In this guide:

NB: Where possible, this HTML research guide contains direct links to Archway for items and series in the archival reference field.


Archives New Zealand holds a variety of education records, many of which are of interest to family historians because they record individual schooling or the employment of teachers. Policy and administrative records are less useful.


Education was largely in the hands of the churches or private enterprise until the setting up in 1853-54 of provincial governments which created regional boards of education. Only a few early lists of pupils survive in provincial papers.

After abolition of the provinces, central government organisation of education began with the Education Act 1877.

Primary education was the first focus of central government. The Act established twelve regional Education Boards, most of which took over from provincial boards. Each Education Board (the number varied over time) was responsible for public education in its district and the main concern was primary education.

Secondary schools were originally under the direct supervision of the Education Department. Few of their records are held at Archives New Zealand. Most records held date from the mid-1960s when education boards took on a greater role in the oversight of secondary schools.

Universities were set up in different centres between 1869 and 1897, under acts of parliament, to create the University of New Zealand and its constituent colleges. Other colleges were created later. In 1961 most colleges became independent self-governing universities.

School records

Most school records useful to family historians come from Education Boards. Others have come from the Department of Education, and a few schools have deposited material directly.

Some schools retain their own records, but others have deposited their records in local libraries, museums, or similar institutions, throughout the country.

Most Archives New Zealand offices hold Education Board records for their regions. The exception is Dunedin. Otago Education Board records are held in the Hocken Library, Dunedin, and Southland Education Board records are held in the Invercargill Public Library.


Some records are held for the following education groups and organisations:

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Primary Education

The Department of Education initially supervised the work of the Education Boards, providing funding, prescribing the syllabus of instruction, and certifying and classifying teachers. Under the Boards, the School Committees never took on the full powers which the Education Act 1877 had allowed for. It was the Department which increasingly set national standards, particularly for primary schooling.

  • In 1901 the Department established a national scale of teachers; salaries and staffing in Primary schools.
  • In 1909 an act made it compulsory for Boards to ensure that “physical drill” was taught to all boys and girls over the age of eight.
  • Education Act 1914 concentrated more powers in the hands of the Department.
  • From 1914 inspectors of primary schools were centralised in the Education Department rather than based in the Education Boards.
  • Regular inspections of schools and teachers led to a national graded list of primary teachers which was the basis of appointments by 1920

Secondary Education

Few secondary school records are held at Archives New Zealand.

Secondary and technical schools were originally separate from Education Boards. The first secondary schools were established under their own acts of parliament.

Education Board archives holds records of the development of district high schools, which included secondary students. Later records of Education Boards may include some material on secondary schools, but it does not usually include personal information.

Industrial and Special Schools


The Neglected and Criminal Children’s Act 1867 empowered provincial governments to establish Industrial and Reform Schools for children under 15.

The provincial governments of Otago and Canterbury opened, respectively, the Caversham Industrial School in 1869 and the Burnham Industrial School in 1874. Others followed. The Justice Department took over the administration of industrial schools when provincial government ended in 1876, but in 1880 responsibility was moved to the Education Department.

The Industrial Schools Act 1882 was significant:

Special Schools, such as the School for the Deaf at Sumner, Christchurch, were set up from 1881. Some were little different from Industrial Schools. Receiving Homes were temporary places for children to stay while their future was sorted out. A Special and Industrial Schools Branch of the Education Department was developed to administer all these institutions.

After 1900 the emphasis changed from punishment to reform. Industrial Schools became Special Schools after 1910. From 1917 children could be placed on probation and a number of schools were closed and ‘homes’ opened. All institutions encouraged boarding out in foster homes. The main institutions 1925-1948 were:

Provision was also made for blind children and adults at the New Zealand Institute for the Blind, Auckland.

From 1948 the Child Welfare Division ran four national ‘training institutions’ for children considered too emotionally disturbed or delinquent to stay in the community: Kingslea, Kohitere, Hokio Beach School and Fareham House. The Division also administered (a) 13 short term facilities for the remand, observation and classification of children, (b) family homes (51 in 1970) and (c) several special schools:

Children’s Homes

Many files are held relating to Children’s Homes, often orphanages, but most are administrative. They can be found through Archway searches.

The exact nature of many institutions changed over time, from church-run to state-run, and from orphanage to special schools, etc.

Industrial School records held

Some records are incorporated in Maintenance and Destitute Persons records (see below). Access restrictions may apply.

Auckland Office

From 1870 to 1882 some children were sent to the Naval Training School and to the Kohimarama Industrial School. Howe Street Industrial School took mainly girls to 14 years. Other industrial school type institutions included the Door of Hope in Cook Street.

