QA News

QA News Issue 83
- 11 Mar 2014

ISSN 1170-3318 (Online)

QA News provides information about NZQA activities. It is produced by NZQA four times per year.

In this edition: 

 Chief Executive's news 

Karen QA NewsIn this issue of QA News we are celebrating the success of students from 2013 who achieved in their examinations; particularly the top New Zealand Scholarship students who performed outstandingly well across a range of subjects. 

New Zealand Scholarship is regarded as the most prestigious secondary school award available and the award winning students this year are among the top academic achievers in the country.

Speaking of top achievers, this year’s Top Art exhibition is underway. I encourage you to get along to one of the venues and view some of the top secondary school Visual Art portfolios on show. The selection is of such a high quality – every year I’m delighted to see members of the public given the opportunity to see the art being created in our schools.

This issue of QA News includes an article about a new set of reporting requirements introduced to the external evaluation and review (EER) process. As an example, the requirements cover information on specific educational and employment outcomes and Māori and Pasifika learner achievement.

NZQA uses the EER process as its standard means of reviewing the current quality of performance and capability within tertiary education organisations. The judgements reflect the quality and value of education provided and these new requirements will ensure increased consistency in reporting as well as adding to the robustness of the EER process.

I hope your year got off to a good start, and we look forward to continuing to work with you.

Ngā mihi.

Karen Poutasi

Chief Executive

 Enhanced reporting for EERs

NZQA has introduced a set of reporting requirements to ensure greater consistency in the reporting on external evaluation and reviews (EER) of tertiary education organisations.

EER is a quality assurance process for non-university tertiary organisations involving a team of NZQA evaluators visiting an organisation to discuss their educational performance and self-assessment processes.

The evaluators look for evidence that the organisation is achieving valuable outcomes for its students in terms of education, personal development and social betterment, and/or employment. The evaluators also seek evidence that the organisation is assessing its own systems for achieving these outcomes.

The evaluators form judgements about the organisation’s capability in self-assessment and educational performance and summarise these in a report published on the NZQA website. In the report, the evaluators demonstrate how they reach their conclusions, and cite the evidence used to support their judgements.

The new requirements cover, among other things, information on specific educational and employment outcomes, and include Māori and Pasifika learner achievement, if applicable.

At a minimum, EER reports will include:

  • learner achievement of relevant cohorts and/or groups
  • Māori and Pasifika achievement
  • learner and stakeholder outcomes ‒ including employment, personal development, and social betterment
  • performance data, including significant gaps
  • steps taken to verify educational performance
  • the use of data to understand and maximise educational performance
  • evaluation of how well the organisation’s systems support educational performance.

As part of the EER process, tertiary organisations will also provide information on how their teaching and administrative systems support and improve these outcomes.

More consistent reporting will enable clearer comparisons of educational performance between tertiary organisations.

For more information, see: How NZQA evaluates educational performance in external evaluation and review.

 NZQA welcomes new Deputy Chief Executive

Dr Grant Klinkum joined NZQA as Deputy Chief Executive Strategic and Corporate Services Division on 10 March 2014, following seven years at the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) in senior management roles.

Over the past three years Grant has led engagement with the tertiary education sector as General Manager of Tertiary Investment.

Prior to the TEC, Grant worked as Deputy Chief Executive at an Institute of Technology and Polytechnic and has worked as a Dean of Faculty at two tertiary education organisations.

Read more about the structure of NZQA and the divisions that make up the organisation.

 TOGA Comments on NCEA and scholarship examinations

TOGA met in early February to assist NZQA for its annual contribution to NZQA’s decision making on New Zealand Scholarship examination results. As part of the process they made the following statement.

The Technical Overview Group Assessment (TOGA) is a committee of scholars with strong knowledge of educational assessment, set up to monitor and make recommendations about the New Zealand Scholarship and NCEA examinations.

Over the past several years, TOGA has been encouraging NZQA to analyse carefully how the examination processes for New Zealand Scholarship and externally assessed NCEA standards have been performing. Appropriate technical approaches have been adopted, and these have provided information that has led to substantial improvements in the processes for setting and marking the examinations. As a result, TOGA advises that New Zealanders can be confident that these examinations are robust.

