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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.


The progress of all students need to be tracked in relation to  The New Zealand Curriculum document.


English language learners in years 9–13 may have a diverse range of English language proficiencies and range of competencies in different learning areas. This means they may need to work towards a variety of pathways that may include achievement standards or unit standards, including English language unit standards.

Schools need to plan flexible pathways for learners that recognise their diverse abilities, interests, and aspirations.

NCEA (National Certificates of Educational Achievement)
New Zealand's national qualifications for senior secondary students.

  • NCEA is part of the National Qualifications Framework, along with approximately 1000 other qualifications. They are administered and quality assured by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
  • Achievement and unit standards build towards 3 levels of qualifications, NCEA levels 1, 2 and 3. Most students in schools will study towards achieving NCEA.

New Zealand Certificates in English Language (NZCEL)
NZCELs are not commonly used in school contexts. However, they may be appropriate for some students who do not intend to take NCEA but who would like a New Zealand qualification.

  • NZCELs are nationally recognised qualifications intended for learners of English as an additional language. 
  • There is a suite of six qualifications ranging from a level 1 certificate (Foundation) to a level 5 certificate. See the list of  New Zealand Certificates in English Language.


All achievement and unit standards count towards NCEA including the English language unit standards.

English language unit standards

No matter what their stage of English language learning is, ELLs students can be assessed against English language unit standards. This is in addition to any literacy standards that the students in the higher stages can also be assessed against.

While the English language unit standards do not count towards meeting the level 1 NCEA literacy requirement, they do count towards credits for NCEA certificates levels 1, 2, and 3.

There is a relationship between the English language unit standards and the stages of The English Language Learning Progressions, so that, for example, students learning at stage 3 could be assessed against level 3 ESOL unit standards and students learning at English Language Learning Progressions Stage 1 could be assessed at level 1 ESOL unit standards.

ELLs who have not reached the literacy expectations of their cohort should be encouraged to continue their study of English language so that they receive specific language tuition and support of their learning in other subject areas. English language study will also scaffold students towards achievement level 1 literacy.

NZQA English language standards home page containing links to current versions of the standards, assessment resources and exemplars of student work at the required level.

Level 1 literacy requirements

In response to the alignment of standards with The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC), two pathways have been developed to assess students’ literacy for a level 1 NCEA certificate. These can both be used by English language learners (ELLs).

Currently, students can meet the level 1 NCEA Literacy requirement in three ways – through the specified, literacy-tagged achievement standards, or through literacy unit standards.

Measured by achievement in specified standards that are levelled at curriculum level 6. This pathway is appropriate for school students who are learning at Stage 4 of The English Language Learning Progressions. ELLs should also be supported to continue to develop English language proficiency, particularly in academic English, in their mainstream classes. These students should be monitored to ensure that they do not "fall through the cracks".

In this pathway, naturally occurring evidence from a range of sources is collected throughout the year. This is measured against three specific literacy unit standards.  

It is important to note that work gathered for English language unit standards can also be used for the required evidence for the literacy unit standards.

ESOL teachers should be involved in monitoring the collection of evidence for the literacy unit standards as well as the English Language unit standards. ELLs who have not reached the literacy expectations of their cohort should be encouraged to continue their study of English language so that they receive specific language tuition and support of their learning in other subject areas. English language study will also help the students’ achievement in the literacy unit standards and English language unit standards.

University Entrance literacy requirements

10 credits from the standards (5 credits in reading and 5 credits in writing) are required to meet the University Entrance literacy requirements. These can be met using:

  • level 2 and 3 standards that contribute towards University Entrance
  • English for Academic Purposes standards 22750, 22751, and from April 2018 unit standard 22749 (all are required).

NZQA: Level 2 and 3 standards that contribute towards University Entrance

NZQA: English for Academic Purposes unit standards – the EAP standards; national moderator newsletters; clarifications of standards; and assessment support materials

Teaching and learning sequences

  • Formative teaching and learning resources for the EAP listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
  • Archived teaching and learning sequences – assessment resources for expired versions of level 2 English standards. (All the resources from this page apply to literacy standards prior to 2011 and may be suitable for adaptation.)

Information for families

Updated on: 07 May 2019