Students whose learning has been disrupted by the lockdown will be able to gain bonus NCEA credits - under certain conditions, the Government has announced.
Any students whose schools have been disrupted by alert level 3 or 4 for 20 or more school days will be entitled to learning recognition credits in the same form as last year.
They will also be entitled to adjustments to NCEA endorsements and University Entrance, Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said in a statement.
"The wellbeing of students is our priority – particularly at those schools which have already experienced Covid-19 in their school community this year.
"Teachers are working hard to keep students on track, but those in their senior years will be especially concerned about their opportunity to achieve NCEA if lockdown continues."
As in 2020, students who meet the threshold will be entitled to one extra bonus credit for every five NCEA credits they earn. That is capped at 10 bonus credits for NCEA Level 1, and eight bonus credits for Levels 2 and 3.
Gaining a merit or excellence endorsement will require 12 credits at that level, rather than 14. Students will still need to achieve at least three credits from external assessment and three from internal assessment, where these requirements usually apply.
To receive a merit or excellence certificate endorsement, students would need to receive 46 credits at merit or excellence level, instead of the usual 50.
University Entrance will require students to achieve 12 – rather than 14 – credits in each of three UE-approved subjects. They will still need to attain NCEA Level 3 and meet literacy and numeracy requirements.
The bonus credit system is in line with the nationwide changes made in 2020 after the entire country went through level 4 lockdown.
Auckland students later received a more generous bonus credit scheme in recognition of further lockdowns. No additional credits for Auckland students have been announced at this stage.
The changes recognise the impacts of lockdown on students, Hipkins said.
"The additional credits are only earned in proportion to the standards students achieve through internal and external assessments.
"Signalling these changes now is intended to give students confidence that they will continue to have a fair opportunity to attain NCEA, even if they need to spend more time away from the classroom.
"These changes are in addition to delays to end of year exam and portfolio submission dates, and other adjustments to assessments already in place.
"I would like to recognise universities and Universities New Zealand, school principals, teachers and my NCEA Professional Advisory Group, who have worked with the Ministry of Education and NZQA to move quickly to support students."
Maurie Abraham, who is principal of Hobsonville Point Secondary School and a member of the Secondary Principals Council, was pleased to see a repeat of last year's changes.
Students across New Zealand had achieved at the same level, if not slightly higher in 2020 than previous years despite the pandemic.
The scheme had been very successful, both in ensuring that students would graduate with the qualifications they needed and reducing the worry and anxiety many were starting to display, Abraham said.
Hobsonville Point is decile 10, reflecting the wealth of students who attend the school. For lower-decile schools - where lockdowns have put many students at a major disadvantage - the announcement would be "huge, great news", he said.
At Hobsonville Point Abraham was only really concerned about students who were graduating. "It doesn't matter too much if you're not yet leaving school, because you've always got the opportunity to build on that qualification".
His message to last year's Year 12s had been not to worry about their qualification as only level 3 really mattered. But those students were now in their second year of the pandemic.
"They bought into that and that's great and their levels of anxiety dropped and they did pretty well. But they've come back again in their final year and that's when the pressure amps up.
"Right now they're applying for university courses, they're applying for scholarships and if they're in a state of anxiety and worry they're not going to make good decisions."