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Comment on release of second NZQA review

4 August 2005

Comment on release of second NZQA review Tony Hartevelt,

The Deputy State Services Commissioner, today released the second part of the independent review by Doug Martin and his Review Team on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

Part Two of the review focuses on the performance of NZQA in implementing NCEA and covers a number of dimensions including governance, organisational capability, stakeholder management, and professional leadership in examination processes.

This report follows Part One, on the 2004 Scholarship, released on 6 May 2005, and available on the SSC website: The Associate Minister of Education also asked the Review Team to assess whether the apparent variation in NCEA results both between subjects and between years (where valid comparisons are possible) reflects deficiencies in NZQA systems.

Tony Hartevelt said the Review team consulted widely within the sector during the course of the review. Some 40 secondary schools with diverse characteristics were visited, with the team mostly meeting the Principal, the Principal's Nominee and Heads of Department of the school.

Meetings were held with representatives of education sector organisations, employer groups, the Board and key staff of NZQA, officials from the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office and the Treasury, and a range of academics and researchers.

Some 66 written submissions were also received. Tony Hartevelt said the main findings of the Review are:

* While there were difficulties with the implementation of NCEA, the majority of schools and stakeholders believe that NCEA is enhancing learning outcomes for students and improving teaching practices.

* The NZQA focus on the implementation of NCEA was not sufficiently strategic. It concentrated on the logistics of the massive task of implementing the NCEA. Consequently, the broader change management issues that arose during this period of major transition for teachers, students and parents did not get the attention they needed. Neither did internal organisational development issues.

* As a result, the implementation path adopted was too steep. The safety nets that ensured stability and reliability in the 'old system' were displaced without comparable alternatives. Too much reliance has been placed on the self-sufficiency of standards that are continuing to develop and change, producing a degree of variability in the results of external assessment that is outside of public and professional tolerances. The report identifies a number of initiatives designed to bring variability back within acceptable limits.

* The report identifies the lack of stability at the Chief Executive level as a major problem. There have been eight changes in the leadership role in as many years. NZQA has therefore not had the opportunity to develop into a mature and high performing organisation. The appointment of a new Chief Executive that is well suited to the role will do more than anything else to lift the performance of NZQA and ensure that the implementation of NCEA is strengthened.

* The culture and capability (people, planning and systems) of NZQA needs to significantly improve, as does the quality of engagement with stakeholders. Communication to parents and employers in particular on NCEA needs to be much more focussed. The Board and Acting Chief Executive acknowledge this and have in some instances, begun that work.

* Overall, it must be acknowledged that the implementation of NCEA has been a massive undertaking and NZQA deserves credit for what has been achieved to date, as does the teaching profession.

Tony Hartevelt said that the report confirms that, after a difficult implementation, the NCEA is beginning to return benefits for the education sector. The findings and recommendations in the report would provide valuable guidance for NZQA going forward.

There was a strong desire expressed by a majority of schools and by all of the representative organisations to address the issues that have emerged from the first three years of implementation of NCEA and to move on.

The Review Team has also recorded the design issues that were raised during the consultation process that did not fall under the Terms of Reference and recommends they be referred to the Secondary Leaders' Forum for consideration in the NCEA Stocktake.

"The report acknowledges the difficulties that have come with the implementation of NCEA, but it also recognizes the merits of the standards-based assessment, and the proactive manner in which the Board, the Acting Chief Executive and the senior management are addressing the issues identified in the report," Tony Hartevelt said.

Contact Jason Ryan, State Services Commission, 04 495 2850

Review report The Review report and background terms of reference is available online at http://www.ssc.govt.nz/review-nzqa-part-two .


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