A Letter to the Teacher

Short Film, 1957 (Full Length)

Pioneering woman director Kathleen O’Brien looks at NZ Correspondence School education in this 25-minute National Film Unit short. Lessons are sent from the school’s Wellington base to far-flung outposts, for farm kids and sick kids, prisoners and immigrants, from Nuie to Northland. Letters, radio and an annual ‘residential college’ at Massey connect students and teachers. In a newspaper report of the time, O’Brien remembering being stranded at Cape Brett lighthouse “for four days without a toothbrush and wearing only the clothes she stood up in”.

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.

Talk Talk - Graham Henry

Television, 2010 (Full Length Episode)

In this episode from season three of Talk Talk, Finlay Macdonald interviews one of his former teachers, All Blacks coach Graham Henry. Bypassing rugby intricacies like 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.

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.

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.

Our Small World

Television, 2000 (Full Length)

Our Small World is a portrait of life on an atoll in Tokelau — on Fale, an island so small, the schoolhouse had to be built on the next island, and the pigs live on the reef. Narrated by Tokelau-born Ioane Puka on a return visit, the film examines old traditions meeting pressures from the outside world, an emphasis on self-sufficiency and togetherness, and worries over education and a declining, youth-heavy population. Key decisions are made by a group of male elders, although after initial doubts, they have accepted a woman police officer.

Trouble Is My Business

Film, 2008 (Trailer)

Juliette Veber's observational documentary tells the story of Gary Peach, a teacher in charge of discipline at South Auckland's Aorere College. "Peachy" has unorthodox methods (a loud hailer to wrangle truants) but his genuine commitment to the mainly Māori and Pacific Island kids is provoking and affecting. Filmed over six months on the trail of Peach's beat, the film received applause at 2008 NZ Film Festival screenings and made many annual 'best of' lists. The NZ Herald called it a: "very moving report from education's frontline ... a compelling watch".

From Indonesia to India

Short Film, 1962 (Full Length)

The Colombo Plan was a Commonwealth “federation of neighbours” which aimed to counter communism in Asia by providing development aid in the area's poorer countries. This National Film Unit short, directed by future NFU manager David H Fowler, ranges across Asia as it surveys New Zealand’s contributions to the postwar plan: funding hospitals, agriculture and education in Indonesia, Malaya, Sarawak, North Borneo, Pakistan and India. The film also visits Colombo students in their home countries, passing on skills that they learned while studying at NZ universities.

A Baby on the Way

Short Film, 1971 (Full Length)

Made for the Plunket Society by the NFU, A Baby on the Way uses a blackboard and various experts in front of an antenatal class to provide birth education for early 70s Kiwi parents-to-be. Plunket Medical Director Neil Begg lowers his pipe to introduce the lessons, and contemporary advice for ensuring a mother’s health during pregnancy is given by doctors, nurses, and physios. The scenes involving breast massage and analgesics may have induced titters in school-aged audiences, unlike the brief-but-gory concluding birth (set to piped organ music).

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.