The Thomas Report, 1944

The Atmore Report, 1930 was an important landmark document, and many of the measures recommended in this were finally supported by the Labour Prime Minister Peter Fraser who pushed through major reforms in the late 1930s and 1940s.

From 1944, as part of the post-Depression era Labour Governments' 'Cradle to Grave' social reforms, secondary education was free and made compulsory up to the age of 15.

The Thomas Report of 1944 was the document which established a common, core and free secondary curriculum for all. This remained in place for fifty years. It introduced School Certificate - a set of examinations sat at the end of Fifth Form, and abolished a Matriculation, replacing it with University Entrance - a set of examinations sat at end of Sixth Form. The syllabus material was drawn from both practical and academic strands, with the added aim of catering for students of widely differing abilities, interests, and backgrounds. Despite the core curriculum, including literacy, numeracy, science, social studies, physical education and arts and crafts, the practices of gender differentiation and streaming, it has been argued, ran counter to the rhetoric of equality. Teachers believed that students learned better when streamed into different ability classes as measured by (what is now recognised as) a limited assessment of intelligence IQ. Streams were divided into academic, commercial, and domestic or trades, and students received different versions of the core curriculum.

A number of factors in the post-World War Two era challenged the goals of egalitarian educational opportunities and many students' experiences were still divided by class, race, gender, religion and geography. For example, in 1953, 40 percent of Maori continued to attend Maori primary schools and in 1969 a study of the private Auckland Grammar school demonstrated that only 1 percent came from working and lower-middle-class backgrounds.