Thanks to Kristina Sheppard for sharing these photos of her Year 7 class at Ashburton Intermediate taking part in CensusAtSchool recently.

Ashburton Intermediate

Ashburton Intermediate

NCEA Change Package


In 2018, the Minister of Education launched a national conversation on the future of NCEA. New Zealanders were asked to share their views and experiences of NCEA – the challenges, the successes, what they like, and what could be done better.

The Ministerial Advisory Group, the Professional Advisory Group and the Ministry of Education provided advice to the Minister on recommended changes to NCEA, based on the findings of the 2018 engagement phase. (See NZSA’s response.)

The Government has now announced the change package which has resulted from this engagement. These changes are outlined in more detail in NCEA Change Package Overview 2019.

Thanks to Heather Willocks for sharing these photos of her class at Balclutha Primary School taking part in CensusAtSchool on Friday.

Balclutha Primary School taking part in CensusAtSchool

Balclutha Primary School taking part in CensusAtSchool

Balclutha Primary School taking part in CensusAtSchool

Balclutha Primary School taking part in CensusAtSchool

Balclutha Primary School taking part in CensusAtSchool

Statement sent to NZQA by the NZSA Education Committee.

External NCEA assessments in Statistics 2018
Dated 15 May 2019
External assessment and The NZ Curriculum

The Education Committee of the NZ Statistical Association would like to offer some general feedback on the 2018 external assessments in Statistics. The Committee would like the teaching and learning of
Statistics to continue to develop the potential of The NZ Curriculum in Statistics. We see the external assessors as being partners in this development. If shifts in assessment happen in 2020 and beyond, we would like to be sure that the teaching community is very aware of them, and we would be happy to help spread the awareness. Clarity and consistency of language is important throughout. This is across levels and between externals and internals.

Level 1 91037 Demonstrate understanding of chance and data
Some questions involve knowledge of contexts. For internals, knowledge of contexts is expected.
Consistency in this between externals and internals is desirable. Is there some method of providing relevant context information in the external exams? We are happy to discuss methods for this further.
The terms ‘probability’ (as used here) and ‘proportion’ (as used at Levels 2 and 3) should be used consistently across the levels.
The words ‘AND’ and ‘not’ (Q1b(i)) could be written in consistent type. The term ‘significant’ (Q2b(i)) should not be used in statistical work unless it means ‘statistical significance’. A word like ‘key’ is better.
We would like to be sure that NZQA ensures that colours used are effective for sight-impaired students. We are not sure that this is the case here. We think that pie graphs should be avoided. Bar graphs are better. In Q3a(i), the words ‘tend to’ are not needed. The question does later (Q3a(iii)) ask for ‘trends and features’.
Overall for this exam, we are pleased to see the use of real context, data, and graphs of the data. The exam is well positioned at the level of Curriculum Level 6, and covers a wide range of the ‘chance and
data’ at this level.

Level 2 91267 Apply probability methods in solving problems
Again, the terms ‘probability’ and ‘proportion’ should be used consistently across the levels.
In Q2a and b, the exam gives tables and asks useful questions about them. In Q3 stem, it gives the ‘written information’ that is mentioned in the Specifications, and asks for probabilities to be found from them. This is just one example of a style of using probability methods that is prevalent in the exams.
This style is within the expectations of the teaching community, as a way of meeting the Curriculum’s achievement outcomes. . However, in the near future, we would like to carry out a careful investigation
of the teaching, learning, and assessment of probability.
For Q3, we are interested in the geographical knowledge expected, and whether the map helps or hinders with the context.  The binaries ‘windy/still’ (Q2) and ‘wet/dry’ (Q3) are used. We are not sure that these make sense, or whether they need further definition. Again, we acknowledge the use of contexts and data.
The coverage of this exam seems to be incomplete. The Specifications contain ‘describing and comparing distributions’, with ‘shape, centre, spread’ via graphs; and ‘risk or relative risk’. The exam misses the opportunity to compare the experimental distribution and the fitted theoretical distribution in Q1a.

