NZ - Te Kura supporting ākonga affected by COVID-19 disruptions

Senior ākonga (students) throughout Aotearoa are facing a range of challenges due to COVID-19 disruptions. Some have already left school or are significantly behind and at risk of disengaging, others have faced barriers to learning this year and are at risk of not achieving their NCEA goals. There are also ākonga who at the end of Term 4 may need only a few additional credits to gain NCEA Level 3 or University Entrance.

After experiencing multiple disruptions, many Auckland ākonga require additional support. To support these ākonga, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) has partnered with the Ministry of Education to expand its programmes in Term 4 and over the summer break.

Te Kura Chief Executive Mike Hollings says the temporary expansion of its Big Picture and NCEA catch-up programmes provide an opportunity to have a positive impact on Auckland ākonga.

“We are pleased to play a part in the joint effort of the Ministry of Education and other educators, schools, and kura to support students and whānau affected by COVID-19.”

Big Picture – maintaining engagement and wellbeing in challenging times

Te Kura 400 (a version of Big Picture learning) is a programme for ākonga who are disengaged, or at risk of disengaging from education. There are 400 additional places in this programme for Auckland ākonga in Term 4, with online and face-to-face learning available at locations all around the Auckland region.

Big Picture learning, introduced at Te Kura a decade ago, is an approach that puts the student at the centre of their learning. The programme is highly personalised and based on each student’s interests, passions and potential.

Te Kura educator Evan Shewchuk says Big Picture meets a specific need for ākonga, with its kaupapa of supportive positivity.

“The pandemic had a mixed impact on our students. Our focus during the lockdowns was around maintaining contact and engagement, and ensuring ākonga wellbeing through regular online huinga ako that allowed us to interact as a group along with one on one contact with ākonga and their whānau though individual virtual catch ups.”

“Overall, we worked hard to meet the needs of our ākonga in very trying and disruptive circumstances, and now we’re expanding that approach to help many more ākonga who have not re-engaged for one reason or another since the lockdowns ended.”

This approach has taken Te Kura ākonga Liam Amanono on an inspirational journey towards a career in the outdoors. Liam says being part of the programme has kept him interested and engaged. He lives in Massey with his whānau and is now in his final year.

Liam’s advice to anyone considering enrolling in the Big Picture programme is, “Go for it – give it a try! I’ve found it good for me, it’s helped me develop my confidence and being able to work at your own pace is good. Keep an open mind, try new things!”

“I’m close to achieving NCEA Level 3 and next year I’m going to Unitec to do a Diploma in Outdoor and Adventure Education at Adventure Works.”

Offering flexible, highly personalised programmes based on each student’s interests, passions and potential means motivation remains high, even in challenging times.

Te Rina Leonard, Te Kura’s Deputy Chief Executive: Learning Delivery, says many young people have faced – and continue to face – multiple challenges due to COVID-19 disruptions.

“Te Kura is committed to doing whatever it takes to support these students to re-engage with their learning and reset their journey back into education.”

Targeted dual tuition – ākonga working at their own pace

With Te Kura’s targeted dual tuition programme, eligible ākonga remain enrolled at their school while accessing targeted support from Te Kura in one or two NCEA subjects. This arrangement allows students to choose a few standards to focus on and work through their courses at their own pace.

The programme is aimed at senior secondary ākonga with some engagement in learning, but who are at risk of not achieving their NCEA goals for the year. There are 2000 additional places in this online programme in Term 4 for Auckland ākonga who need additional support in one or two subjects.

Ākonga enrolled in this programme also have the option to continue their studies during Summer School, so they can access further support to catch up on their NCEA goals.

Summer School – topping up NCEA credits over the summer break

Te Kura Summer School is a short-term programme for ākonga throughout Aotearoa who have completed Term 4 and only need approximately 10 additional credits to achieve NCEA or University Entrance and progress to further study, training, or employment.

This online programme is delivered nationwide, with extra places available to support Auckland ākonga. With access to a device and connectivity, ākonga can study anywhere, anytime.

Te Kura has offered summer study for the past six years, and the message every year is that ākonga mainly find out about Summer School from their own schools and teachers. Te Kura is looking forward to developing more partnerships with schools and supporting ākonga to meet their NCEA goals this year.

Summer School runs over the summer break from 21 December 2020. Registrations are now open, and close on 2 February 2021.

Te Kura supporting schools and ākonga in 2021

Alongside Te Kura’s established learning programmes, the Government has announced a funding package for 5,530 at-risk ākonga attending Te Kura, Activity Centres, Alternative Education and Teen Parent Units.  

This support targets learners already at risk of disengagement, who are likely to be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 disruptions. The funding is provided until the end of the 2021 school year to support these ākonga to re-engage with their learning and successfully transition on to further education, training or employment.

Te Kura is currently exploring options to best support these ākonga to achieve their learning goals in 2021.

Want to know more?

For further information about the Big Picture and targeted dual tuition programmes, please email the New Zealand Ministry of Education:

For further information about Summer School, please visit the Te Kura website, or email:

Story originally published in the New Zealand Education Gazette