly pleasing to see 80 per cent of Year 12 students passing NCEA Level 2, the minimum standard most schools strived to achieve, he said.

The NZQA database show that several of Auckland's worst performing schools - based on 2009 Level 1 pass rates - have improved their NCEA results in the past year.

Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate Senior School had close to a 10 percentage point increase in the number of students gaining UE, and the number of Year 11 students gaining Level 1 NCEA has doubled from 31 per cent in 2009 to 60 per cent last year.

Henderson High School also improved its Level 1 pass rate - now at 50 per cent - but the students gaining Level 3 dropped from 69 per cent in 2009 to 63 per cent last year.

Half of Papatoetoe High School's Year 13 students gained Level 3 NCEA, a 5 percentage point increase on the previous year, and 43 per cent of Year 11 students gained Level 1.

The NZQA statistics are available online and give the opportunity to compare results.

However, the authority's deputy chief executive of qualifications Bali Haque said the statistics were there to assist schools and teachers in planning and any comparisons between schools should be treated with caution.

"Schools are different in the way they design their courses and qualifications for students," she said.

"The public should be aware that factors like decile, roll numbers and courses offered will influence a school's statistics."

NCEA 2010 - percentage of students sitting qualification who passed

Level 1
* 2009: 72%
* 2010: 75%

Level 2
* 2009: 61%
* 2010: 73%

Level 3
* 2009: 72%
* 2010: 57%

Uni Entrance
* 2009: 21%
* 2010: 15%

Level 1
* 2009: 90%
* 2010: 91%

Level 2
* 2009: 76%
* 2010: 80%

Level 3
* 2009: 55%
* 2010: 64%

Uni Entrance
* 2009: 39%
* 2010: 46%

Level 1
* 2009: 95%
* 2010: 95%

Level 2
* 2009: 92%
* 2010: 94%

Level 3
* 2009: 70%
* 2010: 74%

Uni Entrance
* 2009: 65%
* 2010: 66%