Technology solution to be tested

This year about 20 Wellington secondary school pupils with special learning needs will test new technology for delivering NCEA external examinations.

Push for extra help in low-decile schools

They will listen to a recording of some of their exams, rather than have a person reading the exam to them.

New Zealand Qualifications Authority deputy chief executive (qualifications) Richard Thornton said the trial was expected to cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

It would involve pupils using headphones linked in to a digital device for level 1 English, economics and maths papers.

Pupils taking part in the trial would also have reader/writers available to assist if necessary and to ensure they were not disadvantaged.

There would be a pre-examination trial within the schools involved so pupils were familiar with the technology.

If the trial is successful NZQA hopes it could introduce the technology across at least one level 1 subject the following year for some pupils who

receive help under the Special Assessment Conditions (Sac) programme.

It was important for exams to be delivered in a way which was appropriate and the best fit for the learner and which did not put a burden on schools, Mr Thornton said.

If the system proceeded, the software for this would be provided and paid for by NZQA and it was expected schools would use digital devices they already had.

Last year NZQA spent $303,769 on SAC exam assistants for NCEA, more than double what it spent in 2008.

The recent review of the system by NZQA and the Ministry of Education said in the long term the agencies needed to prepare schools for a future in which technology was likely to solve many of the assessment issues apparent today and ''remove the need for Sac altogether''.

Assistance provided under Sac now can include reader/writers, extra time, separate accommodation and technology support.

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