COVID-19 Updates and Resources

Email to Principals from Kristine Kilkelly
COVID-19 #6 - 24 Apr 2020

Dear Principal

With this week’s news about the implications for senior secondary schooling under Alert Level 3, we know that the challenge of ensuring the well-being of your students and maintaining the connection to your school community is your primary focus. Alongside this you will be giving teachers support and space to adapt their learning approaches and programmes to engage students in the new environment.

Both NZQA and the Ministry of Education are working to support schools to focus on the curriculum’s key learning outcomes, helping ensure students are able to learn the skills and knowledge they need for their qualification pathway. Schools can utilise the flexibility of NCEA to re-plan assessment programmes to help manage the impact of these disruptions.

To date, we have provided subject and standard-specific advice and guidance about managing assessment during remote learning, and on re-planning assessment. We recognise that schools need to:

  • prioritise teaching and learning
  • gather valid standard-specific assessment evidence from the teaching and learning programme
  • prioritise assessment of standards that can be validly assessed in a remote delivery environment
  • defer assessment of standards that can’t validly be assessed in this environment.

In developing our advice and guidance, we continue to draw on the experience and lessons learned following the Christchurch earthquakes, and the disruption to schooling which occurred over the months that followed.

Schools can adjust their programmes so valid assessment can occur while students are learning remotely. For some standards, this means that assessment will be undertaken later in the year or when face to face schooling resumes. Teachers have broad scope to teach and assess in a way that works for their situation, and the situation of their students.

We are conscious of the pressure felt by teachers to get their students through enough assessment to meet the requirements of their qualification, and university entrance or other tertiary pathway. That is why we are closely monitoring the situation and considering the scenarios in which it might be appropriate to implement additional processes, such as those used for students affected in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes.

We are also aware that many students are anxious about their ability to achieve NCEA as a consequence of the current disruptions. However, the way NCEA is structured means students still have the opportunity to achieve a qualification which meets their needs; and one which has a strong international recognition that opens doors here and around the world.

It is also important students know that if for any reason they are unable to undertake their external assessment - whether it be through illness or the closure of an examination centre - the derived grade process will provide a safety net. Your teachers will be recording grades as they prepare their students for external assessment in case they are needed for a derived grade at the end of the year.

We are working closely with the Ministry of Education and are taking our overall lead from the Government's position on the Alert Levels. We will update you in mid-May, which will be after the Prime Minister’s announcement on 11 May, and when we will have a clearer view of the outlook for the remainder of the term and beyond.

There have been several communications from NZQA over recent weeks, and it may be useful to summarise these. Set out below is the key advice and guidance provided, including that which we have planned and underway.

Internal Assessment

We have worked closely with the Ministry of Education in developing three types of standard specific guidance:

  1. Subject matrices – these will be published by 1 May and provide advice on the suitability of standards for remote teaching, learning and assessment. The matrices are designed to help departments with planning. Each matrix uses the same colour-coded system.

    The subject matrices also provide advice and guidance to assist preparation for external standards.

    Drama and Music are already published. More will be published this week and all 35 subjects by 1 May.
  2. Assessment Evidence Gathering Templates – these are designed to help teachers consider evidence from the teaching and learning process to make assessment judgements. The templates are not just attestations.

    All 183 Level 3 templates were published on 15 April and over half of the 172 Level 2 templates are available online. The remainder, including the 149 Level 1 templates, will be published by 15 May.
  3. Assessment Matters Circulars for subjects that have performance standards – these provide detailed guidance about how to manage and assess these standards. Schools will be emailed as usual when these are published.

External assessment

We have strongly recommended that teachers adapt the generic template for external assessment to record evidence of achievement for externally assessed standards. Schools must regularly report these grades, which may be used for a derived grade if the circumstances warrant it.

We are closely monitoring the impact of ongoing disruptions on submission dates for externally assessed standards; and will communicate changes to these as they are finalised. In the meantime, teachers should continue to prepare their students for assessment.

School leavers

We are working closely with the Ministry of Education to help ensure students can transition into the world of work or tertiary study if they intend that this is their final year of secondary schooling.

Where to find existing information

Through the COVID-19 tile on the home page of the NZQA website, you can find:

  • our updates #1 to #5 with public information about the flexibility of NCEA to cope with the current disruptions, and about the actions schools are taking to continue to gather valid evidence of achievement of standards.

Through subject resource pages on the NZQA website, you will find:

  • assessment evidence gathering templates that allow teachers to integrate evidence gathering with teaching and learning for the most commonly assessed achievement standards.

Through your NZQA school provider login, we have teacher and school-specific resources available, including:

  • A list of the subject-specific assessment evidence gathering templates available on the subject pages by standard number
  • Generic templates in English and Te Reo Māori for teachers to adapt for assessment of other achievement and unit standards, including for gathering evidence for derived grades
  • A PowerPoint providing self-directed guidance for teachers on using the flexibility of NCEA to gather credible, standard-specific, assessment evidence
  • Four videos of teachers who assessed students for qualifications in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes.

As this third set of resources are only accessible through your school’s general security login please make sure your teachers have a current Education Sector Login, so that they can make use of the practical advice and guidance we have available.

New COVID-19 Resources

Attached to this email and to be published under teacher resources in your provider login are:

  • Guidance on managing authenticity in a remote assessment environment
  • Messages you can share with your school community in response to any concerns students, parents and whānau may have about assessment and the NCEA
  • Answers to frequently asked questions about managing assessment during COVID-19 disruption.


We are planning to offer subject-specific webinars, facilitated by subject associations, to clarify and further explain the purpose of support material being provided by the Ministry of Education or NZQA.

We will let you know when these are scheduled.

Your School

Finally, your School Relationship Manager will be in touch, if they haven’t already, to ensure that you have the information and support you need. What we learn will also help us tailor our support to your school’s circumstances and inform our overall planning and actions to manage through this period.

Kind regards


Kristine Kilkelly
Deputy Chief Executive | Pou Whakahaere Tuarua
Assessment | Aromatawai
New Zealand Qualifications Authority | Mana Tohu Mātauranga o Aotearoa

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