School leavers with NCEA Level 2 or above

Why This Is Important

A formal school qualification is a measure of the extent to which young adults have completed a basic prerequisite for higher education and training and many entry-level jobs.  The main qualification available to secondary school students is the NCEA, which encompasses a wide range of learning.  NCEA enables students to undertake multilevel study to attain credits, perhaps at different levels in any one year, towards an NCEA qualification.  Students can attain credits through internal and external assessment, and they can accumulate these credits both within and across years.  Future educational and job prospects will be limited for those who leave school without Level 2 NCEA.

The attainment of an upper secondary school qualification is linked to labour force status and incomes.  The current research done by David Scott found that NCEA level 2 leavers are slightly more likely to go direct to work than their Level 3 peers who are slightly more likely to enrol in a tertiary institution. The group with NCEA 2 has more accumulated earnings in the 7 years since leaving school than the UE group. While there is not much difference between earnings for NCEA level 2 and level 3 groups, those with NCEA level 1 school achievement have earned 15% less than NCEA level 2 peers, and those with no achievement are earning 51% less.


Percentage of school leavers with NCEA level 2 or above


Numerator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: ENROL)


The total number of school leavers who attained:

  • NCEA Level 2 or other Level 2 NQF qualification; or
  • A non-NQF award at the equivalent of  NCEA level 2 including Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), International Baccalaureate ( IB) or Cambridge International exams (CIE),  or another overseas award at Year 12;
  • National Certificate Level 3 (NCEA level 3); or
  • A non-NQF award at the equivalent of NCEA level 3 including Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), International Baccalaureate ( IB) or Cambridge International exams (CIE),  or another overseas award at Year 13;
  • 30 credits at Level 3 or higher
  • NZ Scholarship or National Certificate at Level 4 or above

as at the end of the school leaver year (ie. 1 March 2019 for the 2018 school leaver year).

The highest qualification status for each student is obtained from NZQA. Where a student achieved a non-NQF qualification, highest attainment information is obtained directly from their school.

Denominator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: ENROL)


The total number of school leavers in a given school year.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria for School leavers

School leavers in 2018 are students that permanently left school to enter the workforce and/or undertake further education and training outside of the compulsory schooling system sometime between 1 March 2018 and the last day of February 2019 (inclusive). School leavers are identified using ENROL. Students counted as school leavers are:

  • Domestic students who were aged less than 19 in their first enrolment in ENROL; including alternative education students, students 16 or over on 1 March 2019 and students attending teen parent units.
  • Students with leave reason; ‘end of schooling’ or ‘early leaving exemption’
  • Students with leave reason ‘transferred to another school in New Zealand’ or ‘transferred to home schooling’ but did not reenrol in another school according to ENROL
  • Students with leave reason ‘gone overseas permanently’, who meet the age criteria
  • Students who attend for a period of time at the start of 2018 but leave before 1 March 2019 are counted with 2018 leavers.

This excludes:

  • Returning adult students (aged 19 or more) with a year gap in their attendance
  • Exchange and International fee-paying students
  • Students who successfully transferred to another school in New Zealand or to home schooling
  • Deceased students

Alternative education students are counted with the school that enrolled them in alternative education, this may not be the school that manages their enrolment while they are in alternative education. This is to reflect that the enrolling school is responsible for ensuring the students’ education needs are met.

School leavers are counted under the last school they attended for at least 70 days. If they did not attend a school for 70 days within the school leaver year, then they are included under a ‘transitory leaver’ group.

Interpretation Issues

In 2013, for the first time, students were required to obtain 10 literacy and 10 numeracy credits at level 1 to achieve a NCEA Level 2 qualification. No historical adjustment has been made for this change.

Total Response Ethnicity

Total response ethnicity is when people who have been identified in more than one ethnic group have been counted in each ethnic group.  For the New Zealand total, individuals are counted only once.Total response ethnicity has been used for all ethnic group analysis in this indicator.

For this indicator European/Pākehā refers to people who affiliate as New Zealand European, Other European or European (not further defined).  For example, this includes and is not limited to people who consider themselves as Australian (excluding Australian Aborigines), British and Irish, American, Spanish, and Ukrainian.