Kelston Deaf Education Centre

Kelston Deaf Education Centre (previously Kelston School for the Deaf). Kelston was established on a site in Archibald Road in 1958. The school had relocated firstly from Titirangi, then from Mt Wellington. KDEC now provides education in a range of satellite classes throughout Auckland the upper North Island, and also hosts Rūaumoko Marae.

A New Era in Deaf Education

Kelston saw the celebration of many events that brought together the school community including the infamous 'Te Pakanga o Whau' (The Battle of Whau) in 1959 where 86 deaf students acted in a play featuring a Maori-Paheka battle on the sports fields.
1959, The Battle of Whau.

Deaf education in Auckland began during World War Two as it was perceived to be too dangerous to send children to Sumner School for the Deaf at that time as it would involve travel across the Cook Strait, so all North Island Deaf children were sent to a new Deaf school in Titirangi, Auckland. When this was taken over by the army, the school temporarily relocated to a site in Mt Wellington. Kelston School for the Deaf (Kelston) was established on a site in Archibald Road in 1958.

Deaf units connected to Kelston were established in the 1960s, which saw more Deaf children being placed, or “mainstreamed” in regular schools.

In the 1960s, the school’s efforts were focused on the speech training of Deaf children. The use of Total Communication and Australasian signs was introduced in 1975 and this caused some division amongst the teachers. After lobbying by parents, teachers and the community, the Total Communication philosophy was given official recognition by the Department of Education in 1977-78.

NZSL for learning

1995, Cheryl Anton with children. (Source: Kelston Deaf Education Centre)
1995, Kelston's museum. (Source: Kelston Deaf Education Centre)

By 1995, New Zealand Sign Language was given a place in education. This saw the development of the first bilingual class, the Deaf Studies programme, the employment of Deaf Language Assistants as language models for deaf students and communication skills workshops to staff and families. NZSL Educational Interpreters were used for the first time in the classroom in 2000. The NZSL Curriculum was established in 2006 so that all schools could provide opportunities for students to study NZSL. It was not until 2014 that the Ministry of Education agreed to fund the development of NCEA Achievement Standards so students could gain a formal qualification in NZSL.

Kelston is home to Ruāmoko Marae, the only Deaf marae of its kind in the world which opened in 1992. In 1995, the Museum of Deaf Education opened in the old hostel block.

New Developments

Staff members: The 1995 Deaf Festival was the first deaf cultural festival to take place in New Zealand.

There was a name change to Kelston Deaf Education Centre in 1991 to reflect the wide range of services. Today, Kelston continues to provide a range of services to deaf pupils and their families, whanau and staff in schools throughout the Upper North Island, north from Turangi and Opotiki. Resource Teachers of the Deaf are working with deaf students in over 400 schools across the Upper North Island. All staff are committed to deaf learners having full access to NZSL and/or English in order to improve their language and communication skills.

In 2014, major building work began to completely rebuild the main site at Archibald Road to bring it into the 21st century. The Administration, Residential and Resource services along with the Pre-school and the Ruāmoko Marae will be on site, with enrolled students located at partner schools in the Auckland region and beyond.

Reference: Hamilton, S., (2012) ‘The Chronicles of Titirangi, Mt Wellington & Kelston Schools for the Deaf,’ Kelston Deaf Education Centre.

Can also be found in

  1. 1960
    Donated by Archives New Zealand Image of Archives New Zealand

    Kelston School for the Deaf trip to Mt Ruapehu

    Students from Kelston School for the Deaf enjoy a trip to a snowy Mt Ruapehu.

  2. 1959
    Donated by Auckland Deaf Society Image of Auckland Deaf Society

    Te Pakanga O Whau – The Battle of Whau: Drama by Kelston School for the Deaf

    The Battle of Whau: a drama by Kelston Deaf students for the opening ceremony of Kelston School for the Deaf, 7th November 1959.

