Students petition NZQA over earthquake exam stress

Students were left confused with unclear instructions from NZQA (Getty)
Students were left confused with unclear instructions from NZQA (Getty)

NCEA exams will continue today following Monday's magnitude 7.5 quake, though not everyone is happy about it.

A petition has been launched, complaining the NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) added extra confusion and stress to quake-affected students on Monday.

Scholarship exams were postponed, as well as eight NCEA exams at quake-affected schools and exam centres in the South Island's east coast and Wellington.

NZQA said those who were affected could apply for an "emergency derived grade" - a mark based on previous work throughout the year.

It's thought Monday's disruptions would have hit tens of thousands of students.

On Monday afternoon, NZQA announced Scholarship and NCEA exams will take place as normal on Tuesday, but a petition launched on has criticised the amount of extra anxiety students were put through by the authority's unclear instructions.

It's a view shared by the Post-Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) president Angela Roberts, who told Paul Henry chaos reigned for students across the country following the earthquake.

"Hindsight is a fine thing, and those on the outside were surprised they didn't just postpone everything that was due to happen yesterday and put it out to early Decemeber when the exams were over.

"The decision they made was one they made. There were massive problems with communcation, there was confusion - not entirely [NZQA's] fault, social media can get away on you very quickly - one misinformed tweet can really baffle people," she said.

She said the information on NZQA's website was "very convoluted" and hoped it would make it clear to students how to follow the derived grade process.

"I think what students can be sure of is that teachers are going to be working very hard to have professional judgment, they're not going to rort the system, they're going to do their best," she said.

The petition, which currently has just over 4400 signatures, says NZQA disadvantaged students who were left in the dark about whether they'd have to sit their exams or not.

The petition also says students at Takapuna Grammar School had already begun their Scholarship History exam when the postponement announcement was made.

NZQA deputy chief executive Kristine Kilkelly says, like everyone, the authority made decisions with "imperfect information" in a situation which was continuing to unfold.

She said cancelling Monday's exams altogether would have caused much more turmoil.

"Three quarters of students across the country were unaffected, and it's a very big sitting day so it would have caused huge disruption to those students and it was in the best interest for students overall to continue as we normally do."

She understood the frustrations of students, but believed the derived grade process would address their concerns.

But Ms Roberts had some advice for students - put Monday behind you, for now.

"For students really stressed, they need to be really focused on the exams they have ahead of them and that the derived grade process can be entered into in early December."

NZQA says it is working closely with schools to figure out how schools have been affected and how students are being supported.

Instead of contacting NZQA, they say parents and students should instead first discuss their concerns with their school.

New Scholarship exams are being created, but Ms Kilkelly says a decision hasn't been made about whether those who still sat the exam on Monday could re-sit.