STEVE RENDLE and CAL ROBERTS
The report card is in for Wairarapa secondary schools, with NCEA statistics showing most are performing above national averages.
All but one of the schools in the region, Makoura College, surpassed the 74 per cent national average for level 1 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, and the school was just two per cent down.
It also achieved 90.9 per cent at level 2, well above the national average of 78.5 per cent. The national averages for level 3 and University Entrance were 65.7 per cent and 49.4 per cent respectively.
Despite that success, Makoura principal Paul Green said the “league tables” generated from the NCEA statistics were only a “sound-bite marker of comparative success” that “fails to convey deeper considerations about a school’s progress in addressing a range of other aspects of individual and cohort development”.
“What makes a result good or very good is how it compares to other results of other people, other schools, and how it compares to what you are capable of and what was expected of you – by your family, friends, whanau, teachers, and, especially, yourself.
“There were very good results last year for a very good number of people at our school.”
The Times-Age has used NCEA statistics based on the roll at each level, rather than entries, an approach recommended by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
Mr Green said most schools had lower pass rates when roll-based results were used “but we still had a lot of fine individual and overall success here too – most notably the 91 per cent pass rate at level 2”.
Tararua College was ‘most improved’ at level 1 for the year, lifting its percentage from 53.5 per cent to 87.8 per cent.
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Principal Jon Ward was happy with his school’s results.
“The Education Review Office has just been in the school and commended us for the improvement in our NCEA results.
“We’ve seen significant improvement on last year – that’s down to strengthening our systems and the level of support for students,” he said.
“We’ve worked hard to give students the right pathways – but it’s about making sure the courses meet the students’ needs, not going for easy options.
“We’re delighted — it’s a significant improvement for the school and it means we’re hitting the right outcomes for students.”
Another big improver was Chanel College, where increases topped 10 per cent at each level.
Rathkeale College is a consistently high performer, but principal Willy Kersten said measuring NCEA results year-on-year was not an ideal comparison.
“You have a completely different population of students [each year].”
Mr Kersten said the school tracked students as they progressed through the school.
“I think that sort of tracking is what we’re more interested in these days.”
He said New Zealand had an attitude and a system that promoted a competitive aspect – he did not think ranking schools by their NCEA results was a fair representation of a school’s worth.
“Absolutely not. A school’s true measure of performance is the difference it makes to student learning.
“What they start the year as and how they achieve at the end of the year.”
That’s a view shared by Solway College principal Beth Rogerson.
While pleased with the results, she said the school put an emphasis on students doing more than simply passing, expecting them to focus on gaining NCEA with merit and excellence endorsements.
“We’re always aiming for 100 per cent but what we really target are endorsements – we want every student doing the best they can,” she said.
“What we want to look at is where a student is starting from and where they get to, not just where they’ve got to.
“Some of our students have had their struggles, so that is important.”
Acting Kuranui principal Maree Patten said she was delighted with the results, highlighting the improvement at level 2, which was up almost 10 per cent, to 89.24 per cent.
“Our 2017 level 3 cohort had a significant number of students whose career focus was on the trades, instead of going on to university, and this is reflected in the pass rate at University Entrance [26.3 per cent down, from 41.5].
“All our 2017 Level 3 students left Kuranui with clear career pathways.”