Secondary students from poorer homes struggling
The Waikato Times has today released 2011 NCEA attainment data from almost all Waikato schools, as more than 10,000 of the region's students begin their end-of-year exams this week.
Overall, 70 per cent of school leavers attained NCEA level 2 or above last year, up from 64 per cent in 2009, and that positive trend is expected to continue.
However, the information, provided by the Education Ministry, shows that many students - particularly those in poorer areas - are struggling to achieve even the most basic secondary qualification.
Of the 104 school leavers at Tokoroa High School (decile 2) last year, only 44 per cent attained NCEA level 2 or above, and 36 per cent failed to pass level 1.
At Hamilton's Fraser High School, which has a decile 4 rating, less than half of school leavers gained NCEA level 2 or higher qualification, and 33 per cent were below level 1.
In comparison, Waikato Diocesan School For Girls - a private decile-10 school - had 98 per cent of its school leavers attain level 2 or above, and 90 per cent of them were at the university entrance standard.
St Peter's Cambridge, also a private decile-10 school, was close behind with 95 per cent of school leavers at level 2 or above.
University of Waikato education professor Martin Thrupp said there was a consistent link between the decile rating of a school and student achievement.
Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said children from poorer backgrounds often came to school with learning deficits and it was an ongoing challenge for them to keep up with the curriculum.
"That's not something the schools can control," Prof Thrupp said. The Government needed to address issues of equity outside of schools in order to lift the achievement of poorer students, he said.
School leavers at single-sex schools, Hamilton Boys' High and Sacred Heart Girls' College, also outperformed their co-educational peers.
"The gender issue in schools is not a big one, it's about the quality of the education that's provided," Mr Walsh said.
WAIKATO OVERALL* (2011)
Total school leavers 5734
83 per cent achieved NCEA level 1 or higher
70 per cent of students achieved NCEA level 2 or higher
17 per cent failed to achieve NCEA level 1
39 per cent attained university entrance standard