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Proposed changes to NCEA level one slammed by headmaster of top Auckland school - 'Working to the lowest common denominator'

A radical plan to scrap NCEA Level 1 exams, and halve the number of required credits, has been slammed by an Auckland Headmaster.

The proposals are part of a discussion paper on how to improve our national school leaving qualification, but Auckland Grammar School Headmaster Tim O'Connor has labelled it irresponsible. 

"This is working to the lowest common denominator. There is nothing aspirational about this document," Mr O'Connor says. 

"It's a sad indictment on our sector that this would be presented to the public to say this is for the betterment of our students."

A Ministerial Advisory Group's proposed sweeping changes to NCEA, including more focus on literacy and numeracy, halving the number of level 1 credits from 80 to 40 and doing away with level 1 exams. 

The Post Primary Teachers' Association says its been calling for the changes for years. 

"We are doing far too much assessment in our schools and that's having a negative impact on teachers," says PPTA president Jack Boyle. 

"It's also having a negative impact on young people who have got three years of high stakes assessment, which is leading them to being the most anxious and stressed young people in the OECD."

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says the changes are aimed at preparing students for real life, not just for tests.

"One of the criticisms of NCEA is that it can be a bit of grab bag of credit accumulation without those credits adding to a qualification that's actually leading someone somewhere."

Avondale College Principal Brent Lewis has welcomed the proposals, saying the current system needs to change. 

"At the moment, any student can achieve literacy because you can gain it through subjects like physical education and maths. That's just ludicrous."

Under the proposed changes, Year 11 students can achieve 20 of their 40 credits through passion projects they select themselves.

But Mr O'Connor believes students must first study a range of options so that they can discover what their passions are. 

"We need to be the adults in the conversation about student education, not encouraging students to lead the entire conversation about their future. They dont know what they don't know," he says. 

Parents and students 1NEWS approached today were wary of the plans. 

"I think it has the potential to lower the standard of them, not increase, which is what we want," one mother said. 

Another parent said external exams are crucial to a student's development. 

"Forty credits. I don't think that's enough. They just go 'ohh, 40 credits. That's easy', you know?" 

A student at Mt Albert Grammar School expressed concerns that it would leave students unprepared for university. 

"When you go to uni there's going to be harsh deadlines. You're going to have to do external exams. If you cut them out, there will be a real shock."

Mr Hipkins says the changes would not be lowering the bar.

"It's actually saying we need some rigorous requirements for NCEA, particularly around literacy and numeracy."

Levels 2 and 3 qualifications will have more focus on pathways to further study and career opportunities. 

Public consultation will run until mid-September. 

The proposals are part of a discussion paper on how to improve our national school leaving qualification. Source: 1 NEWS