Our history


The Correspondence School was established to provide lessons for what Government officials believed would be approximately 25 isolated primary school children scattered throughout New Zealand.

Miss Janet Mackenzie

The roll quickly grew to 100 within a few weeks, with all the lessons and letters to students initially written by hand by the school’s first teacher, Miss Janet Mackenzie.

By the end of the year the roll stood at 347. About six weeks before the end of the year, a second teacher was appointed.



The school’s first headmaster, Stanley Mills, was appointed.


The roll reached 720 students. The first copy of the school magazine The Postman was produced and went out to students for almost 80 years.

Postman Magazine



Secondary students joined the school and by the end of the year, 98 were enrolled, with the total roll reaching almost 900.


The first radio broadcasts were made to students by headmaster Stanley Mills, although at that stage they were not formal lessons.

Stanley Mills


The roll had grown to about 1800 primary and secondary students, and 45 teaching staff.


A new headmaster, Arthur Butchers, was appointed.

Arthur Butchers


An Ex-Pupils Association was formed, followed by the Parents Association. As well as remote ākonga, those who were in hospital, or physically unable to attend a school were able to enrol. The school held the first of what would become regular exhibitions of students’ work, which brought many students and families to Wellington.


The school held an exhibition of student work to mark the coronation of George the sixth. It was a grand affair opened by the Governor General, Viscount Galway. It had finally moved into a permanent home on Clifton Terrace, after a series of moves around the city.

Postman Magazine


The staff in 1938. Headmaster Arthur Butchers is centre in the front row.

Arthur Butchers


After two previous attempts to hold ‘vacation’ schools’, 200 girls and boys attended a gathering in 1939, in Oamaru at Waitaki Boys High School. In 1949, the next gathering was held at Massey University. Residential schools, as they were later called, continued to be held at Massey alternating between girls and boys, and were very popular. The last residential school was held in 1994.

Massey University


During the war years (1939–1945) the school’s Visiting Teacher scheme was very popular, with teachers spending time with their students living in remote districts. The first woman visiting teacher was Catherine Forde, who later broadcast talks of her experiences.

 Catherine Forde


A new magazine, the Ex-Pupils Budget, devoted the first issue to their classmates who had served in World War II, the 230 men and 40 women, who had been on active service. Of those, 21 men had died and eight had been prisoners of war.



All New Zealand schools were closed for the first term due to the polio epidemic. The Correspondence School stepped into the breach, preparing lessons to be sent to every home in the country as well as broadcasting lessons from January to mid-April 1948.


The first course in te reo Māori was launched. Girls (below) at Te Waipounamu College listening to broadcast of a Māori language lesson.

Girls learning Te reo Māori


Eric Le Petit

Eric Le Petit took over as Headmaster.

During the 1950s, greater efforts were made to provide contact among Te Kura ākonga. If the pupils couldn’t go to the Correspondence School, the school would go to them. The so-called School Days proved very popular.  In this photo, Headmaster Eric Le Petit, on the far right, is visiting a group of ākonga who have gathered in Timaru.

Headmaster Eric Le Petit, on the far right, is visiting a group of ākonga


‘A Letter to the Teacher’,  a film about The Correspondence School, was shown in theatres throughout the country and nominated for inclusion in the Berlin Film Festival. The film was made by one of two women filmmakers at the National Film Unit, Kathleen O’Brien.

Kathleen O’Brien


The decade began with a visit to children in the Mackenzie Country by the Minister of Education, Phil Skogland.

The school’s work with rural children with special education needs was praised by the 1960 Royal Commission.


The school’s Headmaster was Albert (Bert) O’Reilly (below centre, front row) a former commander of the New Zealand Army’s 22 Battalion and a Military Cross recipient.

lbert (Bert) O’Reilly


The Headmaster for the next 11 years was Hector McVeagh, who oversaw many changes at the school. 

Hector McVeagh


American educators visited New Zealand and later described the Correspondence School’s special needs service as excellent, in a report to the US Congress, asking it be adapted to the needs of rural America.

American educators


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.


The school had a new director, Ormond Tate

Ormond Tate

The first permanent school building officially opened at Portland Crescent in Thorndon, Wellington. Te Kura, which is now regionalised, has its executive and Central South kaimahi  based in this office.


Governance of the school passed from the Department of Education to an elected Board of Trustees, under the Tomorrow’s School’s Reforms. The Department of Education’s Correspondence School became simply The Correspondence School.


