So why are you still doing NCEA Level One?

At HPSS we have been pondering this question for a while. There are a number of reasons we have been tackling this question. 

Firstly, because Maurie keeps asking us. (See his post on our NCEA journey here.

Secondly, because there is an increasing sense that students are being over assessed and are being forced to focus on formalised high stakes assessment for three (or possibly even four) years running. 

Thirdly, there is the issue that Level One NCEA Certificate is of little value. Once upon a time School Certificate did serve as an exit certificate for some, but today little if any students are likely to end their schooling journey at Level One. 

There's also the fact that you don't even need to do Level One to get Level One! As long as students get Level Two they actually achieve Level One by default at the same time - magic!

To add to this there is also the very real issue of student stress and anxiety bought on by over assessment. In this recent ERO report Wellbeing for Young People's Success at Secondary School (February 2015) : 19/02/2015 ERO identified assessment overload as one of the biggest challenges to student wellbeing, stating, "students in all schools were experiencing a very assessment driven curriculum and assessment anxiety. Achieving academic success is a part of wellbeing but is not the only factor. Very few schools were responding to this overload by reviewing and changing their curriculum and assessment practices."

Surely if this is identified issue we ALL need to be tackling this issue head on. 

Well at HPSS we are. 

Below is an outline of our plans for approaching NCEA in a way that will focus on doing less better.

Here's hoping we might be able to convince you to do less with us

HPSS NCEA Pathways Strategic Plan HPSS Vertical Logo CMYK.jpg

HPSS Graduate Profile

With the importance placed on NCEA Level Two by government and tertiary training (and by default, employers), we should expect that all HPSS graduates achieve Level Two NCEA (hopefully with endorsement) and that most achieve Level Three with University Entrance. Students will 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

The first two years of the Foundation Programme (Year 9 and 10) at HPSS will focus on learning skills and learning how to learn. These years will focus on laying down the foundations for enjoying both academic and personal success throughout their time at HPSS and developing the skills needed to be confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners.

During the third year of the Foundation Programme (Year 11), teachers within Level Six modules (and projects) will offer approximately 20 credits in total for the year (approximately 1-2 standards per module), which may focus on achieving the required 10 + 10 numeracy and literacy credits. 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.

Attainment of  NCEA Level One Achievement Standards will most likely be assessed as part of Level Six modules. The Level Six modules in the latter part of year will prepare learners for external examination as appropriate.

By the end of the third year (Year 11) it is expected that all students will have gained at least 20 credits at Level One (or above) and will have gained most, if not all literacy and numeracy requirements.

By offering just 20-30 credits towards NCEA Level One as part of the Foundation Programme means teaching and learning and the 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
  • Ensuring we are focusing on teaching and learning rather than formal summative assessment
  • Supporting the wellbeing of students and minimising risk of assessment fatigue and related stress.

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 Programme - NCEA Level Two/Three and beyond

All Level six, seven and eight 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 them. Modules offered will be a mixture of single or integrated learning (when integration will facilitate deeper more connected learning). Modules in the latter part of the year will be designed to ensure learners are being prepared for required external standards to provide opportunities for gaining Merit and Excellent endorsement.

In the fourth year (Year 12) at HPSS the focus will be on students gaining at least 60 NCEA credits at Level Two or higher. This will combine with the students 20+ credits at Level One which will result in the student gaining a Level Two NCEA Certificate (as well as gaining Level One NCEA Certificate at the same time) with the opportunity to also gain Merit or Excellence 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.

NCEA at HPSS in summary

Our intention is to provide a qualification framework that focuses on quality over quantity. The intention is for all students to gain at least Level Two NCEA and that most (if not all) will gain Level Three NCEA with some kind of endorsement.

A year by year outline could be:

  • By the end of Year 11 all students have gained at least 20 credits in total at Level One or higher. Most students will have also gained the Literacy and Numeracy requirements.
  • By the end of Year 12 all students will have gained at least 60 credits at Level Two or higher.
  • This will combine with the 20+ credits at Level One or higher to make up the requirements for gaining their Level Two NCEA Certificate (hopefully with some kind of endorsement). All students will have gained their Literacy and Numeracy requirements.
  • By the end of Year 13 most (if not all) students will gained at least 60 credits at Level Three. This will combine with 20+ credits at Level Two to make up the requirements (80 credits) for gaining their Level Three NCEA Certificate. Students will have also planned their achievement standards carefully to ensure entrance requirements required for their desired tertiary pathways.


  1. AWESOME - as always from HPSS - reshaping the future, challenging the present and respecting the past - we will study this and learn from it - best wishes tony

  2. So does this encourage the students to achieve highly? I am hoping it does and motivates them to think about their strengths and areas for development.

  3. We are hoping that as well! We of course will be reviewing along the way and will respond appropriately if this isn't the outcome.

  4. Great initiative. Yes, students are under tremendous pressure throughout the year. I can see this being especially beneficial to boys, who seem to underachieve until they get to Y12/13..when they start playing catch-up. My one concern would be students gaining sufficient deeper understanding of courses, so that they can make informed choices in Y12/13.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

An open letter to Minister Hipkins - 13 Reasons Why EVERY teacher deserves a pay rise!

An open letter to New Zealand students - you are bigger than any exam!

The Principal Diaries: My Lens on Powerful Learning