High school principals challenge Education Minister Chris Hipkins over NCEA review

Nearly 40 secondary school principals are challenging the Minister of Education's NCEA review.

On Sunday, they published full-page newspaper ads grading Chris Hipkins' review a "fail" and damning the process as rushed, flawed and without proper consultation.

"Too rushed, Minister Hipkins, not enough thought. Must do better for our young people," the ad reads.

The Principals NCEA Coalition says it represents more than 45,000 students from private, integrated and state schools, ranging from decile 1 to 10.

"We are a coalition of principals passionate about our young people and their secondary school education. We want the best possible education for the next generation - including a New Zealand qualification framework accessible to all students.

"We agree a review of NCEA is necessary because the framework can be improved to better prepare our young people for the challenges ahead. However, the review is flawed and we will not stand idle on the sidelines watching a fraught process pass us by."

Mr Hipkins says NCEA's "full potential has yet to be fully realised".

"Employers are telling us that students coming out of school don't have the right skills, students say more flexibility is needed and teachers say there's too much assessment, getting in the way of learning," he said in May, promising widespread consultation.

ACT leader David Seymour says he supports the principals, and is calling for Mr Hipkins to halt the review.

"If he is not prepared to do that, then he must modify it to incorporate the principals' requests, consult them directly, focus on curriculum first, then review the administration of the NCEA.

"If he won't do that, it will be difficult to see Hipkins' education consultations as anything more than insincerely manufacturing consent for a predetermined agenda."

Coalition spokesperson Massey High School principal Glen Denham says the group came together this past week out of sheer frustration with the process put in place by Mr Hipkins.

"These principals are incensed and want the situation urgently addressed. The process is wrong, the minister is bulldozing this through and it is our young people who will pay the ultimate price," Mr Denham said.

"The timeframe is too short. The Government has allowed only 16 weeks to review a national educational qualification for the next 30 years.

"Five weeks of the process has passed, and still principals have not been consulted - rather they have been asked to act as ambassadors for a proposal they have had no input into. The process appears to be disingenuous."

The coalition asks why the ministerial advisory group of seven only included one principal, and says they want a "review of the review".

"Let's start with fixing what is broken - starting with quality teacher supply, and work from there. If we don't have a supply of quality teachers, NCEA in any form is unsustainable."

Under new proposals, external exams for year 11 students would be scrapped. Students would also focus on specific projects to improve literacy and numeracy, and they'd only have to get 40 credits instead of 80.

Mr Hipkins said it would give young people better skills when they head out into the workforce.

"We know kids at New Zealand schools are currently being over-assessed, and that's resulting in an unnecessary workload for both the students and teachers," he told Newshub in May.

The minister said teachers know first-hand that some students crumble under pressure, and employers have long called for students to have more skills.

Public consultation is open until September 16, and Mr Hipkins will report to Cabinet with recommendations in February next year.


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