Te Kura

Our History

It all began back in 1922 when The Correspondence School was

established to provide lessons to approximately 100 isolated

primary school children scattered throughout New Zealand.

All the lessons and letters to students were written by hand by the

School’s first teacher, Miss Janet Mackenzie.


In 1923, a second teacher was employed by the school once the

roll hit 218 students and a year later, the school’s first

headmaster was appointed.


1927 saw the roll reach 720 students, and in 1928, the school

widened its reach to include courses for an initial intake of 50

secondary students.


The first radio broadcasts were made to students in 1931,

although at that stage they were not formal lessons.


In 1934, the roll had grown to around 1,800 primary and

secondary students, and the teaching staff numbered 45.

An Ex-Pupils Association was formed, followed by the

Parents Association and The Special Education Service in 1936.


In 1948 the government announced that all schools would be

closed due to the polio epidemic. TCS prepared lessons to be sent

to every home in New Zealand as well as broadcast lessons from

January to mid-April 1948.


1949 proved to be a momentous year, with the first course in

Te Reo Maori launched, and the first residential school for male

students held (residential schools were then held on alternate

years for males and females).



"A Letter to the Teacher", a film about the school, was shown in

theatres throughout the country in 1955 and nominated for

inclusion in the Berlin Film Festival. In 1960, the work of the

school with rural children with special education needs was

praised by the 1960 Royal Commission, and ways to extend or

increase the service investigated.


Fast forward to 1976 and early childhood students (aged

between three and five) unable to attend a play centre or

kindergarten because of distance, illness, disability, or itinerancy

were enrolled for the first time.


Also in 1976, the first permanent school building officially

opened at Portland Crescent in Thorndon, Wellington and 10

years later control of the school passed from the Department of

Education to an elected Board of Trustees.


The 1990s proved to be a time of great change. Bar-coding was

introduced across the school to record the movement of student

work and resources, the first CD-ROMs and the student database

(Xtend) were developed, and the first interactive teaching

sessions with schools using audiographics were introduced.


It was also the end of an era for a number of initiatives, such as

radio broadcasts and residential schools, which ended in 1990.


The first Learning Centre was established at Ruatahuna in 1996

and, in 1999, the school’s Student Resource Centre opened in Petone.


In 2001, the first e-learning pilot, involving 300 students, was established, and the school’s Parents

Association was renamed The Correspondence School Parents’ and Supervisors’ Association (TCSPSA). A year

later The Friends of The Correspondence School Association became a branch of TCSPSA.


In 2004, the school reported a budget deficit of $6 million. In response the Minister of Education appointed a

new Board of Trustees charged with ensuring the school returned to a sound financial footing while maintaining

and enhancing education delivery. A new Chief Executive, Debbie Francis, was appointed to implement the

necessary changes. One of these was the development of a differentiated service model designed to ensure

students were supported directly according to their need. A service level agreement was developed to set out

the responsibilities of TCS and schools enrolling dual students. The school returned a surplus in 2006.


2007 was a significant year in the school’s development, with the implementation of a new funding model and

the development of a regionalised delivery and support model, which culminated in the opening of the first

regional office, in Christchurch in 2008. The new regionalisation model aimed to improve student engagement

and achievement by enabling stronger connections with students and their communities.


A key element of the model was that teachers would be organised into cross-curriculum teams reporting to a

team leader, rather than being in subject-based teams reporting to a head of department. ‘Form teachers’

were renamed ‘learning advisors’.


Also in 2007, the school was selected as one of several ‘clusters’ to receive funding from the Ministry for ICT

professional development, which led to a wide-reaching programme of professional development for teachers.

The school was also allocated its first tranche of places in the nationwide Gateway programme.


There was significant growth in the number of young adult students (those aged 16 to 19 years) enrolling with

the school, and the Te Ara Hou programme for students in years 7 to 10 was developed. 


In 2009, the school chose a new name, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura for short). The new name was

chosen to reflect changes to the way the school operated, with its stronger focus on making connections with

students, their communities and other agencies which  support the school’s students, and developments in the

way learning is delivered.


Regional offices were opened in Auckland and Hamilton, paving the way for teachers to be appointed to these

locations. The position of relationship coordinator was established to provide support for dual students and

their schools. That year the Minister of Education announced three new places on the Board of Trustees, two of

which were to be filled from within the school community, and a third to be elected from among the staff.

(These places were removed from the Board by the same Minister in 2011.)


The regional offices were expanded in 2010 to accommodate growing numbers of teachers in the regions. A

partnership with the Whanganui Regional Primary Health Organisation saw the appointment of a

learning advisor at the Gonville Centre in Whanganui, able to work face-to-face with Te Kura students there to improve

engagement and achievement. The school’s authentic learning approach was developed, based on the

successful Big Picture model. Work began to update NCEA resources following the Ministry of Education and

NZQA’s review of standards, starting with NCEA Level 1. This three year project was a significant undertaking

for Te Kura, costing several million dollars and involving a large number of teaching and Media Services staff.


A number of capital improvements to the Portland

Crescent building were completed, including

substantial refurbishment of the main entry/reception

area and the staff cafeteria.


In response to the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that

struck the Canterbury region on February 22 2011,

Te Kura made many learning resources available online

for the first time and sent thousands of booklets to

learning hubs in Christchurch so that students could

continue their schooling while schools were being

assessed for safety and alternative arrangements

made for students of schools that were forced to close.

The school’s office in central Christchurch became

inaccessible, cordoned off as part of the city’s badly

damaged ‘red zone’. Te Kura took up the offer of a

space at Kendall Avenue School in Burnside, where staff were based for the remainder of 2011 and 2012.

Also in 2011, Te Kura established formal partnerships with Big Picture Australia and Origin Energy, and Chief

Executive Mike Hollings was appointed to the Board of Big Picture Australia. The relationships, and funding

from Origin Energy, enabled the school to establish student advisories in Tauranga and Taranaki following the

Big Picture learning format. Te Kura was chosen to be one of 10 new trades academies, enabling the school to

offer students the opportunity to gain NCEA credits as well as earn a National Certificate in a trade or vocation

such as engineering, early childhood education and building. You can read about Huarahi Trades Academy on

our website. The first wholly online courses were available using the school’s Online Teaching and Learning

Environment, including a new te reo Maori course developed in partnership with AUT.


2012 was dominated by implementation of a new student management system to replace the akona and

Xtend student databases, as well as the online enrolment system for schools and aspects of the Navision

financial management system. The system was put in place incrementally, taking longer than originally

planned and posing a number of challenges for staff in all areas of the school, particularly teachers. By

December the system’s core functionality was in place and planned enhancements to the system were

underway to make it more user-friendly for staff.