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Choosing a Course of Study

Mr D Gilmore —

Please read this section before looking at each individual course.


The purpose of this publication is to help you choose the right courses to meet your individual learning needs. This involves you making important decisions about the future, which you should discuss with your families and whānau. Shirley Boys’ High School is committed to helping you make those decisions as informed as possible. You are urged to research your career and subject options carefully and to seek advice. This publication gives you important general information, advice and references, and specific information about the courses in Years 11, 12 and 13.

Shirley Boys’ High School provides students with a good range of subjects and courses aimed at ensuring there are positive pathways for all.

Our aim is to ensure the following:

  • Boys maintain a broad range of subjects and options for as long as possible.
  • Boys do not have future career paths or options or study limited by not taking the required subjects at an introductory level.
  • All boys have access to a range of information and people who can help them and their family/whānau in the decision making process.
  • Boys are supported in their endeavour to gain the best possible qualification and grades.
  • Boys are able to build a coherent programme that offers the opportunity to follow an appropriate vocational pathway.
  • Shirley Boys’ High School is committed to helping students with their option choices. People who can help are Form Teachers, Deans, Guidance and Careers staff, Subject Teachers and Heads of Department. These people have the best overview of students’ learning and their possible future pathways.

The information covered in this Course publication is accurate at the time of writing but needs to be checked by students and other key people when linked to study beyond school or the world of work.

Our hope is that this publication, plus all other sources of information, will help you make informed decisions about your subject choice and future pathways.

Key dates

Monday 24 August - Course selection publication available online for students and whanau
Wednesday 9 September - Course Interview Day
Friday 18 September - Final date for boys to choose their courses

Use the formula below to help you make good decisions about your courses for next year.


How good are you at a subject? (Discuss with your subject teachers and be realistic.)



What do you enjoy learning?(Do you prefer reading, writing, listening, discussing, practical or creative work?)



Through your work on Career Central and Bullseye consider courses which will open your future career pathways.



Go through the subjects in this Subject description carefully. Look ahead to 2021 and 2022 and keep a broad range of courses open.

IMPORTANT - Please read through the following notes carefully.

  • While we offer a wide range of courses and options, it may not be possible to accommodate all choices and combinations.
  • The availability of all courses is subject to student numbers and staffing.
  • In some cases it may be necessary to combine students from different year levels or with Avonside Girls High School to give viable numbers.
  • It is important that you choose a range of subjects to enable you to keep your future pathways flexible.
  • You should check the recommended entry criteria of the courses you are considering carefully. These tell you the level of achievement you need to gain entry to a particular course.
  • Making good decisions now is important because it may not be possible to change the subjects you have chosen next year, especially if those courses are full.
  • Your friends may not be in the same class as you next year even if you take the same subjects; also we don’t know which teachers will be teaching each subject so don’t pick subjects hoping to get a particular teacher. Concentrate on what you need for your future.
  • Plan ahead, with a view to your future career choices. For example if you are going into Year 11 next year, think carefully about possible courses for you in Years 12 and 13.
  • If you are going into Year 13 next year look carefully at the list of websites later in this publication - for example University Entrance or tertiary institutions that have entrance criteria that may apply to your possible future choice.

Senior School Courses

There are a number of compulsory courses at Year 11. Personal strengths, having some idea of future directions and course counselling will help students to plan their options carefully and build up a meaningful and personalised academic and vocational pathway.

Year 11

Compulsory Studies:

  • All students will be placed in an appropriate English and Maths course (determined by 2020 Year 10 results).
  • Students must select a Science based course.

Optional Studies:

  • Three options

Guidance Notes:

  • The Year 11 Subject Summary lists your option choices.
  • Science based course: students must study a Science course (Sci, Scg, Sca, Scb, Ele). Students can choose to do a second Science based course, but need to read carefully the information in the Subject Descriptions.
  • You are reminded that a well balanced, broad choice of subjects is recommended at Year 11 level. Do not narrow your range of choices too early.
  • Recommended entry criteria.

Year 12

Compulsory Studies - None, but it is highly recommended that boys choose one of the English courses.

Optional Studies:

  • Six options
  • Selected courses can be at Year 11-13 level provided the stated pre-requisites have been completed.

Guidance Notes:

  • The Year 12 Subject Summary lists your option choices showing their connection to other years. You can choose from other Year levels providing you meet course recommended criteria.
  • A Year 12 English course is not compulsory as University Entrance reading and writing requirements can be gained through other subjects. Students should consider their options carefully if planning on not studying a Year 12 English course, but intending to continue to study at university.
  • You should consider what subjects you may study at Year 13 in order to enrol for the appropriate pre-requisite subjects at Year 12.
  • Recommended entry criteria.

Year 13

Compulsory Studies - None

Optional Studies:

  • Five options
  • Selected courses can be at Year 11-13 level provided the stated recommended criteria have been completed.

Guidance Notes

  • The Year 13 Subject Summary will assist you, particularly in terms of the recommended criteria.