Several improvements are noteworthy.

First, in the recent programme to review and revise NCEA standards to better fit with the revised New Zealand curriculum, the number of standards to be assessed in any three hour examination has been restricted to a maximum of three. Previously, up to six standards were assessed in three hours. This has ensured that the results for each standard are based on an adequately thorough test of the students’ capabilities.

Second, all questions or separately marked examination components are now designed to be able to assess all levels of performance, from not achieved to achieved with excellence (or for the NZ Scholarship examinations, from no award to scholarship with outstanding performance). Previously, some questions or components were targeted to assess only some of the possible performance levels, with a consequence that there was often little information available to demonstrate excellent performance.

Third, each question or marked component is marked using a 0 to 8 marking scale that is clearly linked to the available performance levels (for NCEA, those levels are not achieved, achieved, achieved with merit, and achieved with excellence). Markers and examiners have reported that this new approach gives them greater confidence in the quality of the decisions that they are making; the technical evidence available to TOGA supports their confidence.

With each successive year of these examinations, TOGA has been able to see steady improvement in the assessment processes, and is pleased with their quality.

Members of TOGA - leading academic experts in assessment:

  • Professor Gary Hawke (Chair)
  • Professor Terry Crooks
  • Professor Cedric Hall
  • Professor Jeff Smith
  • Associate Professor Gavin Brown
  • Doctor Michael Johnston

 Updated brochure translations

The ‘Understanding NCEA’ pamphlets have been updated and published in English and te reo Māori, as well as four Pasifika languages: Samoan, Tongan, Niuean and Cook Island Māori.

These publications are aimed at students, parents and communities alike. They outline the requirements for achieving NCEA, different types of assessment, endorsements, Youth Guarantee and Vocational Pathways. Advice is also offered on course planning and supporting students through their study.

‘Understanding NCEA’ can be downloaded from the NZQA website and printed copies can be ordered by email (please include delivery details).

There are also NCEA flyers available in other languages from the Ministry of Education that can be used to support refugee communities who do not speak English as a first language.

 Student touring art exhibition launched

NZQA’s annual Top Art exhibition was launched on 3 March 2014 at Massey University’s Wellington campus.

Top Art showcases some of the best NCEA Level 3 visual art portfolios from 2013, and guests included several of the student-artists and their families.

Claire Roderick, Painting

The folios were selected as good examples of Excellence at NCEA Level 3 by the NZQA visual arts marking panel, and many also achieved Scholarship or Outstanding Scholarship.

NZQA Chief Executive Dr Karen Poutasi congratulated the students on their achievement and said the art on show is a testament to the hard work and talent of students and teachers around the country.

Around 55 folios have been on display at Te Ara Hihiko at Massey University in Wellington and from mid-March are split in two groups to tour the country until September, allowing current students and teachers to view the standard they should be aiming for in each of the five Level 3 visual art streams: design, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture.

Many of the exhibition venues are also open to the public. For an exhibition schedule and photos of the artwork, see the NZQA website.

Connor Mossman, Design

 Detection and prevention of cheating

Tertiary staff are being asked to remain vigilant about potential offers of cheating services to tertiary students, including via social media. Educational organisations also need to be alert to the possibility that staff may be approached directly to gain contact information about students. 

We live in a global environment and all education providers are exposed to this risk.

The most effective way of detecting and preventing cheating by students is through effective management of well-designed assessments. 

Tertiary education organisations should have systems in place to prevent and detect fraud. This includes blocking access to websites that offer what appear to be cheating services, where students can buy essays written on their behalf.

NZQA will continue to collect information on cheating services and, where NZQA has jurisdiction, take action. New Zealand law relating to advertising and selling cheating services applies to organisations operating in New Zealand. 

A guide to detecting and preventing cheating has been jointly published by NZQA and Universities New Zealand.

