Principals say it would be a big mistake to question the whole NCEA system just because of an aberration at Cambridge High School.

Principals' Council chairman Don McLeod said NCEA, now in its third year, presented a huge change to the secondary school qualification and assessment structures. Despite increased workload and administrative burdens, schools had implemented it with few problems.

Cambridge High is under the control of an acting principal and two Government-appointed limited statutory managers after a damning New Zealand Qualifications Authority report into manipulation of results.

The school has spun further into crisis with the resignation of principal Alison Annan and board of trustees chairwoman Diana Grantham.

But Education Minister Trevor Mallard insists the situation is an anomaly, a claim backed by the principals' branch of the Post-Primary Teachers Association.

"No change of this magnitude could be perfectly implemented, and we don't pretend that there are not some concerns to be dealt with," Mr McLeod said. "However, as has always been the case, the high level of trust in the professionalism and expertise of those in schools is very well-placed - the overwhelming majority of students are being well-prepared and well-taught in secondary schools everywhere in New Zealand."

Mr McLeod said the integrity, ethics and professionalism of teachers in relation to examination systems had not suddenly changed. NCEA could provide richer assessment information than the old School Certificate system, and still mark the level of achievement of any given student so employers could see what they had in front of them in a job application.

"Even at Cambridge there is no suggestion that the whole assessment system is failing - rather there has been a failure to meet required levels of administrative process in one part of that school's procedures."

The full NZQA report into the school will be released on Monday. Reports are also due in the coming weeks from Dame Augusta Wallace into staff bullying and the Education Review Office into various aspects of the school's management.

A further investigation into alleged financial mismanagement remains a possibility.

National's education spokesman, Bill English, believes the scandal could reflect a more fundamental problem.

He said the problems at Cambridge were at the extreme end of the scale, but were indicative of wider problems.

Herald Feature: Education

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