Gisborne's Oldest Secondary School

Before 1909 In 1885 The Gisborne High School Act – Minister of Education, Robert Stout, announced the appointment of six Board members empowered to establish a High School in the Gisborne district. Archdeacon Williams was the first chairman. Insufficient funds meant a decision, a year later, to merely subsidise secondary classes attached to the primary school.

The first secondary class was held in 1887, as an adjunct to the Central (Main) School’s primary division. – 18 pupils accommodated at one end of a long classroom without even a curtain separating them from a primary class.; 10 boys, eight girls. Seven of the girls were aged 14 – 16.

In 1908 the Board of Governors wished to further the technical education aspect but the Hawkes Bay Education Board refused a proposal to appoint an “Instructor in Agriculture.” As a consequence the Governors decided to establish an independent high school which could specialise in agriculture and “kindred subjects.” The District High School became “GISBORNE HIGH SCHOOL” when technical education commenced with the appointment of an agriculture teacher.

1909 - Gisborne High School is established on a new site in Stanley Road. The Board has accepted a tender of 279 pounds for building on the new site. Until that is completed schoolwork remains sited at the Central School and the Holy Trinity Church schoolroom. E.H. Mann is appointed as one of the Governor’s representatives on the Board. Mr A.R. Gatland, BA. Is appointed Headmaster, Mr F.J. Wilkes, MA. Is First Assistant. Staff members are Miss B. Wilcox and Mr. W. Penlington. The majority of pupils opt to take “Matriculation” or “commercial” courses so “agriculture” becomes an alternative course rather than the leading subject. G. Redpath gains a University Scholarship in this school’s first year. The main school building was opened the following year.

By 1915 girl boarders had a house on Childers Road and the boys a new Rectory in Desmond Road. With a roll of 435 in, 1924 the school is now the largest secondary school in the Dominion, outside the four main centres. At the Break-up ceremony Mr. Foote again urges “parents to check over-indulgence in dancing, party-giving and to substitute for those frivolities the saner recreations of reading and music…” Sports winners accept certificates instead of prizes – the money saved is to be devoted to a projected school swimming bath. The school roll then fluctuated throughout the depression until 1938 when the school became the sixth largest secondary school in the Dominion.

1945 - Roll 850. Six new Prefabs have been erected. With the roll over 800 in 1945, cramped conditions have revived the debate over separation into boys’ and girls’ schools. School courses are divided into co-ed professional, commercial and home courses for girls, industrial and agricultural for boys.

1955 - Roll 1223. The end of Gisborne High School after 47 years. In its last year, the fifth largest secondary school in New Zealand. There is partial separation as Girls’ commercial and home courses are held in the new buildings erected on the future GGHS site across Gladstone Road.

1956 - The formal split into Gisborne GHS and Gisborne Boys’ High School came in 1956, with a staff of 27, with no women teachers.

Dick Glover
Past Principal, Gisborne Boys' High School

"It is an honour and a privilege to have been named Head Boy for 2015. Gisborne Boys’ High School has a proud tradition of academic, cultural and sporting success. To have been a part of the winning Super 8 Choir and Shakespeare teams is testament to this."

Liam Melville
Year 13 Head Boy 2015.