NCEA results are becoming increasingly skewed by the number of students who return for Year 13 not intending to continue on to university, says Ashburton College principal Ross Preece.

While the college’s level one and two pass rates increased in 2016, level three and university entrance rates dropped and a big player in this was students who returned for Year 13 but who did not complete the year, he said.

The college’s NCEA results were; level one, 83.8 per cent;  level two, 82.1 per cent; level three, 58.4 per cent; university entrance, 43.5 per cent.

Roll figures at March are used as NCEA candidate numbers. Currently about 50 per cent of year 13 students did not intend to go to university, Preece said.

“As an example last year there were 12 boys who left at the end of the rugby season, others left because they got jobs or apprenticeships.

“We’re a community college, a community school with a significant number of students coming and going.”

Some schools were heavily focused on having a Year 13 student body that was solely university focused and that inevitably lifted achievement rates, but the college wanted to keep all students who were not in the workforce at school as long as possible, he said.

To ensure that returning students not on an academic path had a meaningful Year 13, the college was developing a cluster of new subjects that were not on the university entrance list, but would give students level three credits.

“We’ve recognised there’s a gap.

“There are many students now staying on for Year 13 for a variety of reasons.

“It could be for sport or cultural things or it could be because they don’t know what they want to do and that’s good.

“If they’re staying at school we’ve got all the support they’ll need to make informed choices.”

Those students, however, needed to be engaged in subjects that were meaningful for them but those subjects might not be mainstream, academic subjects, Preece said.

Those courses could include building, furniture making, tourism or outdoor education.

“We look at it being better to keep these students here and to keep them supported but from a statistics point of view when they leave mid-year they stay on the books in terms of numbers, but if they find the course or the job they want we’re happy and we support this.

“We say if there are significant numbers leaving for jobs or apprenticeships it’s a cause for celebration, but statistically it hurts us.”

The expanded Year 13 curriculum would be a work in progress this year and would be ready for students in 2018.

By Sue Newman © The Ashburton Guardian - 22 April 2017