by Mark Hamilton

How will the government's review of education affect learning and assessment at St Paul's?

Our education system is going through a very significant period of review in a multitude of areas including state school governance, learning support and a review of NCEA.

Dear parents and guardians

Our education system is going through a very significant period of review in a multitude of areas including state school governance, learning support and a review of NCEA. In the middle of the year, there was quite a lot of publicity around the Minister of Education, Honourable Chris Hipkins’ decision to significantly change NCEA level one.

Reviews of current practices is a healthy timing for any organisation and sector. However, as an Independent School, we do have a much greater amount of flexibility than our state and integrated counterparts on what we take on board from the outcomes of the review process.

As a school, we are committed to a fundamental set of principles of learning and assessment that we believe should underpin what occurs in the future at Year 11 level and beyond.

  • We are committed to a high quality, broad general education that meets the needs of our students.
  • We believe that Year 11 is an important stage of a student’s development towards independence in and acceptance of, responsibility for their further academic achievement.
  • We have supported NCEA since its introduction, but have also introduced a parallel qualification, Cambridge IGCSE and AS to extend the teaching and learning, in selected subject areas.
  • We believe that students, by Year 11, and certainly by the end of their secondary schooling, require a high level of literacy to allow them to fully participate in society. We encourage our students at Year 11 to select a wide range of subjects from different curriculum disciplines and believe that it is important that English, Mathematics and Science are compulsory.
  • We will ensure that courses at Year 11 are designed to prepare students for successful studies at Year 12, 13 and beyond, with the expectation that every student will be encouraged to strive for their full academic potential. To this end, our Year 11 courses are all achievement standards based.
  • We fully support the five key competencies set out in the New Zealand curriculum – thinking; using language, symbols and texts; managing self; relating to others and participating and contributing. These are part of the underlying content in all of our schemes of work.
  • We believe that students should be encouraged and supported to apply knowledge to real life situations and to think critically and creatively.
  • We believe assessment is an important part of all learning and should be determined by, and appropriate to, the course content. It should be rigorous, fair, transparent, and fit for purpose. Assessment must also provide students and their parents/caregivers with clarity as to the student’s progress and level of achievement.
  • We believe that course design and content, teaching and assessment methodology, must be well communicated to students, parents/caregivers to allow all to fully participate in the learning process. We are aware that for a significant core of parents, there is a lack of understanding of NCEA and parents often express their frustration over their son/daughter’s strategizing over achievement standards that they complete.
  • We believe that the role of the teacher is critical to student success. Strong relationships are the key. Teaching needs to be explicit. Lessons must have a coherent purpose. Formal presentations, guided practice, feedback and independent learning should all be present in a classroom during the completion of a topic.

NCEA in its current form is certainly not perfect, but it is also not seriously flawed. Any proposed change will have a significant lead in time, it won’t happen for at least a couple of years (i.e. 2022 or beyond) and so we will have a number of years to evaluate the changes and adapt them to what best fits our community. 

We strongly believe though that Year 11 students need, at this age, to be challenged and motivated by an external qualification. We will, in the meantime, be investigating the viability of offering a broader range of Cambridge IGCSE subjects , should the review opt to remove NCEA Level One or change the format so significantly as to not meet our community’s needs. However, we will not opt for a particular academic pathway without seeking the input of parents and caregivers.