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 will be phased in over five years, with new achievement standards at Levels 1, 2 and 3 in place by January 2025.

    Videos: NCEA Change Programme

    We are working with kura/schools and communities as well as parents/whānau to strengthen NCEA so our ākonga/learners have a solid foundation to be successful in life and in a global economy. The changes also seek to place equal value on mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and te ao Māori (Māori world view), and make NCEA more robust, consistent, inclusive and accessible for ākonga of all abilities and backgrounds.

    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 NCEA. The changes will be phased in over five years, with new Achievement Standards at Levels 1, 2, and 3 in place by January 2025.

    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.

    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 Aoteraoa (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.

    NCEA Change Programme Indicative Timelines (A3 poster)

    Fact Sheets: NCEA Change Programme (A4)

    Brochure: NCEA Change Programme (A5)