 Students receive digital exam booklets

For the first time, New Zealand Scholarship students were this year able to access digital copies of their marked examination booklets online.

Following on from the release of their end of year results, the pilot initiative provided students who sat the examinations in 2013 with more immediate access to view their answer booklets says Steve Bargh, Digital Assessment Programme Leader, NZQA.

“By returning marked examination booklets electronically we have made it quicker and easier for students to look at their returned work, and see how their examinations were marked, without having to wait for their booklets to arrive in the mail”.

Information was provided to students about how booklets could be accessed through YouPost, NZ Post’s secure online service. Students were able to log in to the secure site with an individual and private access code.

The pilot initiative is part of a larger strategy by NZQA to increase the use of technology in its operations and is a first step in testing digital access and security.

“Students are working and living in a digital environment where behaviours and learning styles are changing through the use of technology” says Mr Bargh.

“Information technology changes are currently being investigated to look further into what could potentially be implemented in the future to ensure we meet the needs of students.”

The digital images were also used as part of the New Zealand Scholarship reviews and reconsiderations process. Marking panel leaders and National Assessment Facilitators have been able to access the digital copies to check marking and to re-mark booklets if necessary. 

Feedback from New Zealand Scholarship students and markers is encouraged as part of the pilot and will be critical in evaluating the project and determining the learnings.

 Taratahi visit for national moderators

NZQA’s team of National Assessment Moderators (NAMs) and other staff got a lesson in vocational learning when they visited the main campus of Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre in the Wairarapa recently.

The role of the NAMs is to moderate internally assessed achievement standards for secondary schools and non-university tertiary organisations, like Taratahi.

Taratahi trains 2,500 students each year in subjects from fencing to equine studies. The key to their success is that while their programmes are a mix of theoretical and practical Taratahi teaches theory in a practical way, every job on-farm is a learning opportunity for students.

While Taratahi provides courses up to Level 5 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, it is also involved in two programmes aimed at NCEA Level 1-3 students; the Primary Industries Trade Academy (PITA) and Youth Guarantee.

The NAMs were interested in how their own work, particularly the creation of Youth Guarantee assessment resources in 2013, fed into these two programmes and were pleased to see that Taratahi are now utilising these assessment resources.

Achievement focus

The Primary Industry Trades Academy (PITA) takes students from Years 10 to 13 out of school for one day a week. Students encouraged to apply are those with an interest in agriculture, particularly those at risk of disengaging from education.

The focus is on NCEA achievement and foundation skills, practical learning and exploring career opportunities in the agricultural sector.

‘Soft skills’ such as confidence and goal-setting are also built on by setting students up to feel successful, where many have previously struggled in the educational context.

Students can work towards the National Certificate in Primary Industries Level 1, the National Certificate in Agriculture (General Skills) Level 2 or the National Certificate in Agriculture (Animal Feeding and Pastures) Level 3, while also gaining credits towards NCEA. 

Youth Guarantee courses

Youth Guarantee is a government initiative for 16 and 17 year olds who are not currently engaged in education, allowing them one year of fees-free education in a tertiary setting.

Taratahi implemented the 23-week Introduction to Farming programme, an 80-credit Level 2 course for Youth Guarantee students, in its Waikato and Rodney locations in 2013.

The course involves aspects of health and safety, fencing, and the handling of vehicles, machinery, stock and agricultural chemicals.

In small groups of 8-10, 190 students progressed through the programme last year. Taratahi plans to expand its offerings for 2014, including adding two Level 3 courses.

Staff at Taratahi outlined some of the challenges around implementing a Youth Guarantee course, such as:

  • higher level of pastoral care required, especially around literacy and numeracy
  • some students are illiterate or haven’t attended school since Year 9
  • some students read and write only in te reo Māori, which causes problems when they are on a farm and need to read instructions (e.g. for fertilisers or drenches)
  • drug and alcohol issues
  • low levels of attendance
  • financial problems
  • social and behavioural issues.

