National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA)

PPTA, and secondary teachers, have been the guardians of the NCEA over many years, because we can see its undoubted benefits for students. As a standards-based assessment system that is based on the principle that all students should have opportunities to succeed and to fulfil their potential, the NCEA has clear advantages over the previous norm-referenced qualification system, which had a built-in failure rate.

Year after year of the NCEA there has been change that has had significant implications for teachers, and yet implementation of that change is never done well or resourced adequately. Implementation failure always means more work for teachers, and yet teacher time is never costed into the equation.

Teachers talk about NCEA (2005)

The report focuses on the voices of secondary and area school teachers, hence its title ‘Teachers talk about NCEA’. It portrays a profession which is engaged on a hugely important project which is challenging the intellectual, emotional and physical resources of teachers to the maximum.

In late 1997, the New Zealand government announced a policy called ‘Achievement 2001’. This policy involved a complete overhaul of the secondary school qualifications system, to shift it from a mishmash of norm-referenced qualifications, to a completely standards-based system. Under the new system students would be assessed at three, or possibly four, levels of the same qualification, to be called the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and registered on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.

Teachers talked in the focus groups about some really fundamental issues about teaching and learning, and the assessment of learning. They were wrestling with huge dilemmas brought upon them by the design of the system, but they were also excited about the opportunities for creative approaches to teaching and to curriculum organisation that the system presents.

Many of them expressed a belief that they had been let down by the central agencies, who had failed to support the change to the new system adequately in a wide variety of ways. It is quite clear that without their professional commitment to putting their students first and to delivering for them whatever the shortcomings of the support provided, the implementation could never have been successful.

This research provides an invaluable window into the thinking of secondary school teachers about one of the most major reform projects with which they have had to engage for many years.

The summary version does not contain the voices of the teachers who participated in the focus groups, nor does it contain all the detail of their discussions.

pdf button Teachers talk about NCEA (summary)

pdf button Teachers talk about NCEA (full report)


The cost of change : PPTA survey on NCEA workload 2010

In the first three weeks of Term 4 2010, PPTA Te Wehengarua surveyed members on their perceptions of the workload pressures being engendered by the standards review changes to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), New Zealand's standards-based school qualification system.

"The cost of change" provides a detailed picture that suggests the changes to NCEA that were being implemented from 2011 to 2013 presented some major challenges for all teachers, and teachers in some subjects, roles and schools felt these challenges disproportionately.

The survey provides useful fine-grained data about these pressure points, and officials need to take this into account in ongoing planning of support.

The qualitative data conveys a picture of teachers soldiering on, trying to do the best they can for their students in the face of inadequate support.

pdf buttonThe cost of change : PPTA survey on NCEA workload 2010

National Standards, NCEA and PPTA members

PPTA Te Wehengarua members teaching year 7 and 8 students were surveyed in 2010 to find out how many  were affected by the implementation of National Standards, and whether any of these members were also tasked with making National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) changes at the same time. This survey was part of a larger investigation regarding members perceptions of NCEA workload pressures.

pdf button National Standards: Report on assessment workload survey (2011)

pdf button PPTA position on National Standards (2010)

pdf buttonNational Standards background paper (2010)


The report of the survey, the PPTA position on National Standards, and a background paper are also attached to the top of this page.


18 reasons for 18 credits - managing student and teacher assessment workload

PPTA Te Wehengarua suggests an effective way of managing student and teacher assessment workload would be to limit the number of credits offered.

This should take into account the abilities of the class but on average a realistic number of credits to offer would be 13-18 per course, based on assumption of about four hours per week contact time over about 33 weeks, plus some homework time.

18 reasons for 18 credits

  1. 5 subjects X 18 credits = 90 = plenty
  2. 6 subjects X 18 credits = 108 = heaps!
  3. Teachers can teach more and summatively assess less
  4. Course endorsement and certificate endorsement can become the priority, ie quality over quantity - this benefits students and - dare we say it - league tables
  5. Fewer scheduled assessments means increased opportunities to differentiate programmes of teaching and learning
  6. Limiting credits means students have fewer chances to pick and choose what assessments they will opt out of
  7. Fewer credits may mean there is more likelihood of being able to offer students a reassessment opportunity
  8. Less assessment may provide more time for innovations to teaching and learning programmes
  9. Fewer assessments may enable students with challenges to benefit from more teaching time, and for more able students to tackle the excellence criteria
  10. Limiting summative assessments across the school may offer more opportunities for cross-subject collaboration
  11. Limiting credits helps students manage their assessment load
  12. The revised assessment matrices allow for curriculum coverage with 18 credits
  13. Limits and helps to manage teachers' marking loads
  14. Less data entry
  15. Less paperwork
  16. Teachers' moderation workload is (somewhat) addressed
  17. Staff agreeing to a credit maximum should help level the playing field across subjects
  18. Helps to manage the workload of the principal's nominee!

pptaweb icon18 reasons for 18 credits


Alternatives to study leave for senior students: PPTA advice

This advice (attached to top of page) reminds members of existing policies and requirements in relation to several factors that need to be considered should a school wish to explore alternatives to senior study leave

There is some evidence that in situations such as those posed by 'alternatives to study leave' programmes, teachers may experience an unreasonable workload due to professional and ethical imperatives that drive them to do the best they can for their students. It is crucial that school systems are reviewed and developed to ensure that staff and students are supported in their teaching, learning and assessment programmes, and that unrealistic expectations are not create.

pptaweb iconAlternatives to study leave for senior students: PPTA advice

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Last modified on Friday, 25 May 2018 16:53