Disappointing statistics show fewer New Zealand students passing NCEA

Fewer Kiwi teens are passing NCEA each year according to new statistics released on Friday.

It's a poor report card, off the back of the Ministry of Education's attendance figures which show just half of all students at primary and secondary level regularly attended school in term 4 last year.

The NZ Qualifications Authority figures show COVID-19 continues to disrupt learning.

"While attainment at all levels of NCEA and University Entrance (UE) has declined compared to 2021, attainment of NCEA level 3 and UE remains slightly higher than in 2019 - the last non-COVID affected year," said NZQA deputy chief executive assessment, Jann Marshall.

But the Secondary Principals' Council chair Kate Gainsford told Newshub "last year was a year that if we could do anything to not repeat, we should".

Overall 65 percent of year 11 students passed level 1 NCEA last year - 5 percent down on 2021.

Attainment of NCEA level 2 amongst year 12 students decreased by 3 percentage points from 2021 (a decrease of 2.6 percentage points compared to 2019); while attainment of level 3 in year 13 declined by 2.3 percentage points from 2021 (an increase of 0.9 percentage points compared to 2019).

For many schools like Massey High, the drop in attainment is not surprising.

Principal Alastair Fairley said while his year 12 and 13 students did well, those in year 11 studying NCEA level 1 struggled.

"The disruptions were harder than during lockdown because of the rolling disruptions, that made it very difficult for teachers, but our staff will always go the extra mile," Fairley said.

Getting kids into class is tricky.

New figures from the Ministry of Education show that in term 4 last year just 50.6 percent of New Zealand primary and secondary students met the criteria for regular attendance.

'Regular' is classed as attending 90 percent of the time or missing no more than a day a fortnight.

While that's up on the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in term 2 last year when attendance hit an all-time low, there's concern for Māori and Pacific students who are attending even less, and attaining less at every level of NCEA.

"The cost of living is landing unequally in communities," Gainsford said. "It's about the pressure of the cost of living on families and young adults wanting to do the best for themselves and their families by providing if they can."

By 2026, the aim is to have 75 percent of all Kiwi kids regularly in school.

The Government's rolling out 82 new attendance officers but those on the tools say it's all very well bringing back the disengaged, when many schools don't have enough teachers to put in front of them.

"It's more than just attendance officers working through individual problems, it is making sure what is on offer from education is sufficient, is good enough, and that our teachers have the resources they need and support," Gainsford said.

The Government has another tool in its arsenal.

A $28 million expansion for the Attendance Service was announced in February. It aims to improve wraparound support for the chronically absent, or children not enrolled at all in schools.

Education Minister Jan Tinetti said 3000 more young people will benefit once this is expanded.