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Did you hear the one about…

Did you hear the one about the lighthouse keeper, the NZ Diplomat abroad, and the remote sheep station owner?

No, this is not the opening to a music hall joke some time in the last century or indeed any time right through to today. This unlikely trio would have been seeing their children receive a sound education for one of New Zealand’s education’s educational jewels – the New Zealand Correspondence School still working 90 years later to provide educational services for learners without a school nearby.

Of course, for much of its history the children were characterised by living in a remote setting – at a distance that defeated any easy reach of a school and a teacher. But over the decades the Correspondence School was required to fill gaps developed by changes in the widening of gaps and the  bnreadth of the student cohort  which was required to go to school or, and this was a major area of growth, those who in this atmosphere of universal education were not able to go the school.

The tyranny of physical distance was over time supplemented by the various “distances” between young people and the schooling system that left behind increasing numbers of young people. Those groups included for example those who were excluded / stood down from school, those with conditions which made conventional school settings difficult in a number of ways, those who had talents that placed them at elite levels where flexibility in use of time was critical (typically these are young people with extraordinary skills in music, theatre, sport etc). In addition to these groups the school was required to fill in the gaps caused by shortages of teachers both generally and in specialist subjects.

Physical distance is still a category of enrolment of students but it now lines up with over 20 further categories that entitle students to enrol in Te Aho o te Kura Pounamu (the name of The NZ Correspondence School these days). And delivery, once centralised in Wellington is now delivered from all parts of the country by a regional system of teacher groups and an innovative mix of face-to-face and on-line delivery. It still has a paper-based capability but this is minor compared to its on-line activity and the nation-wide system of “advisories” which gives students access to teachers who are based through out the regions. Te Kura is inarguably New Zealand largest school in outreach and numbers of students. Another key element marks it as a (the?) leading school in its innovative online presence.

This school would be the only place in New Zealand that can deliver the total school curriculum – early childhood education, primary schooling and secondary education – online covering Years 1 -13 curricula with stunning resources and with full assessment capability and proctoring.

Just as well this is so for when Covid-19 arrived the Ministry of Education was able to take the entire output of the Te Kura on-line developments and put them to use in generating an on-line capability for schools.

Nearly 100 years of working in an innovative way saw Te Kura emerge not only to support those left behind but to also take a part in helping New Zealand’s schools move ahead.

Stuart Middleton declares his interest in Te Kura as a member of the board for 7 years which has enabled him to develop an understanding of and delight in the progressive work the school undertakes especially as a provider of supported online programmes for all New Zealand students. It has been a grandstand seat for witnessing wonderful transformational developments.

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