The Nominal Rolls held in Wellington [ACGB 8305 CW 14/1-27] (see below) include Auckland institutions.

Department of Education, Northern Regional Office

Visits to Children’s Homes, Journal (indexed) 1901-1910 [BAAA 1959/1a-1b]

Wellington Office
Record Books, Registers & Nominal Rolls

The rolls give a child’s name, age, admission date and arrangements. Each industrial school has its own record with alphabetical listings of names. In early years these rolls include various institutions:

By the late 19th century only Industrial Schools appear:

Other records

A variety of records, including Burnham Photograph Album c1874.

Duplicate copies of warrants bound into volumes. These warrants were issued to permit children at industrial schools to board with foster parents, and they give details of child and foster parent.

The rolls give a child’s name, date of committal, age, status, place, section of act used, religion and arrangements for the child.

The record books (indexed 1949-1961) give date, child’s name and address, and remarks.

Details include child’s name, date of birth, place and date of committal.

Palmerston North Magistrates Court

140 entries in Index, not quite all those in Orders.

Staff Register 1878-1954

This records teachers, mostly for Native, Industrial and Special Schools, for the period 1878 to 1954. There are few entries after 1910. Held in the Register Room, this register records name, date of birth, dates of appointment, leaves of absence and remarks about service. It may include other information. [ACIG 17269 E16/1]

Special Schools
Christchurch Office
Burnham Industrial School

Photograph Album of Boys 1914 (indexed) and a few other photographs of the school. [AADK CH438/1a-1i]

Most existing records for this school are to be found in Record Books, Registers and Nominal Rolls held in the Wellington office.

Hogben House

Various records 1976-1989 [CANB CH232/94/11/1/30]

Kingslea Girls’ Home

Roll Books – Admission List 1933-1985; Various records – files, diaries, duty books 1931-1987 [CAUR CH378/47]

McKenzie Residential School

F Series (various files, mostly correspondence) 1971-1975 - Miscellaneous files 1974-1980; Various records, mainly administrative 1979-1989. [CATB CH256/1] [CANB CH232/156 & 158]

Stanmore Boys Home (Christchurch Boys Home)

Daily Diaries 28 March 1946–4 December 1974; ‘Duplicate’ Daily Diaries 5 September 1947 – 15 October 1952 ; Menu Register 14 October 1936 – 3 July 1941 [AADK CH438 2a-7e]

Sumner School for the Deaf – Van Asch College

Pupil status, Admissions & Discharges 1944-1969 (including Titirangi 1943-1944 and Fendalton Road 1943) [CAHK CH8/1/3]

Dunedin Office
Campbell Park School, Otekaieke, Waitaki Valley (formerly Otekaieke Special School for Boys, established 1908).

Records can be located at CAJD and CANB

Caversham Industrial School

Native/Māori Schools

In 1880 the Department of Native Affairs transferred the control of Māori education to the Education Department. That department administered separate Native/Māori schools up to 1969 when many were abolished and the rest transferred to Education Board control.

Records of approximately 450 Native/Māori schools are held in the Auckland office of Archives New Zealand. Most records come from the Northern Regional Office of the Department of Education; a few schools transferred records directly. Records of interest can be found at BAAA:

Teacher Training

Teacher Training came under the control of the Department of Education, especially after 1903. Some Teacher Training College records are held at Archives New Zealand, but most institutions hold their own records.

Other Department of Education Responsibilities

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Education Boards


The Education Boards were the principal means of putting into effect the desire that primary education should be available equally to all New Zealand children. From the Education Act 1877 the regional boards were responsible to central government for the provision and administration of public education in each district.

Their main concern was primary education, but they also controlled district high schools (both primary and secondary pupils), and from 1908 a few technical schools. The twelve education boards established in 1877 became thirteen in 1883 when the Grey/Greymouth Education Board (also called West Coast/Westland Education Board) was added, but the number was reduced after 1914.

The boards increasingly became administrative bodies, acting for the Education Department. The 10 remaining were abolished in 1989. Since then the Ministry of Education and School Boards of Trustees have administered education and schools.

Many surviving Education Board records came to Archives New Zealand. Records are held regionally, including those of schools which transferred material directly. 

Note: Some school records are held in other institutions, often a local library or archive.

Primary Schools – Student Records

A number of records may give information about the schooling of individuals. It is usually necessary to know the name of the school which a person attended, the dates, and the Education Board which administered the school.

For the period 1878-1924 it is possible to discover what schools existed through the annual Education Department Reports in the AJHR (Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives). They contain lists of all primary and district high schools, teachers’ names and the number of pupils.

The primary school records of most interest to family historians are the Registers and Class Schedules.


