Auditor-General's overview

New Zealand Qualifications Authority: Assuring the consistency and quality of internal assessment for NCEA.

Most teenagers at secondary school study to gain National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) qualifications. In 2011, 163,000 secondary school students completed work towards NCEA qualifications.

It is important for students, their parents and caregivers, their future employers, and tertiary education providers that the qualifications gained at school are credible and consistently awarded, regardless of which school the student attends. The work that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) does to assure the consistency and quality of NCEA is important for the credibility of the qualification and students' academic achievement.

Students work towards their NCEA qualifications by completing assignments set and marked by teachers throughout the year (internal assessment). Students also sit examinations (external assessment) at the end of the school year.

This report sets out the results of an audit of NZQA's performance. We examined the work that NZQA does to ensure that the internally assessed portion of NCEA qualifications is consistently administered throughout the country and of a high quality.

My staff found that:

  • students, their parents and caregivers, employers, and tertiary education institutions can be confident that NZQA has effective systems to support the consistency and quality of internal assessment for NCEA; and
  • NZQA is continually enhancing its processes and practices, which is helping schools to better carry out internal assessment.

There has been a steady improvement in the range of resources NZQA provides to schools to help teachers in assessing students' work. Feedback we have received indicates that these resources are well regarded by teachers. Among the most popular are Best Practice Workshops run by NZQA.

Teachers also value the opportunity to submit examples of their assessments of students' work to NZQA. This personal direct support is much valued, as is the work NZQA's School Relationship Managers do in liaising directly with schools and supporting improvements and greater understanding of internal assessment.

An essential component in ensuring consistency is the moderation function, where NZQA moderates a selection of teachers' assessments. There is always likely to be some disagreement, given that interpreting standards and assessing students' work must involve some subjectivity.

Despite this, the rate of agreement between teacher and moderator assessments has improved in recent years, and is now at 91% for decisions about whether to award students with a credit towards an NCEA qualification. In 2009, the agreement rate was 83%. This indicates the effect that NZQA is having on improving the consistency and quality of teachers' setting of tasks and internal assessments.

Aspects to improve

NZQA is already aware that it needs to continue to work with the Ministry of Education to improve the timeliness of exemplars for teachers, and continue to streamline its communications with teachers.

Given this, I have recommended that NZQA provide more consistency in the feedback it gives teachers through moderation reports. It also needs to work with teachers on the timeliness of its appeals process and feedback on particular examples of students' work.


I thank the 1780 secondary school teachers who completed our survey. I acknowledge the great deal of work that teachers do to set and mark students' internally assessed work.

Finally, I thank the staff of NZQA and the Ministry of Education for their help and timely co-operation with my audit.

Signature - LP

Lyn Provost
Controller and Auditor-General

22 May 2012

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