A Wellington principal has spoken out about what she says are unprecendented levels of stress among secondary school students.
NCEA and Scholarship exams started this week.
Wellington Girls' College principal Julia Davidson says too many young people are suffering anxiety disorders because of the pressure associated with their education, and three years of high-stakes assessment might be too much.
Mrs Davidson says teenagers are feeling the pressure of years of assessment and increasingly tough entry requirements for many university courses.
She is not alone in noticing an increase in the problem. Last year, the Education Review Office found that school counsellors were dealing with more and more complex problems.
Julia Davidson says her school does everything it can to support students experiencing such difficulties, including using its own counsellor, external agencies and students' families.
She believes one solution might be to reduce the NCEA from three levels to two and her school will assess fewer standards next year.
Tawa College principal Murray Lucas says anxiety disorders are more prevalent among students than 15 years ago. He believes much of the problem is due to changes in society, but the school system is certainly more stressful.
Other principals agree that students are under more pressure than ever, but are not sure that NCEA needs to change.
Secondary Principals Association president Tom Parsons says school qualifications have become a lot more important.
Wellington College headmaster Roger Moses says students now do more internal assessment than in the past, but there has been no reduction in the number of exams many students sit.
Mr Moses says he is not sure if the NCEA needs to change, but it is probably high time for a review of the system.