Schools created various registers to record in summary form the attendance and progress of each student.
Only some schools passed these on to the Education Boards and so Archives New Zealand does not hold a complete set.

Class Schedules

Schools sent various annual lists of students to Education Boards. They were created for different purposes, and they have a variety of names:

The information included varies, but all contain the names of students and their classes. Usually student ages are listed (years and months) and the teacher’s name given. Assessment grades are given on some lists and there may be comments by the teacher or inspector.


Access is normally unrestricted, but for preservation reasons access to some records may be restricted.

Primary School Student Records – Holdings

Auckland Office

Auckland Education Board - YCAF
Hamilton Education Board - YCAG
Hawkes Bay Education Board - YCAK

Wellington Office

Individual School Records (transferred directly)
Hawkes Bay Education Board – ABDJ W3568
Nelson Education Board - ABDW W3572

Some Nelson Education Board records are held at the Nelson Provincial Museum.

Taranaki Education Board - ABDU W3570
Whanganui Education Board - ABDV W3571
Wellington Education Board

Christchurch Office

Canterbury Education Board - CAMJ

A number of schools have transferred records directly to Archives New Zealand in Christchurch. Some of these records may include Class Schedules and Registers. However, many early Education Board records from the Canterbury area are held by the Canterbury Museum.

Dunedin Office



Information on Schools

Education Board archives include a wide variety of records documenting the development of primary schools and district high schools. There is much less material for secondary schools and only from a later period. These records are not usually directly useful to family historians, but can give context and background.

School Records at Alexander Turnbull Library

Early records for Mt Cook School 1875-1880 are in the Beaglehole Room, Victoria University, Wellington.

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Teacher Training

Many 19th century teachers were trained as pupil-teachers in schools, often at what became known as ‘Normal’ schools attached to Teachers Colleges. The system of training was a sort of apprenticeship in which trainees had to pay their own expenses.

Teachers Colleges were established in Dunedin and Christchurch just before the passing of the Education Act 1877 and by 1881 there were colleges in Wellington and Auckland as well.

A Parliamentary Select Committee Report in 1903 led to a reorganisation of teacher training by the Department of Education. Special allowances for the training of teachers were instituted in 1905. The Auckland and Wellington Teacher Training Colleges re-opened in 1906 and soon after those in Christchurch and Dunedin. Much later colleges were opened in Hamilton and Palmerston North.

Auckland Office

Note: The Auckland College of Education holds many of its own records.

Wellington Office

Christchurch Office

A wide variety of material is held for the Christchurch Teachers College / College of Education, including:

The Christchurch College of Education also holds many records of its staff and of Christchurch teacher training.

Teacher Lists - AJHR

The Annual Reports of the Department of Education, published in the AJHR (Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives) from 1878 to 1924 included a variety of reports and lists of schools and teachers. In the first few years the records were inconsistent:

The lists contain the names of all teachers and student teachers, and usually provide details of the school, teacher classification and often other information.

Education Department Reports in the AJHR 1878-1924 (some years) also include:

  1. reports of Secondary Schools with staff names
  2. lists of Teaching Certificate Passes
  3. lists of student teachers at Normal Schools or Training Colleges
  4. annual reports from Education Boards may include headmaster/principal names and those of some teachers.

Native Schools

Most Native school records are held in the Auckland Office. However, some records of Native School teachers are included in the Reports on Native Schools in the AJHR. In 1878-1879 these schools were under the Native Affairs Department, but in 1880 the schools were transferred to the control of the Education Department and reports with teacher names appear in Education Annual Reports until 1930.

After that date, Native School teachers were listed in the Public Service Employees Lists under Education.

Teacher Lists – Gazettes

New Zealand Gazettes 1879-1988 include a variety of teacher lists, usually published in a Gazette of March or April each year, under ‘Education Act’. From about 1957 they list post-primary teachers only. Among the lists are:

Provincial Gazettes up to 1876 may include provincial Education Board reports, inspection reports and teacher lists. Education Gazettes may contain lists of teachers appointed, among more general information about education and schools.

Teacher Records – Primary

Archives New Zealand holds many primary school teacher records in Education Board archives. Records are held regionally in the four Archives New Zealand offices, but the holdings are often erratic, inconsistent and incomplete.

The main holdings useful to family historians are listed below, but other Education Board records may also hold references to teachers and their appointments. For example, earlier Inspectors’ Reports often included the names of teachers and comments on them.

Access is restricted to teachers’ salary cards and staff files. An individual may view his/her own card/file with proof of identity to Archives New Zealand. Otherwise permission from the Ministry of Education is required. Access contact:

Manager, Records Services
Ministry of Education
PO Box 1666, Thorndon
Wellington 6140

Auckland Office

Auckland Education Board

Board meeting minutes may include details of teacher appointments, but there is often no indexing. A search is much easier if the commencement date is known.

