Students will be offered bonus credits in this year's senior school assessments to compensate for lost classroom time during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says students will get one extra credit for every five that they earn in this year's National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) up to a maximum of 10 bonus points at Level 1 and eight at Levels 2 and 3.

The total number of credits required for University Entrance and merit endorsements will also be reduced:

• University Entrance will require 12 credits, reduced from 14, in each of three approved subjects at level 3.

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• Merit endorsement for an NCEA level will be reduced from 50 credits with merit to 46.

• Excellence endorsement for an NCEA level will be reduced from 50 credits with excellence to 46.

• Merit and excellence endorsements for an individual course, or subject, will be reduced from 14 credits with merit or excellence to 12.

Hipkins said the changes will ensure that students are not penalised for the "massive disruption" to schooling when most students had to study from home during levels 4 and 3 of the Covid alert system.

But, by basing the bonus credits on credits already achieved, he said the change "maintains the credibility and reputation of NCEA by basing additional credits on assessed learning".

"Students can be confident that an NCEA attained this year will continue to open doors to tertiary study, vocational education or employment," he said.

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He has also asked the NZ Qualifications Authority and the Ministry of Education to "consider how schools might identify and collect evidence that could be used to credential the learning and skills gained by young people outside of their formal school programme of learning".

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"These changes have been endorsed by my NCEA Professional Advisory Group, and I'd like to thank them for their robust advice. I also recognise the work Universities New Zealand and individual universities have done alongside officials to develop the changes to UE."

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