Principals oppose rise in fee for scholarship exams
A price shake-up of secondary school pupils' scholarship fees is causing concern for principals in the wider Manawatu, with fears it may turn students off taking the elite exams.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is looking to change the cost of entering scholarship subject exams, with consultation closing next week.
But school principals are opposing the plan, saying it may prevent poorer pupils from taking part and push the cost back on already underfunded schools.
At the moment, all pupils who have entered NCEA exams pay a compulsory $76.70 assessment fee.
This entitles them to enter up to three scholarship subjects for free with any extra exam entries costing another $76.70 per subject.
But the qualifications authority wants to scrap that system from 2015 and instead have a scholarship fee of $30 per subject, on top of the assessment fee.
This means that for the 20 per cent of New Zealand's year 13 pupils who only take one exam, it'll cost them more than $100 for a chance at securing a scholarship.
Awatapu College principal Gary Yeatman said it would be disappointing if students couldn't sit exams because they couldn't afford it.
Dannevirke High School principal Dawid de Villiers said the change may mean schools will have to support students who cannot afford the fees.
"I do not have a problem with the concept of ‘user pays', but what this will do is again shift the problem back to schools.
"I am not going to allow a student to withdraw from a scholarship exam just because their parents cannot afford it, [but] it will become another add-on to the already long list of social development that schools must engage in to ensure that all students have a fair chance to engage and achieve."
Of the 10,000 students who enter scholarship exams, about a quarter don't end up sitting the exam.
NZQA said no-shows impact their overall annual examination operating cost, which includes paying markers, examination centre managers, examination supervisors, as well as the cost of printing and distributing papers.
The authority could save more than $100,000 a year if there were fewer scholarship dropouts.
Palmerston North Girls' High School principal Melba Scott said students who want to will sit scholarship exams, but suggested a reduction in NCEA assessment fees could be introduced.
Top pupils can pocket up to $30,000 over three years if they have high-level scholarship exams results.
■ Secondary school exams start on November 11, beginning with NCEA level 1 English.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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