  3. 1970
    Donated by Pam and Doug Croskery Image of Pam and Doug Croskery

    Deaf social rugby match: Married vs Single men

    An informal annual rugby game between teams of Deaf men, married and single, which was played on one of Kelston Deaf Education Centre’s fields.

  4. 1986
    Donated by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Image of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

    The Magic Park

    In November 1986, film maker Ann Andrews organised a week-long drama workshop for six 13 year olds from Kelston School for the Deaf. The workshop concluded with the play, The Magic Park, written and acted by the students.

  5. 1996
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    A look into the new bilingual approach at Kelston Deaf Education Centre

    One of the goals of 1996’s Deaf Awareness Week was to better educate New Zealanders about New Zealand Sign Language, and as part of this, One Network News visited Kelston Deaf Education Centre in Auckland. KDEC which has a new bilingual teaching method using both NZSL and English.

  6. 1995
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    The inaugural Deaf Festival is hosted at Kelston Deaf Education Centre

    Deaf children are taught drama skills by two Deaf visitors from the UK, in preparation for their show at the opening night of the inaugural Deaf Festival, hosted by Kelston Deaf Education Centre.

  7. 1994
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    A Deafening Silence

    A ‘Frontline’ documentary that touches upon an on-going topic - Deaf Education - in the Deaf community, not only in New Zealand but worldwide as well. In 2019, the message remains as familiar as it was twenty-five years ago.

  8. 1997
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    Eunike Mose, Pasifika Deaf student

    Eunike Mose, a profoundly deaf Samoan high school student, and her mother Heather, talk about the challenges of being Deaf, particularly in relation to the family’s Pasifika heritage, and education.

  9. 1991
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    Māori Deaf and Deaf education

    A look at the cultural education needs of Māori Deaf students. Māori Deaf are likely to experience more barriers in the education sector. Interviews undertaken by ‘Marae’ shows us that the multiple cultural identities of Māori Deaf are not completely accommodated for with aspirations on how to resolve this.

  10. 1991
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    Two Deaf children sign a karakia

    A karakia, the Lord’s Prayer, is given by two Deaf children using NZSL for the ‘Marae’ television series. This clip also contains Māori captions of the te reo Māori lyrics.

  11. 1997
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    The modern NZSL dictionary is launched

    The modern dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language has been launched, and the 'Tonight' crew visit Kelston Deaf Education Centre to see Deaf students and their NZSL tutors making good use of the resource.

  12. 2004
    Donated by Rūaumoko Komiti Image of Rūaumoko Komiti

    The experiences of Māori Deaf

    This segment from Māori TV’s Te Hēteri focuses on the experiences of Māori Deaf, catching up with Patrick Thompson, Whiti Ronaki, and Hemi Hema.

  13. 1993
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    Spotlight on Pasifika Deaf

    Tangata Pasifika visits Kelston Deaf Education Centre and meets with a number of Pasifika Deaf students part of the school’s transition programme, interviewing Rosie Amituanai and her family.

  14. 1992
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    New Zealand Police Commissioner considers Deaf access to justice

    Two weeks after 'The Remand of Ivan Curry' screens on TV1, Police Commissioner John Jamieson meets with Jennifer Brain to work out better procedures for dealing with Deaf people in custody.

  15. 1995
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    Michael Wi, Māori Deaf

    Michael Wi, is profiled on ‘Marae’, where he shares his experience of growing up as Māori Deaf in a paheka-centric education environment, and learning as an adult about tikanga Māori, and marae protocols.

  16. 1999
    Donated by Rūaumoko Komiti Image of Rūaumoko Komiti

    Mai Time features NZSL!

    Mai Time made one of their episodes accessible in NZSL to mark Deaf Awareness Week 1999. KDEC’s sign singing choir and Patrick Thompson made an appearance along with as did Rūaumoko Marae’s kapa haka roopu.

  17. 1965
    Donated by Auckland Deaf Society Image of Auckland Deaf Society

    Washington Xth International Silent Games

    The New Zealand team attending the 10th World Deaf Games in Washington, USA, 1965.