A Herald film on a year in the life of Papakura High School has "flipped a switch" in the students' minds, says one of the film's star talents.

Wendy Savieti, one of three 2016 final-year students who featured in the documentary Under the Bridge, says she has had many messages from younger students at the school saying the film was "inspirational".

"It's kind of flipped a switch in their head, it's amazing, and just to see them go hard in school and lift the spirit and feel the same way I felt about the school, it's really awesome," she said.

The film follows the three students and new principal John Rohs who took over a year ago after a drift of students to nearby decile-5 Rosehill College saw Papakura High's decile 1 roll slide over the past decade from 1300 to just 496.


Rohs said the school had been on a pathway to closure, but the film had helped to give it a future.

"The film says, 'hey, we are here, and we are working really hard to do something significant in terms of providing hope and a future for young people in this community', and I think it dispels any suggestion that this school would be one that anyone would seriously think about as a school for closure," he said.

He said the school's results in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) were "marginally better" in 2016 than the year before, when they were among the country's lowest.

"That is a work in progress," he said.

He pointed to much better news on the score of students being excluded or expelled - a significant issue identified in an Education Review Office report in late 2015.

"One of the things that I'm enormously proud of is that not one single student at Papakura High School was excluded from the school in 2016," he said.

As for the students themselves, Savieti said she was "a little bit scared but excited" about starting her study towards a Bachelor of Arts degree at AUT University in the next fortnight.

Robert Downes, who also featured in the movie, was "a few credits shy" of gaining University Entrance and is now looking for a job.

The third star of the film, drama student Jayden Schell, is also working this year and has been inspired by the film to plan a career as a film maker, musician or artist.

"I've had a good bit of publicity from it. I've got a few calls from local artists, they want to collaborate art-wise, which is really cool," he said.

"I'll see how this collaboration thing goes, but other than that, yeah, I'm excited for the future, for mine and for the community as well."