Level 3 91584 Evaluate statistically based reports
We question whether all students will be able to use the colours and the sometimes small text in the infographics in Reports 1, and 2.
We commend the examiners on finding three reports with suitable contexts, and for assessing in keeping with the Curriculum’s target of ‘statistical thinking’.

Level 3 91585 Apply probability concepts in solving problems
We like the use of simulation in this exam (Q2d).
We question how much understanding we can expect for the true vs model vs experimental relationship (Q3c(iii)).
We are very aware of how hard is is to create an assessment in probability. We acknowledge that the examiners have found some meaningful contexts, and that this is not easy. The exam covers the
‘methods’ in the Achievement Standard’s Note 4.

Level 3 91586 Apply probability distributions in solving problems
Again, we acknowledge that the examiners have found some meaningful contexts. However, the exam does not ask for visual comparisons of experimental distributions and fitted theoretical distributions.

The Concord Consortium hosts a number of data science games and projects for Year 9 – 13 students. CODAP makes data science accessible and empowers students to understand and analyze complex data without hours of coding lessons or years of advanced mathematics. A new collection of Dynamic Data Science activities is now available to get students working with data!

Also check out:

If you are involved in any citizen science projects around Aotearoa, let CensusAtSchool know about your project.

PS: Did you know the R coding language was created in New Zealand!

One in three New Zealand high-school students say they spend too much time on social media, the latest results of a nationwide survey reveal.   

The insight comes from CensusAtSchool TataurangaKiTeKura, a non-profit, online educational project that brings statistics to life in both English and Māori-medium classrooms. Supervised by teachers, students from Years 5-13 anonymously answer 30 questions in English or te reo Māori on digital devices.

This data comes from the first 12,000 students to complete the census. This year, students were asked whether the time they spent on social media accounts was about right, too little or too much. Overall, one in three high-school students felt that their use of social media was excessive. This was highest among girls, with 40% spending too much time on social media, compared with just 20% for boys.

CensusAtSchool co-director Rachel Cunliffe says that the findings suggest that students are well aware of public discussion about the drawbacks of social media. “Connecting with peers is important to young people, and they seem to know about the pros and cons of using social media. The fact they’re reflecting on their own use of social media is a good thing.”  

In other findings, one in three boys in primary school (33%) and secondary school (30%) believe that their time spent playing video games is excessive. However, 45% of primary girls and 65% of high-school girls said they don’t get enough time playing video games.    

In other findings:

  • Facebook has fallen from favour with younger high-school students, with Instagram taking its place. In 2011, 80% of Year 9 students had a Facebook profile. This steadily declined to 33% in 2019. Now, 78% of Year 9 students have Instagram, up from 66% in 2015.
  • 49% of high schoolers with a phone say that they always or often check for messages and notifications as soon as they wake up in the morning.
  • Half of high-school students say a weekend without their phone would make them feel angry, anxious, frustrated, sad, or lonely. Students could choose from as many as applied from angry, anxious, frustrated, happy, lonely, relieved, sad, neutral, and other. A total of 12% chose angry, 15% chose anxious, 14% chose lonely, 14% chose sad, and 24% said that they would feel frustrated.

CensusAtSchool runs every two years. This year’s census, the ninth, was launched on March 4 and runs until July 5. During that time, up to 30,000 school children are expected to participate. More than 1,990 teachers from 906 schools have registered; see if your local school is taking part here.  

CensusAtSchool is part of an international effort to boost statistical capability among young people and is carried out in Australia, Canada, the United States, Japan and South Africa. The countries share some questions so comparisons can be made.

A few teachers have contacted us with questions and feedback about Question 1 in the questionnaire which asks if students are male or female, so in this email, I’ll explain more to everyone.

Firstly, it is great that you and your students are thinking and talking about the questions and answers! This is an important part of survey design.

Some of our CensusAtSchool questions match word-for-word with the official Census questions. This means that we use tried-and-tested and familiarly worded demographic questions which have been tailored to the New Zealand context, such as asking birth country and ethnicity.

Many people assume that the first question we ask (and that the official Census asks) is about gender identity. However, it is asking about biological sex.

It is easy to get these mixed up as the question itself does not say either one in the wording!

