Topic: Education

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Formal education was scarce in the early days, with some settlers doing their best to teach their youngsters reading and writing. Soon, some women were offering to take fee paying students to educate with their own children.

Church schools followed, with the first in the Anglican Chapel, near the corner of Victoria Street and Northbrook Road. From late in 1857 a series of women teachers taught in the chapel, which became known as the Schoolroom.

The church formally took over the running of the school in 1860. Charles Merton was appointed a master, a position he filled successfully for several years. Other church and private schools were opened.

The Rangiora District School was opened on October 13, 1873. The master of the Anglican boys' school, Charles George Chapman was headmaster and the boys were taught in the Anglican boys' school buildings. The Anglican boys became pupils of the district school but the Anglican girls continued at their school in High Street, nearly opposite St John Baptist Church.

Girls for the district school started in the United Free Methodist buildings in Victoria Street. Their teacher was Mrs H.J. Reeves, wife of the master at the Tuahiwi school.

Two new district schools, one for boys and the other for girls, were opened on August 13, 1874, on four acres between King and Church streets, bought for £300 from Wiliam Sansom, later a mayor. A paling fence divided the playground, with gates for boys and girls on different streets. About 200 pupils transferred to the new site.

After controversy over social and moral issues, the school became co-educational in 1878 and benefited greatly. This was the year the town was constituted a borough and eventually the school became the Borough School.

While F.J. Cumberworth was headmaster from 1886 to 1897, the school roll rose to nearly 400 and the school laid the first asphalt tennis courts in North Canterbury.

An important addition to primary education was the opening of St Joseph's Roman Catholic School with a roll of 32 in February, 1887.

The Rangiora High School opened on four acres and a half on East Belt on January 28, 1884. The school had a first week roll of 19 boys and four girls, rising to 32 by mid-year.

The high school seemed near extinction when the roll dropped to eight but the fourth headmaster, T.R. Cresswell, broadened the classical curriculum to offer commercial and agricultural science courses. These, and other Cresswell innovations to 1917, encouraged a growing roll.

In 1930, during J.E. Strachan's headmastership, the school opened a fully operational 130 acre farm to complement the classroom teaching of agricultural theory. The school has continued to prosper, growing to be among the largest in Canterbury.

In 1938 the high school opened a 'nursery school', taking children aged two to five years. This was developed by Miss Doreen Dolton, now Mrs McMeekin, of Sumner. A psychologist, who came to New Zealand on a Carnegie grant, Miss Dolton saw the nursery school as a way for high school pupils to put child care theory to practice by helping at the nursery school.

 

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