To counter some of these challenges, Taratahi offers extra support to Youth Guarantee students. This can include:

  • verbalised assessment
  • literacy and numeracy support
  • reader-writers
  • teaching life skills and socially acceptable behaviour
  • providing incentives for high attendance
  • encouraging students to go on to Level 3, in any field.

The visit included input from various speakers, who demonstrated that the practicalities of implementing and utilising internal assessment and Youth Guarantee resources are not necessarily straightforward. However, providing resources that are flexible enough to be applied in real life settings is of tremendous benefit and will assist greatly.

 Scholarship Award winners announced

The New Zealand Scholarship Premier Award winners and the 35 Top Subject Scholars for 2013 have been announced.

Last year almost 11,000 students participated in New Zealand Scholarship examinations, with 2,386 students achieving a scholarship. These students are scheduled to receive almost $3.7 million towards their further study over the next three years.

The monetary awards go to 10 students who achieved Premier Awards, 60 students who achieved Outstanding Scholar Awards and 35 students who achieved Top Subject Scholar Awards.

Premier Awards carry a monetary award of $10,000 each year for up to three years of tertiary study**. Outstanding Scholars each receive $5,000 per year for up to three years** and Top Subject Scholar Awards each receive $2,000 per year for up to three years.

NZQA Deputy Chief Executive Richard Thornton said the students performed exceptionally well and achieved impressive results.

“All the award winners should be very proud of themselves. Their results reflect the hard work they have undertaken during the school year, particularly in the lead-up to examinations, and we congratulate them on their success”.

Education Minister Hekia Parata also congratulated the award winners and thanked schools and parents for the support provided in helping to achieve success.

The 2013 New Zealand Scholarship Top Scholar Awards Ceremony will be held on 7 May and all Premier and Top Subject Scholars will be invited to attend. The winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Academic Excellence (2013) will be announced at the ceremony.

For the full list of award winners in each category view:

** Award conditions:

  • As long as the student maintains at least a “B” grade average in tertiary study in New Zealand.
  • Premier Award winners and Outstanding Scholar Award winners are eligible for only one monetary prize – the highest amount.

 Pasifika Strategy making a difference

Mid-way into NZQA’s Pasifika Strategy 2012-2015 a number of initiatives are underway and contributing to Pasifika learners becoming highly skilled and highly qualified.

Fa’amatuainu Aaron Nonoa, NZQA Chief Advisor Pasifika, says the strategy has been successful and that the NCEA ma le Pasifika workshops are a highlight.









“The NCEA ma le Pasifika workshops provide a basic understanding of how NCEA works and aim to encourage Pasifika to engage with schools. It is important that parents and family members know the importance of subject choice and that because of internal assessment, students must work hard throughout the year - not just at exam time”.

Between July 2012 and February 2014 NZQA delivered 69 workshops to just over 3000 Pasifika participants who have fed back to organisers that they now have a greater understanding of NCEA.

The workshops are led by NZQA, and are a collaborative initiative that involves the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and Careers New Zealand.  The workshops support the Better Public Services NCEA Level 2 goal, and also support the targets within the Ministry of Education’s Pasifika Education Plan 2013-2017.

Used heavily at the workshops, the Understanding NCEA brochure produced by NZQA has been re-designed and translated into four Pacific languages – Samoan, Lea Faka Tongan, Vagahau Niue and Cook Islands Māori. The brochures are available at no cost to schools and the Pasifika community.

There have also been a number of projects initiated across the Pacific Islands. An NCEA ma le Pasifika workshop was held in Niue.  Professional development sessions were provided for Cook Island Ministry of Education staff and best practice workshops on development and assessment of tasks and Managing National Assessment reviews were held in Niue and the Cook Islands.

NZQA has also delivered capability training programmes in Tonga to staff from the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Board and in Samoa to staff from the Samoa Qualifications Authority. “NZQA is acknowledged internationally for its expertise and experience in qualifications frameworks and quality assurance systems and both agencies have said the training is highly valued.”

Aaron says that after 19 months of implementation, the strategy is in a good place to meet its objectives.  NZQA will continue to support the strengthening of Pasifika education, and making a contribution to raising Pasifika achievement.

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