Wellington High School 1886 to today
A proud tradition of educational innovation for over 100 years

1880’s – 1900’s

1886: Richard John Seddon considered that the education provided by existing secondary schools was not relevant to colonial life.

Robert Stout, Prime Minister, foresaw problems with brighter students being merely drilled in ordinary grammar school subjects.

WHS was born as the Wellington College of Design, established on the third floor of an insurance building on the corner of Featherston Street and Brandon Street.

The first director, Arthur Dewhurst Riley, was charged by Stout to develop a school where children could continue their education until seventeen or eighteen, a dynamic institution which would modify courses and methods whenever necessary.

1891: The school evolves into Wellington Technical School moving to specially built premises on Mercer Street and grows rapidly with expanding programmes and a secondary roll. Riley appoints James McLachlan Nairn as the first art teacher at the schoo. Although Nairn did not live long he became a noted New Zealand landscape artist and brought the school to the centre of lively controversy in the art world.

1899: Growth forces its move to a bigger building in Wakefield Street.

1900’s – 1950’s

1903: William La Trobe is appointed as the second director of Wellington Technical School.

1905: It becomes the first coeducational daytime Technical College. La Trobe said he would teach students to think for themselves – “there would be no parrot-like repetition of teachers’ words.” He emphasised self-discipline rather than corporal punishment.

1918: La Trobe resigns and John Henry Howell is appointed as the third director of Wellington Technical College.

1922: The school begins the move to Taranaki Street under the leadership of Howell and the engineering block is opened. Howell fights to retain coeducation and believes it is the natural way to educate. He ensures a broad cultural programme with lots of music and dramatic productions. Howell is providing an alternative to a narrow academic school which prepares students for the matriculation examination despite the fact that very few finish the course.

Howell was laying the foundations for a broad general education delivered in state coeducational secondary schools as we know it today.

1931: Howell resigns and Randolf Gordon Ridling is appointed the fourth director of the school.

1936: Home Science wing opened, hall opened.

1937: Taranaki Street playing field acquired.

1950’s – 2000’s

1950: Ridling resigns and Eric Cousins is appointed the fifth director of the school. Eric had been on the staff since 1926. At the time of his takeover, the total roll was almost 3,000, with 1,100 in the Technical High School, 280 full time adult art students, and part time courses for over 400 aprentices in various trades.

1955: Cousins retires and Donald Priestley is appointed as the sixth director of the school.

1957: Assembly hall upper gallery opens. With a seating capacity of 1,300 the assembly hall is now the biggest in the country.

1960: The day school has 1100 students and the other technical classes 5,000. The Education Department decides to divide the two parts of the school into separate institutions under their own Principals and governing bodies.

1961: Priestley retires, Colin Noall is appointed as the seventh director of the school and B W Potter is appoointed the first Principal of the Wellington Polytechnic.

1964: Noall oversees the change of name from Wellington Technical High School to Wellington High School.

1967: Noall resigns, two and a half acres of land to the south of the Taranaki Street playing field is purchased and the planning and building of a new school starts. Cyril Bradwell is appointed as the second Principal of the High School.

1978: Bradwell retires, Turoa Royal is appointed as the third Principal of the High School. Rebuilding of the school begins.

1980: Turoa Royal introduces the first bilingual programme, whanau grouping and special needs unit.

1985: The old school is demolished but the hall is retained.

1986: Royal retires, John Clarke is appointed Principal. The wearing of uniform is discarded.

1988: Pat McKelvey is appointed Principal.

1990: New technology block opens.

1994: Pat McKelvey retires, Taraika – the new whare nui – opened. Prue Kelly is appointed as Principal.

1995: Refurbished Hall opens.

1997: New photography suite opens; the school is an early adopter of standards based assessment.

1999: New Library and Music block opens – linking the Hall to the new buildings.
Hine Akau – the new whare kai and two classrooms – opened.

2000’s – Today

2000: New Food technology room opens.

2001: New pavilion is finished and the junior school Certificate in Learning is introduced.

2002: A new ICT centre opens under the Riley Centre, NCEA level 1 is implemented.

2003: The Board confirms its intention to continue community education as an Adult and Community Education Learning Centre under the Tertiary Education Commission – it remains the largest secondary school based programme in New Zealand.

The Education Review Office reported:
“students engage well in their learning, sustain on-task behaviours, co-operate with their teachers and are confiident contributors to class discussions” (ERO February 2003)

2007: The Education Review office reported:
“The school proudly upholds a tradition that promotes educational innovation to meet the changing needs of its community…. and empowers teachers to personalise student learning through which the skills and abilities of each student are developed” (ERO April 2007)

2008: Tukutahi – now called Herengatahi – is introduced at Year 9.

2010: A Netbook programme is introduced at year 9. The Education Review office reported regarding the schools ICT use:

“Students benefit from a wide range of effective, stimulating and creative learning experiences. Information and communication technologies (lCT) are an integral part of learning in a variety of innovative ways across the curriculum.” (ERO October 2010)

2011: The Eric Tindall gymnasium opens, a new industry standard kitchen facility is opened and staffroom facilities undergo refurbishment. Prue Kelly retires and Nigel Hanton is appointed as Principal.

2014: The school is proudly announced that it would be gaining an additional Māori name to sit alongside the established and venerable name of Wellington High School on 30 October 2014 at the annual Whakanuia event.

The new Māori subtitle is “Te Kura Tuarua o Taraika ki Pukeahu”.

Year 10 Māori language students were deeply involved in the planning and implementation of the name change. After undertaking research into the history of the school and rohe, talking to teachers and whānau, they brainstormed all the factors and created a title that reflects the location, history and values of Wellington High School.

Here is an excerpt from the students’ formal proposal:

“Taraika is the name of our Marae; a name that is exclusive to Wellington High School. We decided to include Taraika instead of Te Whanganui-a-Tara as it is specific to our school and it acknowledges the tipuna of our region. Pukeahu is the area of land on which we stand. We think it is significant that we include our location, our turangawaewae in the naming of our school. It is also original and unique to our school and our school only. We believe that this name will be of great cultural, social and academic benefit to our school.”

The students presented their idea to the school’s whānau group, Te Whānau a Taraika and then the school’s Board of Trustees. Once support was gained from these groups, staff were informed and consultation undertaken with Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o te Ika te mana whenua.

2017: Principal, Nigel Hanton, retires and Dominic Killalea is promoted to Principal.