How to talk to your teens about poor NCEA results

Talking with your teen needn't be painful

Poor NCEA results plus teenagerhood can be a difficult time – for everyone in your home.

But take heart – this is the first in a series of articles to help you find out more about NCEA and how to talk to your disappointed teen about this thorny topic. Our next articles will cover other common NCEA questions:

  • Poor NCEA results – does this mean a change of subjects or direction is a good idea?
  • My teen wants to leave school after bad NCEA results – help!

Is there any point in me talking to my teenager about NCEA? They aren’t listening!

If your teen’s done badly in NCEA, they probably do want to talk to you about their results, and will likely listen to you – although they might not show it. Be reassured by the fact that parents are actually one of the biggest influencers of rangatahi!

Use the tips below to start a conversation about NCEA with your teen. Remember to respect their space, listen, question and suggest, rather than telling, and have the conversation if and when they are ready. You could:

  • start with a statement – “I want you to know I am here to help you if you want to talk about your NCEA results. There are always other ways of getting to where you want to be, and when you’re ready we can look at them together.”
  • try a stealth approach while in the car, or out somewhere together: “Hey, I’ve found out that even if people miss out on NCEA there may be other ways they can get into the course they want.”
  • surprise them with some treat food and a casual, “So how are things?” See how the conversation develops and if they take the lead, quietly listen
  • send them a text or email instead of starting with a face-to-face conversation
  • start by telling them about a failure you’ve experienced and how you felt about it. Ask them what they would have done in your situation. They may appreciate you treating them as an equal plus you might learn something! This may or may not turn into a conversation about them, but it will give you a better grounding for the next conversation
  • ask them upfront, “Would you like to talk about your results?” But you’ll have to respect them if they say “No”
  • see if someone else in the whānau can talk with them.

Back off as soon as you feel the conversation getting heated, but let them know you are available if and when they want to talk.

How could poor NCEA results affect my teen?

Poor NCEA results can knock your teen's confidence, and have an impact on their study and future career choices.

Poor NCEA Level 1 results

Teens who have had a bad year at NCEA Level 1, or failed to achieve the Level 1 numeracy or literacy credits, may need to repeat NCEA Level 1 next year.

If your teen has missed just a few credits, your teen may still enter NCEA Level 2 next year, but may need to make up the credits - which will add to your teen's workload.

Many subjects need student to have completed NCEA Level 1 first, so they may be limited from what subjects they could study at NCEA Level 2.

If your teen is not into academic study, not having a complete NCEA Level 1 may stop them taking part in school programmes that let them earn NCEA Level 2 while trade training or gaining work experience outside of school. They may also be limited from some Youth Guarantee tertiary courses.

What you can do - Help your teen talk to a dean or teacher at your school to plan how to make credits, or repeating NCEA Level 1. Ask about extra help available to your teen, or get advice on suitable subjects for your teen to study.

Poor NCEA Level 2 results

Teens who do poorly in NCEA Level 2 may struggle with the study requirements for NCEA Level 3. 

Your teen may have to repeat NCEA Level 2 if they wish to continue to NCEA Level 3, or make up missing credits while in NCEA Level 3. Your teen may not be able to study some subjects at Level 3, as these subjects need NCEA Level 2 to be completed first.

School leavers may not have enough credits to enter study at some polytechnics, tertiary institutes or wānanga, and may find it hard to do the course work for some apprenticeships.

What you can do - Help your teen talk to a dean or teacher at your school to plan how to make credits, or repeating NCEA Level 2. Ask about extra help available to your teen, or get advice on suitable subjects for your teen to study.

Poor NCEA Level 3 results

Teens with poor NCEA Level 3 results may mean they can't study their chosen course or enter trade training.

What you can do - Help your teen talk to their school as soon as possible to try and make up missing credits. Check with the course provider to see if they can still enter the course - and if not, help your teen talk to their school as soon as possible to try and make up missing credits. If this is not possible, your teen may be able to do a bridging or foundation course with a course provider over summer to give them the credits they need to get into the course.

Never mind my teens – I need someone to talk to about this!

 If you need help, you can contact our trained career advisers between 8am and 5pm every week day, for free.