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
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.