Review of Achievement Standards (RAS) - Pilot Phase: English

Closed 2 Mar 2020

Opened 2 Mar 2020

Results updated 11 Mar 2020


Thank you to those of you who spent time responding to the questionnaire. We heard from over 360 people between December 2019 and 2 March 2020 and are grateful for what were, on the whole, very positive and helpful comments, and suggestions for modification. We have taken your advice on the inconsistencies and minor errors, have adjusted some of the wording, and clarified items that initially caused confusion in the Phase 1 materials, especially in the new Assessment Matrix. The sector feedback was overwhelmingly in support of the three Big Ideas. The majority of teachers could easily see their current and/or new programmes already woven through the new Learning Matrix.


The Review of Achievement Standards (RAS) Pilot Phase commenced on 1 October and will finish on 30 April 2020. It builds on the extensive consultation and co-design we conducted with all New Zealanders with an interest in NCEA during 2018 which resulted in the NCEA Change Package. These changes provide the mandate for the direction taken in the RAS. They will result in fewer, larger standards for all subjects, and in English, a focus on a broad foundational education at Level 1 – including recognition of mātauranga Māori as an essential aspect of New Zealand education.

Four subjects – English, Science, Visual Arts and Religious Studies - were selected to trial the development process ahead of the full-scale review planned to commence on 1 May 2020. Subject Expert Groups were established to develop new learning and assessment products and supporting resources for these subjects, and this work is being led by the Ministry.

The SEGs developed draft materials which we sought your feedback on and this is a summary of the feedback, with their responses. The feedback and results from the pilot phase will inform the process for all subjects at NCEA Levels 1-3.

Sample Course Outlines

Sample course outlines have been produced to help teachers and schools understand the new NCEA Learning and Assessment Matrices. We have three three examples of how a year-long English course could be constructed using the new Learning and Assessment Matrices. They are indicative only and do not mandate any particular choice of text or approach.

Sector feedback focussed on seven themes. These are responded to below.

Theme 1

Having four standards narrows the curriculum.

One of the strongest messages heard during engagement with the country in 2018 was that the high number of standards within some subjects resulted in fragmentation of the curriculum as students could essentially choose to focus on a small number of standards and miss out on the significant learning in the curriculum.

The intent of NCEA Change 4 (Fewer, Larger Standards) is to address this issue and refocus the teaching on the curriculum rather than the standards.

The revised matrices and achievement standards, as well as the sample assessment tasks and the Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Guides, will help to illustrate and clarify this.

Theme 2

The assessment matrix appears to favour the making meaning strand over creating meaning.


The creating and making meaning strands of the curriculum are interdependent; well-designed teaching and learning programmes will continue to reflect this balance. With the reduction in the number of standards at each year level, both creating and making meaning will necessarily feature in the teachers’ approaches to teaching and learning.

To make more room for the creating meaning strand, we are considering a change to the Assessment Matrix at Level 3, making way for a standard with an explicit focus on creating meaning. The revised Level 3 Assessment Matrix will be available for feedback with the Phase 2 materials in April.

Theme 3

There seemed to be less focus on visual language in the new assessment matrix.


Unless otherwise specified we intend the word ‘text’ to refer to oral and visual, as well as written text. Teaching and learning opportunities in which students develop their understanding of visual language features can still feature in an English teaching and learning programme.

As the new standards are further developed, it will become increasingly clear where opportunities can and will exist to include the various language modes within teaching and assessment programmes.  Sample assessment activities, and teaching and learning programmes will also help to clarify what this could look like.

Theme 4

There is some concern about the inclusion of Maori voice in the Learning Matrix.


We are committed to ensuring that NCEA Change 2 (Mana ōrite mo te Mātauranga Māori) is meaningfully addressed through the development of the new Learning Matrix and assessment materials. These materials explicitly describe this change in terms of significant learning within the Big Ideas framed by the English whakatauki in the New Zealand Curriculum. We are continually engaging Māori experts within and from outside the Ministry to ensure that this process is robust.

The need to ensure Māori voice and identity are present in the learning does not exclude the importance of other voices and identities.

We are aware that this is an area that will need to be resourced and supported as teachers want to get it right in their classrooms. We have been encouraged by some of the conversations teachers are already having online about what this might look like in their planning and the Ministry is committed to ensuring that support and resourcing are in place.

Theme 5

The feedback has expressed concern that the writing standard at Levels 1 and 2 is externally assessed.


These externally assessed Achievement Standards will still support effective teaching of writing, including giving students regular and frequent opportunities to write. The new standards will be externally assessed, but not in an examination and thus, will allow students to be involved with and develop an understanding of the writing process over time. We know that effective teaching and assessment of writing constitutes a substantial part of a teacher’s workload. It is not envisaged that this standard will add to the current workload because teachers are already judging when a piece of writing is ready for assessment.

The Ministry of Education will be working closely with NZQA to ensure authenticity will be ensured, and that external assessors will recognise and understand the range of voices that students bring to their writing.

Theme 6

‘Connections’ is a recurring assessment at Levels 2 and 3 in the Assessment Matrix.


The Level 2 and 3 standards are still indicative and will remain so for at least another year. The draft Assessment Matrix gives an indication of the Subject Expert Group’s thinking at this stage.

Understanding connections is integral to the study of English and articulated in the New Zealand Curriculum Achievement Objectives (Levels 1-8) for English. A well-constructed course will always consider the connections within, between and beyond texts.

Theme 7

Lack of clarity in some of the language in the Matrices.


Most of the language used in the materials comes from the curriculum. Where we have introduced new terms, they will be clarified in a glossary which will be available for feedback with the rest of the Phase 2 materials in April.


These FAQs will be updated as questions arise.