NCEA tests for primary students?

By James Caldwell

A proposal to make NCEA tests available to primary school students is making waves across Aotearoa.

Te Taitokerau Principals Association President, Pat Newman, says, "It will not help kids' learning, it will not help children's learning, it will not help children to be children, and I am angry and I hope it comes across. I hope whoever came up with this goes back learns about educational pedagogy and how children truly learn instead of this rubbish!"

Northland principals are concerned their students' learning may go backwards.

"If you've got any belief in how children learn and what is good for them and the future of this country, bury this today. If anything, it'll send things backwards again," says Newman.

The Ministry of Education says the proposal has come following concerns that were raised about many students leaving school without sufficient literacy and numeracy skills.

Acting Deputy Secretary Early Learning & Student Achievement, Pauline Cleaver says, "As part of last year’s NCEA Review we heard from teachers, young people, whānau and employers that they were concerned too many students leave school without the levels of literacy and numeracy necessary to engage with the community, further education and work.

"One of the changes proposed to address this is to assess literacy and numeracy separately from NCEA, to ensure all children have the skills they need to succeed in senior secondary school as well as life beyond school.  

"We are currently engaging widely with experts, teachers and school leaders to explore whether it is appropriate for schools to have the option to assess students, if they are ready, against the new literacy and numeracy requirements from Year 7 onwards."

Cleaver says, "This is a proposal only. It’s great that teachers and principals are engaging with us on this."

While some primary students may be capable of succeeding, it's uncertain whether it's needed at that level.

Ōtāngarei School principal Myles Ferris says, "The challenges that we know, as a principal, is that every child is different. There are some children that it may be fine for but I think in general at a primary school level at Year 7 and 8, it's just not something that they need to be doing."

The Ministry of Education will continue discussions over this proposal, a decision may be seen in the new year.