What is the NCEA Change Programme

What's Changing

We’re in the process of strengthening NCEA by making a series of changes to improve well-being, equity, coherence, pathways and credibility – for students and teachers alike.

The changes, which were confirmed by Cabinet in February 2020, will be the most significant reform of NCEA since the qualification was introduced in 2002.

In light of feedback from key stakeholder groups – those who undertake NCEA (learners and their parents/whānau), those who deliver NCEA (school leaders and educators), those who administer the qualification (NZQA) and those who use the completed qualification (employers, tertiary providers, iwi, etc) – we will be working to ensure we implement the NCEA changes in a way which is responsive to the diverse and evolving needs of our education system and communities, and recognises the complex nature of NCEA.

We will also provide the best resourcing, tools and guidance, minimise disruption to learning programmes as much as possible, and continue to engage with New Zealanders as we implement the changes.

The NCEA Change Programme is a work programme led by the Ministry of Education to deliver the package of seven changes aimed at strengthening NCEA:

  1. Make NCEA more accessible – zero fees, fewer barriers for learners with disabilities and learning support needs.
  2. Equal status for mātauranga Māori in NCEA – develop new ways to recognise mātauranga Māori, build teacher capability, and improve resourcing and support for Māori learners and te ao Māori pathways.
  3. Strengthen literacy and numeracy requirements and assessments – ensure students with an NCEA have functional literacy and numeracy skills that will ready them to transition into tertiary education or the workplace.
  4. Fewer, larger standards – new achievement standards and resources will be developed to replace existing standards and ensure the qualification achieved credentials the most significant learning in a learning area or subject.
  5. Simplify NCEA's structure – credits can no longer be carried over to the next level and resubmissions will only be allowed where they take students from a ‘Not Achieved’ grade to an ‘Achieved’ grade. Sixty credits are required to pass each NCEA level.
  6. Clearer pathways to further education or work – develop a Vocational Entrance Award to clearly signal when a student is ready to transition into higher level vocational education and strengthen vocational pathways through NCEA.
  7. Keep NCEA Level 1 optional – ensure Level 1 provides students with the broad, foundational knowledge needed to support specialization at Levels 2 and 3.

The changes were informed by insights and feedback gathered during the public engagement on the NCEA Review in 2018, and were confirmed by the Government in February 2020.

Thousands of people across the country took part in the Review from May to October 2018 and provided feedback in different ways – including Quick Survey (6,758 people); workshops, fono and hui (8000+ people); NCEA and Big Opportunities Survey (920 people); 54 focus groups (493 people); 20 regional workshops (476 people); and submissions (155 individuals, 116 groups and 95 organisations). An overwhelming majority favoured changes to strengthen NCEA.

The Ministry of Education is working with schools, young people, families/whānau, communities and other key stakeholders to deliver the NCEA changes. The changes are scheduled to be phased in over six years, with new achievement standards at Levels 1, 2 and 3 in place by January 2026.

    Delivering the Change

    We have been working in partnership with teachers, students, school leaders, parents and whānau, and other representatives from the sector to implement the changes to the NCEA. The new standards are scheduled to be implemented in 2024 (Level 1), 2025 (Level 2) and 2026 (Level 3).

    We also want to ensure everything we develop to support the NCEA changes will meet the five principles of a strong NCEA qualification – coherence, credibility, equity and inclusion, pathways and well-being.

    Government Rephasing of the NCEA Change Programme

    Following sector feedback, and advice from the Ministry of Education, NZQA and his NCEA Professional Advisory Group (PAG), the Minister has announced that the NCEA Change Programme will be rephased over an additional year to support the sector. 

    • During 2021, our teachers, learners and communities have continued to manage their way through COVID-19 uncertainty and disruption, and their wellbeing is our priority. 
    • The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on schools and on the workloads of principals and teachers, especially in Tāmaki Makaurau. 
    • While there remains a very strong commitment to the changes to NCEA, we acknowledge that more time will allow for more opportunities with the sector for development and piloting, as well as allowing more time to unpack and prepare for what mana ōrite mō te mātauranga Māori means for teachers. 

    Please note: additional refreshed information on the NCEA Change timelines is forthcoming and will be uploaded on this page.

    NCEA Change Programme Timeline 2019 - 2026

      Frequently Asked Questions

      What is changing?

      The NCEA Level 1 pilot planned for 2022 will be replaced with a Level 1 mini-pilots.  The mini-pilots will be scaled down with fewer schools participating. The number will reduce from 15 - 25 schools per subject to 5 schools per subject. 

      • Level 1 (full) pilots will take place in 2023 with full implementation by 2024.
      • Level 2 pilots will take place in 2024 with full implementation by 2025.
      • Level 3 pilots will take place in 2025 with full implementation by 2026.

      The new approach to pilots is the introduction of mini-pilots followed by a full pilot for each NCEA level from level 1 to level 3 throughout the NCEA Change Programme. 

      Schools and kura that are being asked to run mini-pilots will need to commit to three years because ākonga in mini-pilots would need to have a consistent teaching and learning experience with the new standards, rather than having to revert back to the old achievement standards part-way through. 

      • The mini-pilots for level 1 will take place in 2022 which means that the list of schools and kura will be scaled down to 10 schools and kura for this subject.
      • Level 1 mini-pilots will take place in 2022, followed by a full pilot in 2023 with full implementation by 2024
      • Level 2 mini-pilots will take place in 2023, followed by a full pilot in 2024 with full implementation by 2025. 
      • Level 3 mini-pilots will take place in 2024, followed by a full pilot in 2025 with full implementation by 2026.
         