Added to that, there has been a tradition of using the word ‘gender’ in school environments when we really mean ‘sex’ because of the long-recognised problem of many kids getting silly whenever the word ‘sex’ is mentioned.

Now that gender identity has come much more to the forefront of society’s attention, this common educational workaround is now creating its own problems which will take time to fully solve.

Currently, the official definition Stats NZ uses for biological sex is binary. In the last two years, Stats NZ has tested adding a third response option using either ‘indeterminate’ or ‘intersex’. Of these tests, Stats NZ said the data was of very low quality and included facetious responses and responses made in error:

“Given the very low prevalence of the intersex population, the test results indicated that inaccurate responses for a third category would be as common as – or outnumber – legitimate responses for this category.”

If one of your students is intersex, I recommend they do not answer Question 1 for CensusAtSchool. Stats NZ advice was for people to request a paper copy of the census and then to check both boxes on the form.

Currently, gender identity is not yet asked in the official census and is not asked by CensusAtSchool. It is also not yet asked in other countries official census.

Stats NZ wrote that the reason not yet to ask gender identity is purely for statistical reasons:

“Our testing did not give us confidence we could collect quality information on these topics through the census. Writing census questions is complex and demands a great deal of expertise and testing to ensure the answers provide meaningful, high-quality data that can be used to inform decisions.”

This page is an excellent summary of the issues and the work being done in this area:

I hope this helps in some way towards your understanding.

Thanks to Neil Ackermann for sharing these photos of his class at Chapel Downs Primary School taking part in CensusAtSchool.

Thanks to Paige Bayliss for sharing these photos of her Year 10 class at Kaipara College taking part in CensusAtSchool.

Nearly half of Kiwi students taking part in a nationwide in-school census believe that climate change “is an urgent problem that needs to be managed now”.

Students aged from 9 to 18 (Year 5 to Year 13) taking part in the statistics education project CensusAtSchool, or TataurangaKiTeKura in te reo Māori, were asked to choose an option that best described their opinion on climate change. A total of 44% of the students selected the statement that climate change was “an urgent problem that needs to be managed now”.

A total of 17% of all participants chose the statement that climate change was “a problem that needs to be managed in the future”. Just 10% believed that climate change was “not a problem”, and 29% either didn’t know or didn’t have an opinion.

High-school students felt the most acute sense of urgency, with 55% of year 9-13 students agreeing that climate change was “an urgent problem that needs to be managed now”.

The findings, from the first 4,900 students to take part in CensusAtSchool, come as young people prepare for a student ‘strike’ to push for increased government action on climate change. Thousands of New Zealand students will leave school on Friday March 15 to join a day of protest called Student Strike for Climate Action, calling on politicians to act quickly to limit global warming. In New Zealand, more than 25 rallies are due to take place in the four main centres and smaller towns.

CensusAtSchool co-director Rachel Cunliffe says that every edition of the schools’ census asks topical questions affecting young people. The climate change question in this census was added at the request of teachers last year – well before the current protest action was organised.

“Teachers told us that climate change was an issue for students and they asked for a question so students could see real, relevant data on the issue,” Rachel Cunliffe said. “At present, the only way to get hard data about the opinions and beliefs of New Zealand’s young people is through CensusAtSchool, so we added the question about climate change so young people themselves and the public can see exactly how their generation feels.”

The CensusAtSchool results reflect a nationwide poll of adults aged 18 and over carried out last March by Horizon Research. It found that 64% of adults nationwide believed climate change was a problem, 29% of them saying it was urgent.

CensusAtSchool, which launched on Monday March 4, is a biennial statistics project that shows students how data-science skills reveal the unseen and can be used to make informed decisions about their own lives.

Supervised by teachers, students from Year 5 to Year 13 fill in a digital questionnaire about their activities and opinions, with data returned to teachers for classroom analysis. The figures on climate change come from the first 3,400 students to take part; up to 30,000 students are expected to have their say before the census closes on July 5 this year.

CensusAtSchool started in New Zealand in 2003, and is run by the University of Auckland’s Department of Statistics with support from Stats NZ and the Ministry of Education. It is part of an international effort to boost statistical capability among young people and is carried out in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Japan, and South Africa. The countries share some questions so comparisons can be made.