Play School (New Zealand TV series)

Last updated
Play School
Country of origin New Zealand
Camera setup Multi-Camera
Original network TVNZ
Picture format PAL
Original release1972 (1972) 
1990 (1990) [1]

Play School was a New Zealand educational television show for children. It was based on the British Play School show. The series first aired in 1972, and ended in 1990.



Play School was first broadcast in New Zealand on Tuesday 22 March 1972 for a 26-week trial period, with a group of six hosts chosen, one pair for each week. Series one and two continued to be broadcast twice weekly, Tuesday and Thursday at approx. 4.30pm. Its first producer was David Istance, an ex-BBC TV Floor Manager, who had worked on Play School, as well as comedies Gas and Gaiters and Hugh and I during the 1960s. He later returned to the UK and worked as a Production Assistant on Juliet Bravo (1980) and then as a Production Manager on Bergerac, Juliet Bravo, All Creatures Great and Small (1983), Malestrom and Tenko Reunion (1985) and in the mid-80s worked at BBC TV Training at Elstree Studios.

It was originally filmed at AKTV2's Shortland Street studios in Auckland, and in January 1975 moved to TVNZ's Dunedin Studio being screened twice a day at around 10am and then 2:30pm. For a brief period in 1986, the programme was filmed in Christchurch. The final edition, recorded in March 1989 was number 440, presented by Pauline Durning and John Mann. The last series screened on television in 1990.

The show was provided by the BBC in "kitset" form. They supplied scripts and also short filmed items for showing "through the windows".

The show starred five toys, which are famously nostalgic for New Zealanders who watched the programme as children. They are:

Today, Big Ted, Manu, Jemima, and Humpty are part of a collection at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, New Zealand. The museum also has a large collection of clothing and props from the show. [2] Little Ted's head was blown from his body by the film crew after the completion of the final series. The body can be seen at the Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin [3] while the head remains in private ownership. [4] The original clock from the series was discovered at a library in Invercargill in August 2009. [5]

In 2005, TV2 started to screen the Australian version of Play School. It features New Zealand presenter Jay Laga'aia who has been on the show since 2000, though the Australian version is significantly different from the New Zealand version, which was similar to the British format of the seventies and eighties.


The founding presenters were Waric Slyfield and Janet (née Chaafe) Milne. They presented most of the programmes made in the first year of production (1972), with some presented by Ken Rea and Val Lamond. Waric and Janet were joined the following year by Jan Johnstone, Ray Woolf and Elizabeth Rogers.

Pianists included Ossie Cheesman.

Other presenters were:


See also

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  1. "Shocking Truth Behind Te Papa Play School's Little..." 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012. Play School, an adaptation from a British show by the same name, kept thousands of New Zealand children entertained when it aired from 1972 to 1990.
  2. Play School items in the collection of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  3. "Remembering a childhood favourite". One News . 25 June 2005. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  4. Donnell, Hayden (21 June 2021). "The hunt for Little Ted's head". The Spinoff. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  5. Morgan, Jared (7 August 2009). "TV treasure unearthed at city library". The Southland Times . Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  6. "Dunedin turned rock'n'roller into TV entrepreneur". 30 December 2011.