      The new approach to pilots is the introduction of mini-pilots followed by a full pilot for each NCEA level from level 1 to level 3 throughout the NCEA Change Programme. 

      Schools and kura that are being asked to run mini-pilots will need to commit to three years because ākonga in mini-pilots would need to have a consistent teaching and learning experience with the new standards, rather than having to revert back to the old achievement standards part-way through. 

      The mini-pilots for level 1 will go ahead in 2022. The number of places will be scaled down to 40 across wāhanga ako, with an additional 10 for Te Reo Rangatira.

      • Level 1 mini-pilots will take place in 2022, followed by a full pilot in 2023 with full implementation by 2024
      • Level 2 mini-pilots will take place in 2023, followed by a full pilot in 2024 with full implementation by 2025. 
      • Level 3 mini-pilots will take place in 2024, followed by a full pilot in 2025 with full implementation by 2026. 
         
      What is not changing?

      Literacy and Numeracy | Te Reo Matatini me te Pāngarau pilots will continue as planned in 2022 with implementation in 2023 across all secondary schools. The implementation of the corequisite in 2023 is subject to sector readiness, and we are preparing to make a decision (implement or defer) in mid-2022. 

      The Te Ao Haka programme will not change and pilots will commence in 2022.  

      Additional Frequently Asked Questions

      The rephasing means that the new NCEA Level 2 assessments and standards will be piloted in 2024.  

      Therefore, NCEA Level 1 secondary students who attend schools that are taking part in the 2022 mini-pilots will move back into the existing NCEA Level 2 assessments and standards in 2023.   
       

      To ensure the NCEA Change Programme and sector readiness are aligned, it has been agreed that, as part of the overall programme rephasing, the planned pilot approach will change in 2022. 
       

      • For most New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) subjects, we will run a single mini pilot in 2022, in five schools for each subject. 
      • For Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (TMoA) subjects, we will run a mini pilot with 2-5 kura per subject. NZC subject Te Reo Māori at Level 1 is widely used across kura Māori and English medium settings so this will be mini piloted across both. 

      The following school pilots will continue as planned: 
       

      • Literacy and Numeracy | Te Reo Matatini me te Pāngarau standards pilots will continue as planned in 2022. 
      • Te Ao Haka pilots will continue as planned in 2022. 
         

      The Literacy and Numeracy | Te Reo Matatini me te Pāngarau co-requisite is due to be implemented in 2023. 
       
      The implementation of the corequisite in 2023 is subject to sector readiness, and we are preparing to make a decision (implement or defer) in mid-2022. 
       
      Until then, piloting of the Literacy and Numeracy | Te Reo Matatini me te Pāngarau standards will continue as planned in 2022. 
       

      Te Ao Haka is due to be implemented in 2023. 
       
      In 2021, Te Ao Haka was mini-piloted across all three NCEA levels. The mini-pilot successfully engaged 37 schools and kura across the motu, and the sector has indicated they are ready and eager to continue the programme.  
       
      A full Te Ao Haka pilot will continue as planned in 2022. 

      We are in the process of contacting all pilot schools. 
       
      If you were accepted to pilot in 2022, you will be offered a place in the 2023 level 1 pilot. 
       
      If you are a pilot school and have not been contacted or need more information, email NCEA.Review@education.govt.nz  
       

      We are in the process of contacting all pilot schools to explain how the mini pilots will be managed in 2022. 
       
      If you have not been contacted or need more information, email NCEA.Review@education.govt.nz  

      Where to go for further information 

      All other questions can also be directed to the team via NCEA.Review@education.govt.nz 
       

      Mātauranga Māori

      As part of Change 2 of the NCEA Change Package, Mana ōrite mō te mātauranga Māori, we are working to ensure there is equal status, support and resourcing for mātauranga Māori in NCEA, opening up greater opportunities for ākonga to access mātauranga Māori and the pathways that lead from it.

      In practical terms, this means:

      • appropriately incorporating mātauranga Māori, te ao Māori and te reo Māori into the new New Zealand Curriculum-derived Achieved Standards and associated resource materials for use across English- and Māori-medium settings.
      • developing new Achievement Standards and associated teaching and learning resources to credential learning from Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (TMoA).
      • developing new mātauranga Māori subjects to better acknowledge and support pathways that are relevant for and valued by Māori (for example, Māori Performing Arts).
      • ensuring that teachers are better resourced and supported to teach mātauranga Māori.

      Curriculum Planning and Design

      We understand the time and consultation required to review and design your local curriculum. To support you on your journey with NCEA, we have developed a range of guidance to support your local curriculum design alongside the changes.

      This includes our Leading Local Curriculum Guide Series which will help you steer your view of your local curriculum. This series supports you to lead discussions with your staff or within curriculum or year groups on:

      • Designing rich opportunities and coherent pathways.
      • Using the right tools to notice and respond to progress.
      • Engaging conversations with parents and whānau about their learning and progress.
      • How you can equip your students for tomorrow's world.

      Key Advisory Groups

      The Professional Advisory Group, composed of current and former principals and teachers, was established to provide advice to the Minister of Education and the Ministry of Education on the NCEA Review.

      We want to ensure everything we develop to support the NCEA changes will work in practice and meet the five principles of a strong NCEA qualification – coherence, credibility, equity and inclusion, pathways and well-being. To do this, we are working in partnership with a diverse range of people to implement the NCEA Change Programme.

      We have established four NCEA panels to ensure a diversity of New Zealanders — Māori, Pacific communities, people with disabilities, and industry and vocational employers — have a voice in the design and implementation of the NCEA changes.

      Fact Sheets: NCEA Change Programme (A4)

      Brochure: NCEA Change Programme (A5)

      Fact Sheet: What do the NCEA changes mean for employers?