This was a time of great change. The school had entered the digital era. Bar-coding was introduced across the school to record the movement of student work and resources to and from the student resource centre, the first CD-ROMs and the student information database (Xtend) were developed, and the first interactive teaching sessions with schools using audiographics were introduced.

Teacher on a computer


Among the changes were the end of an era for a number of Correspondence School institutions, such as radio broadcasts, which went off the air after 66 years, the longest running continuous education broadcasting in the world. Another casualty was the residential schools. he last gathering was held in 1994.


The school’s Student Resource Centre opened in Petone.


The first e-learning pilot, involving 300 students, was established.

The school’s Parents Association was renamed The Correspondence School Parents’ and Supervisors’ Association (TCSPSA), and a year later The Friends of The Correspondence School Association became a branch of TCSPSA.

Postman Magazine


In response to a budget deficit of $6 million, 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.

Chief Executive Debbie Francis was appointed to implement the necessary changes, which returned the school to a better financial position, although not without considerable turmoil among staff and the ‘traditional’ but dwindling numbers of remote Correspondence families, who felt the new direction of the school would disadvantage them.  


Chief Executive Mike Hollings was appointed. Enrolments were up to 27,000 a year with more Māori and ‘at-risk’ students than ever.

Mike Hollings


A new funding model for the school was implemented and a regionalised delivery and support model was developed to enable stronger connections between the school and its students, their whānau and communities. A key element of the new delivery and support model was the reorganisation of teachers into multi-disciplinary teams focused on specific communities, called rohe. As part of those changes, a new integrated programme called Te Ara Hou was developed for students in years 7 to 10.

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 allocated places in the nationwide Gateway programme for the first time.


Our first regional office opened in Christchurch. ‘Form teachers’ were renamed ‘learning advisors’ or ‘kaiako’.


We changed our name to Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura for short).

Regional offices opened in Auckland and Hamilton, and regional relationship coordinators were appointed to provide support for dual students and their schools.


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

We developed our authentic learning approach, based on the successful Big Picture model.


Once again Te Kura stepped into the breach during a disaster, this time the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that struck the Canterbury region on 22 February. We made many learning resources available online for the first time and sent thousands of booklets to learning hubs in Christchurch. This enabled students to continue their schooling while schools were being assessed or closed.

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.

The first completely online courses were launched using Te Kura’s new online learning environment.

Te Kura made a number of systems changes, including the implementation of a new student management system.


Summer school poster

Te Kura initiated an online music video project involving 44 students across New Zealand working together at a distance to create a music video for ‘Keep Moving’, a song written by two Te Kura students who collaborated online without ever meeting face-to-face.

Te Kura holds its first Summer School


Te Kura began its Authentic Learning Pilot Programme, a four-year initiative with the Ministry of Education to provide face-to-face support for 80 at-risk full-time students.


Te Kura launched its first reading app, developed in collaboration with local iwi Te Atiawa ki Taranaki Whanui and external development company Kiwa Digital Limited. Named ‘Ngake and Whataitai, the legend of Wellington Harbour’, this is a bilingual resource in te reo Māori and English aimed at children aged three and up.


There were now regional offices in Whangarei, Tauranga, Rotorua, Hastings, Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Nelson and Dunedin.


Big Picture learning gets a Government seal of approval in the form of a $2.6 million investment to fund 80 places in the programme to support learners who are at risk of disengaging from education.


COVID-19 causes a global pandemic. Schools are locked down around the country and Te Kura steps in with help for schools. Partnering with the Ministry of Education, Te Kura interventions for rangatahi at risk of disengagement from education prove highly successful.


Te Kura introduces Te Ara Pounamu – Te Kura’s local curriculum.

Te Ara Pounamu is Te Kura’s version of Big Picture, which adopts adistinctive Aotearoa/New Zealand flavour. It focuses on engaging ākonga in learning that is relevant to them, capturing their interests and passions.The combination of authentic, blended and online learning provides a highly personalised and flexible learning environment.

‘We see our ākonga as pounamu: a treasure undergoing transformation.’


Te Kura celebrates its centenary.

The book cover of Going the distance

Te Kura Stamps


Departure of long-serving CE Mike Hollings

Te Rina Leonard is appointed as Chief Executive.

Te Rina Leonard, the first wahine Māori appointed as Chief Executive.

Te Rina Leonard