Schools' efforts to improve student achievement pay off

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 30/04/2014

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Manawatu secondary school students' book smarts are above average when it comes to NCEA, with principals saying the extra effort put into pupils is paying off.

NCEA results for 2013 have been released and pupils, parents and principals can check and compare how their schools performed in last year's assessments.

The Manawatu Standard looked at every Manawatu school's NCEA and scholarship results for 2013, supplied by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

Of the 18 schools looked at 13 beat the national pass rates in at least one NCEA level last year, and the remaining schools fell short only by a small percentage.

Palmerston North Girls', Dannevirke and Feilding high schools, as well as Nga Tawa Diocesan School and Hato Paora College all achieved above the national average across all three NCEA levels.

Hato Paora had a 100 per cent pass rate in levels 1, 2 and 3 - a first for the school, principal Debra Marshall-Lobb said. "We take considerable pride in these results, but I'm not saying it happens all the time, it was an accumulation of five years hard work."

The school underwent an internal review a few years back that renewed direction for staff, students and the school board.

Since then it had brought in education experts, enhanced professional development for staff, changed parent contact and support systems and taken an "active learning" approach with pupils in a bid to lift student achievement, Marshall-Lobb said.

"We're constantly looking to improve in all areas to support improved student learning outcomes . . . but when you get results, you start to get rewards - nothing is insurmountable."

Freyberg High and Taihape Area schools, as well as Tararua, Horowhenua and Waiopehu colleges, were below the national average across all three NCEA levels.

Despite this, the results brought good news for some schools with improvements on previous pass rates.

Waiopehu College received a letter from Education Minister Hekia Parata praising it on its academic improvements.

Principal Barry Petherick said disappointing results four years ago focused the school's attention on lifting student achievement. Since then the school started a result-driven, intensified approach with staff and students. This had seen base-level pass rates blossom in a bid to reach the Ministry of Education push of 85 per cent of all 18-year-olds achieving NCEA level 2 or equivalent qualification by 2017.

"If we compare ourselves to national standards we're only 1 or 2 per cent off," Petherick said. "There's still work to be done, but we're moving in the right direction."

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The results show that the region's pupils scored 87 NZQA scholarships between them - with the highest number going to the city's largest state school, Palmerston North Boys' High, which received 37 as well as having five pupils awarded "outstanding" scholarships, which are given to the top 1 per cent of pupils in New Zealand.

Feilding High School collected 10 scholarships, Palmerston North Girls' High and St Peter's College both secured nine and Horowhenua College seven.

- Manawatu Standard

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