How might we deliver a NCEA qualification pathway that reflects our vision and values?

NB. All of this in draft. The following reflects our thinking at this stage only.

Too often in schools assessment is the the tail that wags the curriculum design dog. At HPSS is is our aim to challenge and instead design an approach to NCEA that is determined by our vision for teaching and learning...and not the other way around.

So what is our vision, principles and values at HPSS?

Our Vision
What we want for our young people:
To create a stimulating, inclusive learning environment which empowers learners to contribute confidently and responsibly in our changing world.

Our Principles
The foundations of our curriculum decision-making are:

  • Innovate through personalised learning
  • Engage through powerful partnerships
  • Inspire through deep challenge and inquiry to develop  empowered learners

Our Values

  • Excellence
  • Inquiry
  • Connectedness
  • Collaboration
  • Innovation

So how might this translate into a vision for NCEA that is stimulating and inclusive, that innovates, engages and inspires? How might we genuinely personalise the NCEA experience? The beginning of that thinking is below:

HPSS Graduate Profile
The importance placed on NCEA Level 2 by government and tertiary training (and by default, employers), we should expect that all HPSS graduates have Level 2 NCEA (hopefully with some kind of endorsement) and most have Level 3 NCEA with UE. Students would also be expected to be able to evidence development and mastery of Hobsonville Habits (possibly through a learning passport or portfolio).

NCEA at HPSS will be responsive to our learners’ needs, learners will be able to gain credits and recognition of their learning as appropriate to their readiness.

HPSS Foundation Programme and NCEA Level One 
NCEA Level One will be available to students and could be worked towards during the first three years of HPSS as part of a Foundation Programme where the focus is on multiple varied learning opportunities, a balance of breadth and depth and learning a wide range of skills. NCEA Level One would be attained through a mixture of a portfolio approach and explicit NCEA tasks to gain internal achievement standards over time. External achievement standards (exams) would be available to allow for students who wish to gain Merit and Excellence endorsement at the end of their third year (Year 11) at secondary school. 

The first year of the Foundation Programme (Year 9) at HPSS will focus on learning skills and learning how to learn. However, where a student produces an exemplary piece of evidence of learning that meets the criteria and conditions of assessment for an internal Achievement Standard the student and learning area teacher may choose to share the assessed and internally moderated piece of work with the Learning Area Leader and. A process for this might be Learning Area Leader would store a copy of the work in a secure set of NCEA folders that have set for each student. This would ensure the work is kept secure so it can be submitted as a Level One NCEA task in their second or third year at HPSS (with careful checking that standard versions have not changed in the meantime). Readiness to be assessed against Level One NCEA prior to a student's third year (Year 11) at HPSS will be negotiated with learning area teachers on a student by student basis.

During the second and third year of the Foundation Programme (Year 10 and 11), teachers within modules (and projects) would offer approximately 16 credits in each learning area at Level One (instead of the traditional 24 credits) which would also include the required 10 + 10 numeracy and literacy credits. In all NZC Level Five and Six modules, opportunities to submit work that could contribute towards NCEA will be signalled to students along with learning objectives and curriculum level rubrics at the beginning of each module or semester. Students would only be expected to submit evidence that suggested they were working at Level Six or above, meaning that students may begin building their portfolios at any point during their Foundation Programme. Throughout this period the focus of the modules would be building skills and learning with exposure to a wide range of learning opportunities. Explicit NCEA tasks will most likely be delivered as part of Level 6 modules. The Level 6 modules in the latter part of year will prepare learners for external examination as appropriate.

By offering NCEA as part of the Foundation Programme it means teaching and learning and assessment supporting this, is:

  • Scaffolded
  • Transparent
  • Fair and valid and reliable (conditions, expectations set from the outset and equity of  access ensured)
  • Progressive
  • Allows for learners to gauge clearly where they are at and negotiate next steps
  • Aligned from an early stage to the pathways required/enjoyed/that engage them and will support personalised quality pathways into, through and beyond school.
  • No surprises
  • Builds capability 

A more long term vision of what NCEA and learning pathways could look like are outlined here. 

Please note the colours equate to curriculum levels (Red = 3, Orange = 4, Yellow = 5, Green = 6, Blue = 7, Indigo = 8, Violet/Pink = 8+). Each block represents collections of modules offered to students in their 1st to 5th year at HPSS. Students might choose modules from any of the blocks in any given year according to where they are at in particular areas. 

HPSS Future Transition / Graduate Programme - NCEA Level Two/Three and beyond
All Level 6, 7 and 8 modules will be designed with opportunities for students to be assessed against Level One, Two or Three Achievement Standards which are clearly signalled alongside learning outcomes and rubrics. Where appropriate,modules will assess learners at Level One and Two or Level Two and Three so that learners can be assessed at the level appropriate for to them. Modules offered will be a mixture of single or integrated (when integration will facilitate deeper more connected learning). Semester B modules will be designed to ensure learners are being prepared for required external standards to provide opportunities for gaining Merit and Excellent endorsement. 

In the fifth year at HPSS students will be continuing to work towards Level Two or Three NCEA whilst also pursuing learning beyond the school. This may include taking scholarship modules, tertiary level papers and/or gaining wider experience through internships or entrepreneurial projects.

The aim is that ALL learners will leave HPSS with a minimum of Level Two NCEA, hopefully with Merit or Excellence endorsement. Learners will also leave with a portfolio of work that demonstrates the development of Hobsonville Habits and key competencies to support ongoing success as life-long learners.

Individual Achievement Plans (IAPs) - Creating a genuinely personalised NCEA pathway 
One strategy we would like to explore further (again this is merely a kernel of an idea!) is the idea of an Individual Achievement Plan (IAP). This would involve Learning Area Leaders (LALs) to look at modules (which may be integrated or single subject) and look at the learning objectives (learning areas deliver common LOs each term based on a termly concept to ensure that whatever mixture of modules students take, they are assured of achieving curriculum coverage) and identify the opportunities for Achievement Standard attainment, this would then be used to collate a 'NCEA buffet menu'. This information would mean when a student (particularly those prior to Year 11) who were demonstrating an ability to work at Level 6 or higher in any one Learning Area, the teacher, Learning Area Leader, Learning Coach and student could discuss if it was appropriate to access. Beyond Year 11, this approach may also mean that students may have the opportunity to negotiate being measured against specific standards, could seek opportunities for work in one area to be evidenced for an Achievement Standard in another area (of course careful consideration of assessment conditions would be a must) rather than  being forced to digest the same old "degustation menu" that departments serve up year after year.

We are the first to admit that we we are not make easy for ourselves, but then again that has never been our intention. What has been our intention is the desire to live our vision principles and values and genuinely walk the talk as well. There is much outlined here that presents a logistical challenge rather than an insurmountable challenge. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Source: NCEA Pal
One thing I am hoping is that the software evolves to support us. NCEA Pal looks like it actually has the potential to be able to track their achievement. What I would love next is the ability to use the app to plan for their assessment, to support learners to to take the reigns and co-construct (with a knowledgeable educator) the Individual Education Plan. Couple this with a teacher dashboard view and we'll be good to go...hint hint NCEA Pal. Maybe N4L could help ;)

Finally if anyone out there is genuinely personalising NCEA we would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment here or email me at


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