This article examines how the three ‘mythic’ elements (public aspiration, flexible language and practical guidance) of these Labour government education policy texts were operationalised in the forms and structures of secondary schooling from 1939. The period of analysis is from the early 1940s to the mid 1990s. The decade since 1994 has seen the trial of various forms of standards based assessment (i.e. unit standards and achievement standards) in the senior secondary school. Moreover, from 2002, a timetable has existed for the replacement of the three terminal national examinations that prevailed for most of the second half of the twentieth century, with the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).
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