Hamilton Education Board

Board meeting minutes may include details of teacher appointments, but there is often no indexing. A search is much easier if the commencement date is known.

Northern Regional Office, Department of Education

Many other administration files, mostly after 1960, make some reference to teachers.

Wellington Office

Department of Education

Cards include Kindergarten and some Secondary teachers, as well as Primary. Roughly alphabetical, including date of birth, qualifications, service details, school, classes taught, position, grade and salary. 

Mostly for Native, Industrial and Special Schools, from about 1878 to 1954, with few entries after 1910. This register records name, date of birth, dates of appointment, leaves of absence and remarks about service. It may include other information. (This unrestricted volume is held in the Register Room).

Hawkes Bay Education Board - ABDJ W3568

Minutes of board meetings may include details of teacher appointments, but there is often no indexing. A search for a teacher in the unindexed minute books is much easier if the appointment / commencement date is known.

Nelson Education Board - ABDW W3572

Minutes of board meetings may include details of teacher appointments, but there is often no indexing. A search for a teacher in the unindexed minute books is much easier if the appointment / commencement date is known.

Taranaki Education Board - ABDU W3570

Minutes of board meetings may include details of teacher appointments, but not all are indexed. A search for a teacher in the unindexed minute books is much easier if the appointment / commencement date is known.

Whanganui Education Board - ABDV W3571

Minutes of board meetings may include details of teacher appointments, but there is often no indexing. A search for a teacher in the unindexed minute books is much easier if the appointment / commencement date is known.

Wellington Education Board - ABDM W3569

Minutes of board meetings may include details of teacher appointments, but indexing is incomplete. A search for a teacher in the unindexed minute books is much easier if the appointment/commencement date is known.

Christchurch Office

Canterbury Provincial Gazette, 1876

Education Board Report includes an alphabetical list of teachers with names of schools.

Department of Education, Southern Regional Office

General education records since about 1920. Files include matters such as Teacher Staffing and Salaries, and Staffing Appointments. [CH5, CH11, CH45, CH46, CH90, CH102, CH141, CH181.]

Canterbury Education Board - CAMJ
Westland Education Board

Note: Some Canterbury Education Board salary registers c1878-1934 are held in the Canterbury Museum.

Dunedin Office

Campbell Park School (Otekaieke, Waitaki Valley)
Southland Education Board


Teacher Records – Secondary

Archives New Zealand holds comparatively few records of secondary school teachers.

Archives New Zealand holds a sample only of personal files from throughout New Zealand, a total of about 2900 files. Most teacher files were destroyed.

Restricted to central New Zealand, many of these cards record Primary & Kindergarten teachers, but some secondary teachers are included. Roughly alphabetical, giving date of birth, qualifications, service details, school, classes taught, position, grade, salary.

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Archives New Zealand in Wellington holds records of the University of New Zealand and of the University Grants Committee. Many of these records deal with policy matters, administration and buildings but there are significant groups of material which refer to students and staff. Access to many of these is restricted.

University of New Zealand

University Development

The University of Otago was founded in 1869 and began teaching in 1871. By then central government was involved in university education. The New Zealand University Act 1870 envisaged the University of New Zealand being a governing and examining body, with teaching being done in regional institutions. The University of Otago would not affiliate with the national body until the Canterbury College sought to do so in 1873.

The New Zealand University Act 1874 confirmed that the University of New Zealand was to examine but not teach, and this was confirmed by a Royal Commission in 1879 which also recommended that there be four colleges teaching for university examination in New Zealand. After 1882, examinations were usually set and assessed overseas, mainly in Britain.

Authority to grant vocational degrees came with the University Degrees Act 1904, though some specialist ‘schools’, such as medicine (Otago from 1875) and engineering (Canterbury from 1885), had by then existed for many years.

Adjustments continued to be made to the administration of the University of New Zealand.

The federal structure continued until the Universities Act 1961 made many of the constituent bodies into self-governing universities. A University Grants Committee was established in 1961 as a central agency to administer the universities.

University Records

Records from both the University of New Zealand and the University Grants Committee are held at Archives New Zealand in Wellington. Access to many records is restricted. Records of interest to family historians are:

There are also Department of Education general files on universities. [E subseries 27 & 42]


Access to personal student information, such as record cards and examination results, is restricted until 70 years after the last entry. Access permission can be obtained from:

Portfolio Manager – Academic Programmes
New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee
Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara
Level 9, 142 Lambton Quay
PO Box 11915
Wellington 6142

Picture - Education Boards

Download the PDF version here: Education

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