Update on the NCEA Review – from Nigel Mitchell


As you will be aware, because English was one of the first subjects off the rank for the Review of Achievement Standards, we have the opportunity to have an extra ‘Mini Pilot’ to test the new standards before they join the pilot of all Level One subjects in 2022.

The Ministry and NZQA are working alongside six mini pilot schools as they develop teaching and learning programmes, getting back to the curriculum essence statement using the Learning Matrix. The process helps us ensure that the standards and assessment activities are fit for purpose. With their work and feedback, we can modify and edit the standards and supporting materials throughout the process. Any changes go live on NCEA.education.govt.nz as soon as they’re ready, so there will always be one source of truth.

What should I be doing with my juniors now?

If your teaching and learning programmes in the junior years are based on the curriculum, then you don’t need to change anything. However, it is worth taking the time to think a little more about the ways in which your programme does reflect the essence of the curriculum.

The Review of NCEA is primarily about refocusing on the curriculum and reducing assessment. For too long we have thought of NCEA as the sole source of content for our teaching and learning, even to the extent that some of our junior programmes mirror the NCEA years.

The curriculum essence statement tells us that studying English gives students the, ‘understanding, knowledge and skills,’ needed to, ‘participate fully in the social, cultural, political and economic life of New Zealand and with wider world.’ Take some time in a department meeting to identify what aspects of your teaching programmes prepare learners for those four aspects of life in Aotearoa. What is the difference between understanding, knowledge and skills?

Have a discussion in your department about the extent to which your current programmes are driven by assessment, in years nine and ten as well as years eleven to thirteen. What is the purpose of assessment in the junior years? Do you use the NAME structure for your juniors? What does that tell you about their performance and how does it help identify next steps? What is most important to you in the junior years is the information you can gather through formative assessment, to help you meet the needs of your learners. Are you clear about what you’re assessing with NAME, which is designed for standards-based assessment? What really drives your junior English programmes?

Two areas to consider

The Learning Matrix contains nothing that is not in the English essence statement, but it does focus a little more strongly on two elements that we may have lost sight of as we have allowed assessment to drive our programmes. The first element is learning about language: giving students the tools to understand and talk about the kinds of language patterns they read, hear, and use. Secondly, the NCEA change: ‘Mana ōrite mō te Mātuauranga Māori,’ means thinking more deeply about how Māori voices contribute to the discourse our learners are engaged in as they learn in English. On their Facebook page, NZATE recently shared this provocative and brilliant article by Alice Te Punga Somerville, which challenges us to consider the conundrum of effectively introducing Mātaruanga Māori into the discipline of English. In it, she raises the idea of literary canons. In Aotearoa, our school curriculum does not bind us to a particular canon. We have the freedom, and indeed the obligation, to include indigenous writers in our concept of a New Zealand Literature. Consider Glenn Colquhoun’s wero[1] to teach waita mōteatea, haka and other Māori literary forms in translation. Te Punga Somerville also reminds us that, while Patricia Grace, Hulme, Tuwhare and Ihimaera are important, ‘…what about everybody else?’ English teachers have always embraced this idea. Now is the time for us to share and develop our knowledge of indigenous writers in English as a professional community.

Nigel Mitchell
English Learning Area Lead
Ministry of Education

1 Colquhoun’s keynote to the 2008 NZATE conference at Takapuna Grammar is published in  Jumping Ship and Other Essays (Steele Roberts, 2012) under the title, ‘Old Testaments, New Testaments.’