NCEA fee shuts out hard-up students

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2012

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A $76.70 fee is stopping thousands of students from being awarded NCEA credits they have achieved, a policy which marginalises already disadvantaged pupils, some education providers say.

All high school pupils who sit NCEA must pay the fee to their school and those who don't will not have their achievements formally awarded, meaning some students have to re-sit assessments in order to complete NCEA levels. In 2010 more than 3000 students did not have their achievements formally awarded.

Salvation Army Employment Plus assists disadvantaged people into employment through helping them with life skills, work behaviours, and to achieve educational credits. Chief executive Mark Pickering said in some regions, such as Bay of Plenty and Wairoa, more than 25 per cent of pupils were affected by not being formally awarded their credits.

"Our experience is that this is highly demotivating for students. Most are reluctant to repeat the assessments, some are disappointed with their circumstances, or worse, shamed that they do not have the money to pay the outstanding fees or that their caregivers have money but withheld the fees.

"Others are angry with or distrustful of the education system that the credits they worked for have been withheld."

Pickering said starting a new course of study with "feelings of shame or distrust in the education system are not conducive to further achievement".

He said it had been a problem since NZQA first required fees to be paid before credits are formally awarded.

Another education provider, which chose not to be named, provided an example of a student who had been affected.

Jack (not his real name) achieved 96 credits during his year 11.

He enrolled in a training course after leaving school and at the time of enrolment had no close supportive family.

He was flatting with friends and relying on the Independent Youth Benefit. Jack's secondary school qualification check shows he has academically achieved NCEA 1, however due to an unpaid fee this qualification was not awarded.

"Jack has now left the course to whereabouts unknown and unfortunately, without the issue being resolved, is still out there with no qualification to his name."

YMCA executive officer Isabel Murray said the organisation had more than 500 teenagers who it helped with vocational training and achieving NCEA.

She said the organisation had made a policy where they would pay the fees, including late fees, so the teenagers could continue with their learning.

"Not all providers do that. We do that because we don't want to have to have the young people redo the credits they have already passed. It is disadvantaging the young people."

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Murray said she and others from YMCA had talked "to a number of people on a number of occasions".

"Nobody has come up with a solution to the problem at this stage."

NZQA deputy chief executive Richard Thornton said the rule would not change but that added financial assistance was available to students.

He said students, regardless of whether they have paid their fees or not, can view and print all their academic achievements via their learner log-in area on the NZQA website, and these results can be used for tertiary entry.

"NZQA works to enable all students to receive their results and not disadvantage any students," he said.

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The 2010 figures from NZQA show: 50,902 pupils achieved Level 1 NCEA but 1633 were not formally awarded due to fees not being paid. 43,360 achieved Level 2 NCEA but 1168 were not formally awarded due to fees not being paid. 24,668 achieved Level 3 NCEA but 238 were not formally awarded due to fees not being paid.

- Sunday Star Times

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