Education innovators to challenge thinking in NCEA Review

  • Hon Chris Hipkins

Members of a group of innovative thinkers to advise the Education Minister and Ministry on the review of the NCEA to take place this year were announced today by Education Minister Chris Hipkins.


The Minister Advisory Group will meet for the first time this week and has been tasked with leading the creation of a discussion document on NCEA that will form the basis of a wider, public consultation on NCEA which is to commence in April 2018, Mr Hipkins said.


“The NCEA review is a hugely important opportunity to refine and modernise what has been a very well-performing qualification system to ensure it serves the needs of our secondary students and prepares them for life in this modern age.“


“I wanted a group of advisors with diverse and potentially disruptive views to challenge us and I am confident they will do that.  


“The group’s role is to shape the strategic direction and content of the discussion document, supported by the Ministry of Education and with input from a NCEA stakeholders, including students, parents, whānau, teachers, school leaders, tertiary providers, iwi, employers, and members of the wider community.”


The Group members are:


  • Jeremy Baker, Chair
  • Barbara Cavanagh
  • Pauline Waiti
  • Michelle Dickinson (“Nanogirl”)
  • Jonathan Gee
  • Arizona Leger
  • Charles Darr

“At the top of the list of issues we will focus on are overassessment of students and teacher workload. Students and teachers have been saying things need to be done in these areas to counter teacher burnout and put more emphasis on actual teaching,” Mr Hipkins said.


“And there’s a lot more than this, including looking at the role of each level of NCEA, particularly the structure and relevance of NCEA Level 1 and whether all young people should attempt it.


“My youth advisory group of students will provide input into the process, and I am looking forward to their contribution.


“I will also be writing to Opposition MPs Nikki Kaye and David Seymour to invite them into the consultation process.”  


Towards the end of the year the Minister of Education will produce a set of recommendations which will be released in early 2019 in a report that will also lay out the next steps to implementation.


The NCEA Review Cabinet paper and terms of reference, including the review’s timeframes, are available here and short bios of the Ministerial Advisory Group are include below.


Any questions about the NCEA review can be directed to


The group has been appointed for an initial term of one year commencing on 1 February 2018 and expiring on 31 January 2019.


Contact: Richard Trow 021 278 7233 and  


Ministerial Advisory Group Bios:


Jeremy Baker has strong governance and facilitation experience as well as a background in the development of qualifications policy in New Zealand. He has participated in a range of senior education system advisory and working groups and has education sector experience including positions held with the Industry Training Federation, Learning State and Lincoln University. He brings a strong understanding of public and private sector perspectives on education and skills policy.


Barbara Cavanagh was the foundation principal of Albany Senior High School, which has a strong reputation for its innovative curriculum structure, and has served as principal of Te Awamutu College and Ngāruawāhia High School. She was a member of the Ministerial Forum on Raising Student Achievement and she chaired the Professional Learning and Development Advisory Group. She is a nationally respected secondary principal who has extensive experience, particularly relating to raising student achievement.


Pauline Waiti is currently a Director at Ahu Whakamua Limited. She has previously worked as Māori Development Manager at Learning Media Limited and as Te Wāhanga Māori Manager at New Zealand Council for Educational Research. Pauline provides a Māori educational perspective and deep understanding of Māori-medium education in New Zealand.


Michelle Dickinson – also known as ‘Nanogirl’ – is Senior Lecturer in Chemical and Material Engineering at the University of Auckland and Director of Nanogirl Labs Ltd. Michelle’s focus is supporting young people, particularly young women, to specialise in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Michelle is a Member of New Zealand Order of Merit, was the winner of the Women of Influence Award for Innovation and Science in 2016, was awarded the Sir Peter Blake Leader Award in 2015 and was winner of the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize and the New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communicators Award in 2014.


Jonathan Gee provides a strong youth perspective, particularly relating to tertiary study and secondary-tertiary transitions. He is currently National President of New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations, a role in which he also served in 2017. Jonathan was President of Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) in 2016 and has served as a youth representative on the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board of Auckland Council and as Co-chair of the local youth council. He brings significant expertise in the experiences of young people in tertiary education across a wide range of settings.


Arizona Leger is an advocate for empowering youth voices from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Arizona is a student at Auckland University of Technology, studying towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. Arizona presented at Auckland Museum’s TEDxYouth event in 2013, speaking on multiculturalism and youth voice. She was Epsom Girls’ Grammar Head Girl in 2013.


Charles Darr is a senior researcher and manager of the Assessment, Design, and Reporting (AD&R) team at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER). He has expertise in educational measurement and has overseen a large number of assessment development projects including leading the project team that developed the Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool. Charles also led the psychometric programme that supported the development of the Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT). His strong academic background in student assessment provides technical expertise for the MAG.