One of the country's biggest schools says it is designing its own exam-based curriculum for Year 10 and 11 students because of concerns about possible changes to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement.
A discussion document has proposed, among other changes, reducing the number of exam-based assessments for NCEA Level qualifications in favour of assessments based on "pathway" activities.
These could include trades courses, research projects and community work, often partnering with outside employers, tertiary institutions and community groups.
But Auckland Grammar headmaster Tim O'Connor says the radical changes are "dangerous" and "irresponsible" and that his school was developing its own preparatory course for Year 10 and 11 students to replace NCEA Level 1.
"It is a preparatory programme that will prepare students for direct entry into NCEA level 2, which our boys currently opt for or direct entry into AS [Advanced Subsidiary level, a British standard leading to A-Level qualifications]," he told Radio NZ today.
"It will be exam based, there will be some coursework components."
"This won't be a qualification, it will be a preparatory programme that is rigorous and provides our boys with a pathway to success."
He said his team had not yet worked through the entire assessment programme, but they would be happy to share it with other schools that were dissatisfied with changes to NCEA.
His comments come after the discussion document, which kicks off what promises to be a fiery consultation period, proposed reducing NCEA Level 1 from an 80-credit, multi-subject qualification to 40 credits - 20 for literacy and numeracy and 20 for a project "driven by learners' passions".
Literacy and numeracy requirements at Level 1 would be tightened, responding to criticisms that students can gain literacy credits from subjects, such as art history.
But the document suggests that the meaning of literacy might be broadened to "encompass skills like digital, financial or civic literacy".
It would require at least 20 out of 80 credits at NCEA Levels 2 and 3 to come from "pathway" activities and would reduce the current complex menu of 9360 NCEA "standards" down to larger chunks of "coherent courses".
Students' achievement records would be rewritten in curriculum vitae format showing their "capabilities", "attitudes" and extra-curricular achievements as well as the courses they have passed.
With 60 per cent of senior Auckland Grammar students sitting British-based Cambridge exams, O'Connor earlier predicted more schools would abandon the NCEA if the changes were adopted.
He said the document's authors were "in la-la land" in saying students should have "capabilities and attitudes for lifelong learning" by the end of Year 11.
"I think we are standing in the quicksands of NZ education right now," he said.
"I frankly believe that the removal of NCEA Level 1 in the manner that they are describing it - literacy and numeracy and even having a conversation about does financial and civic literacy fit into that definition of literacy - is a very, very dangerous start."