Costs in 2021

The Board of Trustees opted into the Ministry of Education donation scheme for 2021. By doing so, this resulted in the ability to waive student donations.

Shirley Boys’ High School aims to deliver quality educational courses over and above that which is funded by the Ministry of Education. We have noted in this booklet the costs to deliver courses and whanau/parental costs of workbooks, overnight trips and activities where participation is optional, and/or components not covered by the Government grant, may be requested.

We appreciate the financial support our families make to the School.

Art and Technology:

The take home material fee for these courses will be approximately $60-$160 depending on the project the student has selected to work on. This can be paid in full at the beginning of the year, by Automatic Payment or in three installments. It is essential that this fee is paid as it allows for materials to be purchased. Projects will remain the property of Shirley Boys’ High School until all course fees are paid. If you require special materials over and above what is already supplied, you must cover the extra cost yourself.  

Food Studies:

12 and 13 Hospitality - $52 for a Chefs Apron and Cap.

Outdoor Education:

Year 11 OED - $100 1 x overnight camp

Year 12 OED – $300.00 2 x overnight camps

Year 13 OED - $500.00 3 x overnight camps

Outdoor Education provides many opportunities to experience various activities in the outdoors and to develop an appreciation for the environment. The contribution for the camps goes to towards accommodation, travel expenses and food.

Overnight Camps:

Year 12 Geography - $110 Hanmer.

Year 13 Geography - $400 Queenstown.

Year 13 History - $350 Wellington.

The contribution for the camp goes towards accommodation, travel and food.


The purchase of workbooks for various subjects is recommended.

Qualifications in the Senior School

The National Certificate of Education Achievement

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the main national qualification for secondary school students in New Zealand. NCEA is recognised by employers, and used for selection by universities and polytechnics, both in New Zealand and overseas.

How does NCEA work?

  • To complete an NCEA Certificate students must earn credits. They get credits by meeting standards in their chosen subject areas. Some standards will be assessed by the external examinations, others will be assessed by internal assessment.
  • NCEA allows students to work towards a national qualification at the pace that suits them best.
  • NCEA recognises achievement in a wide range of studies. It means schools can offer a broad range of subjects and students can get credits from standards developed by industry.
  • Achievement/Unit standards make clear to teachers, students and parents what standard of work and knowledge is necessary to earn the credit. These standards encourage high expectations.
  • NCEA is academically stretching. Achievement standards have been designed so that satisfactory work, good work and truly excellent achievement can be recognised with “Achieved”, “Merit”, and “Excellence” grades.
  • Students will be told how well they have performed in each part of each subject with grades for both externally examined work and internally assessed work.

Level 1 Certificate

  • Students need to gain 80 credits at Level 1 or higher.
  • Of those 80 credits, students will need to have gained 10 credits in Literacy and 10 credits in Numeracy.

Level 2 Certificate

  • Students need to gain 80 credits plus they must have Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy.
  • Of those 80 credits, 60 must be at Level 2 or higher. Students may use up to 20 credits from their Level 1 studies.

Level 3 Certificate

  • Students need to gain 80 credits.
  • Of those 80 credits, 60 must be at Level 3 or higher. Students may use up to 20 credits from their Level 2 studies.

NCEA links well to learning options beyond school. School-leavers are able to complete or build on their NCEA at polytechnics, universities and other accredited private training establishments.

NCEA results are recognised by employers throughout New Zealand and overseas. NCEA can be used for entrance and selection purposes for tertiary courses.

Examination results contribute credits to the NCEA qualification, as do results from internal assessment. This combination of external examinations and internal assessment leads to more accurate and fairer reporting of a student’s strengths.

NCEA Endorsements

Each Level certificate can be endorsed with Merit or Excellence.

To gain an NCEA certificate with Merit a student must gain a minimum of 50 credits at Merit and/or Excellence level. To gain an NCEA certificate with Excellence a student must gain a minimum of 50 credits at Excellence. Some Universities offer scholarships worth a significant value to students who gain certificate endorsements.

Students can receive Excellence or Merit endorsements for individual subjects. To gain the endorsement they need 14 credits of Excellence or Merit grade. Of the 14 credits, at least 3 must be gained internally and at least 3 must be gained externally.

Quality of credits is important

It is really worth striving to gain Merit and Excellence grades to get extra recognition. Employers and tertiary institutions now consider how well you have achieved rather than just the number of credits gained.

Literacy and Numeracy

Literacy and numeracy are core skills required for everyday life and work. They are essential for good communication, everyday family and financial matters, critical thinking and problem solving. The Literacy standards are designed to provide the scope for students to demonstrate reading, writing, speaking and listening skills; and the Numeracy standards are designed to provide the scope for students to demonstrate number, measurement and statistical skills.

Students must achieve a minimum of 10 Literacy credits in specified Achievement Standards and a minimum of 10 Numeracy credits in specified Achievement Standards. The Level 1 literacy and numeracy requirements must be met to achieve NCEA Level 1, NCEA Level 2, and NCEA Level 3.

