10 Feb 2016

Students in last-ditch effort to get NCEA

7:39 am on 10 February 2016

Schools have been open for barely a week, but some secondary students are already finishing their NCEA study for the year.

University or secondary school students study in a classroom.

Photo: 123RF

They're the ones who got an unpleasant surprise in their exam results in January or who finished 2015 with fewer internally-assessed credits than they needed.

Now they're making a last-ditch effort to get NCEA, or University Entrance (UE), by returning to their old schools or enrolling with Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu - the Correspondence School.

They can do that because the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) accepts schools' internally-assessed results until the end of February, giving teenagers a brief window of opportunity to get their certificate if they did not get enough credits last year.

Onehunga College principal Deidre Shea said the school normally had a handful of students who returned in mid to late January because they were a few standards short of getting NCEA Level 3.

"These are kids who have just missed out and so they're students who've usually worked reasonably hard if not more so."

Ms Shea said there were often good reasons why the students had fallen short of getting their qualification and giving them one last opportunity to get their certificate was an improvement on previous school qualifications.

"Under the old system of bursary and so on, it wasn't available - you're done and dusted and you basically had to wait, usually another year, which is patently ridiculous, even if you only missed out by one or two marks."

The principal of Onslow College in Wellington, Peter Leggat, said it had four or five students return to get the credits they needed for enrolment in tertiary study.

He said the school was happy to help out students who had taken responsibility for their future and asked for another chance.

It was not a sign that the NCEA was a soft option, he said.

"Why should a student forever be held back by a mistake or something they didn't quite do? You know, we're actually giving students a chance to show us what they are good at, rather than us trying to reinforce something perhaps they were not good at."

The chief executive of Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu - the Correspondence School, Mike Hollings, said it offered marking and teaching during the holidays for the first time this year.

"We noticed a demand last year when so many students did not achieve UE when the requirements for UE changed, so that's why this year we're onto trying to find a way that we can start helping the students earlier, rather than waiting until the teachers are back after the school break."

Mr Hollings says 192 students had enrolled in 273 courses by late January, most of them after NCEA exam results were published on 13 January.

"Most of the have got between one and three standards to complete and mostly in one subject, so a large proportion of them are in English and mathematics."

The NZQA said schools had until 29 February to get their NCEA results in.