The First Two Years at School

Short Film, 1950 (Full Length)

This 1950 documentary about early primary school education was made by pioneering female director Margaret Thomson, who rated it her favourite NZ work. The survey of contemporary educational theory examines the new order in 'infant schooling' (though some things never change, like tadpoles and tidy up time). It is broken into sections: ‘Play in the Infant School’, ‘Doing and Learning’, ‘Learning to Read’, ‘Number Work’ and ‘Living and Learning’. The National Film Unit doco was made for the Department of Education. Douglas Lilburn composed the score.

New Streets - South Auckland, Two Cities

Television, 1982 (Full Length)

Reporter Neil Roberts ventures into South Auckland in this TVNZ documentary, and finds two rapidly growing but very different communities. Otara and Mangere are becoming New Zealand’s industrial powerhouse, but a huge influx of Māori and Pacific Island workers and their families are struggling to adapt in a brand new city that was farmland just decades earlier, and lacks amenities for its new citizens. Meanwhile, to the east, Howick and Pakuranga are also booming but their more upwardly mobile, prosperous and very Pākehā citizens seem to be living in a world of their own.

First Hand - Just Words

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

Anne and Gordon left high school unable to read or write to a basic level. This documentary follows their progress with the Auckland Adult Literacy Scheme, and culminates with the pair sitting the written and oral exam for their drivers' licence. Anne found innovative ways around the kids' bedtime stories, but froze when it came to filling in forms. Gordon has been driving illegally for years; he wants to ace his drivers' test and finds an acceptance within the Adult Literacy Scheme he never did at school. The First Hand series has a stripped back style, using small cameras and crews.

Survey - What Happened at Oruaiti

Television, 1972 (Full Length)

In the early 1960s two North Island schools — Oruaiti and Hay Park — experimented with an innovative method of practical education. This episode of Survey sees principal Elwyn Richardson revisiting Oruaiti, and reminiscing on how the two schools functioned. He offers his views on traditional textbook learning — the more “American” system, as he calls it. Ex students reflect on their time at the school, and how an education based on arts, building and play shaped the people they’ve become. Modern schooling in Aotearoa now follows the example set in those early days.

Once a Convent Girl

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

Growing up in one of New Zealand’s many convent schools before they were reordered by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, was an experience many found tough. This documentary explores the stories of the girls who endured the nuns’ strict rule, including interviews with Ginette McDonald, Moana Maniapoto and painter Jacqueline Fahey, plus some of the nuns themselves. They discuss discipline, education, their thoughts on becoming nuns and how despite all the rules, they wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

Talk Talk - Series Three, Episode Seven

Television, 2010 (Full Length Episode)

In this Talk Talk episode, Finlay Macdonald interviews one of his former teachers, All Blacks' coach Graham Henry. Forgoing discussing rugby intricacies such as the dark arts of scrummaging, the talk is about Henry's background in education and how it has influenced his coaching career. Filmed prior to World Cup 2011 glory, Henry muses on the pressure to win, dealing with stress, and high public/media expectation. Musical guest Dave Dobbyn performs 'Howling at the Moon' — chosen by Henry because "he sings 'Loyal'" — and explains his relationship with that song.

E Tipu e Rea - Variations on a Theme

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

In a nod to his theatre training, Whale Rider actor Rawiri Paratene (then better known as a presenter on Play School) unveils three stories to a marae audience. A bored schoolboy (Faifua Amiga) banters with a sarcastic teacher; a musical number features a prostitute (Rena Owen) and her client; and a young girl and her grandfather prepare and wait for the body of her father at the pā. This was the first screen drama directed by Don Selwyn, who argued "what Rawiri is saying in his script is that there are lots of things Māori which are left out of the education system." 

The HeART of the Matter

Film, 2016 (Excerpts)

The HeART of the Matter looks at major changes in New Zealand teaching which began after World War ll. A group of bureaucrats and arts specialists set about introducing a "thoroughly bicultural and arts-centred education system" to schools — in contrast to the rote learning of the past. Combining interviews and archival footage, Luit and Jan Bieringa (The Man in the Hat) examine this period of radical educational reform, and ask what lessons can be applied to the present. In the excerpts above, pupils and teachers reminisce about their time in the classroom.

A Civilised Society

Film, 2006 (Full Length)

This documentary looks at the new right ideology that transformed public education in the 80s and 90s and the schism it caused with teachers. Interviews with parents, teachers and unionists are cut together with archive footage of treasury officials and politicians advocating that schools be run as businesses. There are vexed board of trustees' meetings, an infamous deal between Avondale College and Pepsi, and teachers take their opposition from the classroom to the streets. The film is the third in Alister Barry's series critical of neo-liberal reform in NZ.

Standing in the Sunshine - Work

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

Four-part series Standing in the Sunshine charted the journey of Kiwi women over a century from September 1893, when New Zealand became the first country to grant women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This third episode, directed by Melanie Rodriga, looks at women over a century of work — plus education, equal pay, family, art, and Māori life. Interviews are mixed with archive material – including a mid-80s 'girls can do anything' promotion – and reenactments of quotes by Kiwi feminist pioneers. Writer Sandra Coney also authored a tie-in book for the series.