University Entrance

University Entrance (UE) is the minimum requirement to go to a New Zealand university. To qualify you will need:

1. NCEA Level 3

2. 14 credits at Level 3 in each of three approved subjects.

3. UE Literacy - 10 credits at Level 2 or above, from a specified set of Achievement Standards. The 10 credits must be made up of a minimum of 5 credits in reading and 5 credits in writing.

4. Numeracy - 10 credits at Level 1 or above, made up of:

  • achievement standards – specified achievement standards available through a range of subjects, 


  • unit standards - package of three numeracy unit standards (26623, 26626, 26627 - all three required)

It is important to note that some New Zealand universities will have different requirements for entry, depending on the university and course of study.

High Performance

The Scholarship Award

Scholarship is an external examination for the very top secondary students. Candidates usually enter in Year 13. Scholarship examines material related to Level 3 standards. However, the skills and understanding are more advanced than Level 3.

Success in Scholarship requires higher-level abstract thinking and the application of knowledge and ideas to complex situations. The intention is that only approximately 3% of the total number of Level 3 students in each subject will gain a Scholarship. Results are released in February following the year of the examination.

Students, if successful receive a monetary award. The payments range from $500 for a single subject Scholarship to $30,000 paid over the three years for a Premier Award. If you think you have the ability to sit Scholarship examinations, you should discuss the requirements with your subject teachers.

Tertiary Courses available to able Students

Students who have shown exceptional ability and work habits may have the option of taking some courses at tertiary level in Year 13. No course fees will be charged as courses are financed through STAR funding but students will need to pay their own Student’s Association fees.

Students intending to take tertiary courses of this nature should see Miss Wilson (Director of Gifted and Talented) to discuss the possibilities.

Career Planning

Background Information for Careers

  • In term three the boys completed the Careers Central programme as part of the Shirley Man programme. This is designed to inform the boys about future pathways and subject selection.
  • For detailed information including pay rates and current job availability go to www.careers.govt.nz 
  • Careers help and advice are available. See Mr Stocks or Mrs McLeod who are Career specialists and have wide networks in this area.
  • Many jobs require degrees and similar qualifications
  • Those which do not require degrees often demand tertiary study which can be full or part time.
  • Opportunities to gain apprenticeships for trades are more likely to go to students who can show they have sound Maths, English and Technology credits
  • Always aim for the highest possible achievement in NCEA. Only aiming for the minimum qualifications set down for a course is not recommended.
  • Qualifications are not confined to NCEA. There are other Certificates. Other factors such as work experience, school and community involvement and personal qualities are also very important.

Vocational Pathways

The Youth Guarantee is being developed by the Government through the Ministry of Education and aims to increase the achievement and progression of young people in education. Vocational pathways sit within Youth Guarantee and are an initiative to assist students to see how their learning at school is relevant for a wide range of jobs and study options.

Students at Year 12 can have their Level 2 NCEA endorsed in a vocational pathway. There are currently five pathways which represent new ways to structure and achieve NCEA Level 2 and provide a more coherent framework for foundation vocation education and training. These pathways are as follows:

Service Industries

Manufacturing and Technology

Primary Industries

Construction and Infrastructure

Social and Community Services

Creative Industries

Each pathway will:

  • Describe skills, knowledge and key competencies valued by a broad sector of industry.
  • Identify Achievement and Unit Standards that recognise outcomes valued by the sectors
  • Include a work and study map which outlines possibilities beyond school in terms of job, career and study options.

Students will be able to look at their results and see a clear pathway to either further education or employment.

Canterbury Tertiary College (C.T.C) and National Land Based Academy (N.T.A)

Both the C.T.C and N.T.A offer vocational pathways for senior students. There is the opportunity for Year 12 and 13 students to either C.T.C or N.T.A to be enrolled at school and also study at the academy. The link below take you to the home page of each Academy where it indicates what courses they respectively offer.

National Land Based Academy: http://www.nta.co.nz/

Canterbury Tertiary College: http://www.ara.ac.nz/study-options/Dual-Enrolment-Programmes

Useful Websites To Help With Subject Choices

Careers New Zealand

A database of careers information and tertiary training courses is available by using the website www.careers.govt.nz. You will be able to check that your subjects and career choices match up.

Recommended school subjects

University links which list the school subjects that are useful preparation for degree programmes at the universities of Canterbury, Otago and Auckland.

Note: Required subjects are essential for a particular degree; they are needed to gain entry

Recommended or preparation subjects are those that are useful but not required to gain entry

Canterbury University


Otago University


Auckland University


University approved subjects

To view the current University Approved subjects go to:


Vocational Pathways:

There are a range of tools, including a Profile Builder to help plan a course leading to careers in a variety of vocational areas. (see the next page for more information)


No Major Drama:

Complete a quiz; learn about degree majors (main subjects) for Bachelor level degrees at New Zealand universities