Sunday, November 28

Principals are considering options as test fears loom over students

There are increasing calls for the government to cancel end-of-year school exams for students in Auckland.

Generic library / students

File photo.
Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Principals told RNZ they had presented options that included canceling all scholarship and NCEA exams in the region, canceling Level 1 exams, or allowing teens in the region to choose whether to sit for exams.

They said that students had wasted so much time in the classroom that they would be poorly prepared for tests and were especially concerned about those who are trying to complete portfolios for subjects like art.

Auckland Secondary Principals Association President Steve Hargreaves said recent confirmation that Auckland would remain at alert level 3 this week and next week had raised fears about the exams.

“The momentum is building around exam cancellation because the longer we stay off-site, the less prepared students will be to take high-stakes external exams in a big block,” he said.

Hargreaves said canceling tests would give schools certainty and allow teachers to focus on assessments that could be used to provide derived scores to replace students’ test scores.

He said Auckland schools might have a difficult time taking the exams, which were scheduled to start on November 18.

“Students may not be prepared, families may not allow their students to come, and if the big schools are trying to take level one, two and three tests simultaneously, then you are in a position where you are trying to to accommodate 12,1,300,1,400 students on site and if we are under current alert level conditions it will be totally impractical because it will be in bubbles of 10, “he said.

Hargreaves said many ideas were being floated, including canceling all scholarship and NCEA exams in Auckland, canceling only Level 1 exams, or keeping all options open for as long as possible.

Year 13 student Mercy Timu Moe said students should have a choice, although in her case she would choose to sit for their exams.

“I would definitely go ahead with my exams because at the end of the day I can look back and say ‘hey, we had a crash and we’re still on with the exams, we didn’t give up,'” he said.

“We didn’t work hard for 13 years to get our tests taken away. You could also try.”

Another student, Josiah Aliimalemanu, said he had been talking to his friends about whether the exams would take place this year.

“I think I was the only one who wanted to take the exams. They started laughing and said the evidence [-based grade] it’s enough for them, “he said.

The directors contacted by RNZ had different opinions on the matter.

Rangitoto College principal Patrick Gale said the school’s students had worked hard to prepare for the exams, though he acknowledged that their remote learning experience might be different than that of students at other schools.

“For the integrity of the NZQA qualifications and awards, particularly at level 3 and at the scholarship level, it is important that we offer examinations where alert level conditions allow,” he said.

Carmel College principal Chris Allen said students should have a choice.

“Giving students the option, I think it would be a fair way to go, because technically in Auckland we have lost an entire teaching period,” he said.

Manurewa High School principal Pete Jones said he agreed that the tests should be canceled given the amount of time the students had been out of the classroom.

“These unprecedented times call for creative and positive solutions to give our rangatahi a positive boost instead of adding additional stress,” he said.

Massey High School principal Glen Denham said the government needed to inform schools about what would happen to the tests.

“What we need is clarity and then we will move on,” he said.

The Qualifications Authority declined to confirm whether it had considered canceling the Auckland exams or even whether principals had raised the possibility.

He said Education Minister Chris Hipkins would provide an update on Auckland schools today.

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