Topic: Kawerau Schools

Topic type:

An overview of the history of schooling in Kawerau

The first school in Kawerau was opened in February 1954 situated in Bowen Street and it comprised of a two roomed pre-fabricated building with 40 pupils.  Mrs L. E. Potter was the relieving Head Teacher with Mr T. Lyon as her assistant. By March the school roll had reached 75, so another pre-fabricated building was placed on the site and Mrs Synnot, Alan Bell and Dennis Rogers joined the teaching staff. In the second term Miss Ayson (Mrs L. Bean) was appointed the Infant Mistress and Mr Les Spiller took over as the relieving Head Teacher.

On 1st of February 1955 the Kawerau District High School opened on the Bowen Street site comprising of eight permanent classrooms and 8 pre-fabricated classrooms. The school accepted pupils from 5 year olds to university entrance. The primary department had 224 pupils and the High School 40 pupils. Before there was schooling in Kawerau, primary aged children attended Otakiri Primary School and high school pupils attended Whakatane High School.

When Kawerau's second primary school situated in Galway Street opened in February 1956 it had eight permanent classrooms and others under construction. Mr Harold Ion was headmaster, and he had a staff of four teachers. The school's first committee comprised of Mr Barney Julian, chairman; Mr Arthur Holland, secretary; and Doug Wilson, treasurer. The children from the northern end of Kawerau, the plateau and the Onepu area attended this school which was named Kawerau North School. Harold Ion served as headmaster until his retirement in 1964, by which time the school roll had risen to 510 with a staff of 14. Mr Ray Milligan was appointed the next headmaster of this school.

Kawerau's third primary school situated at the southern end of Onslow Street was opened at the beginning of the school year in 1963 with 272 pupils. 220 of these pupils transferred from Kawerau District High School. This school was named Kawerau South School with Mr P.M. Collins as headmaster. The official opening held in the morning of 2nd March 1963 had as its guest speaker the Minister of Education the Honorable W. Blair Tennent.

Kawerau College opened on the 3rd February 1963 situated at the River Road site which was previously occupied by housing contractors  Churchouse and Shirley. The college was officially opened in the afternoon of the 2nd March 1963 by the Honorable W. Blair Tennent who was the Minister of Education. Mr R.J. Welch was the first principal who had a teaching staff of 11 and a roll of 249 pupils. The school buildings comprised of eight classrooms, library, laboratory, woodwork room, homecraft room and an administration block. With the opening of this school the Kawerau District High School then reverted to its original function, a primary school named Kawerau Central School.

Kawerau Intermediate School is situated on River Road in what was a newly developed area of Kawerau when it opened in February 1971. With a roll of 440 pupils, Mr Fred Leonard was the first principal. Kawerau Intermediate had 12 teachers when it opened.

Putauaki Primary School opened on 22nd May 1978.  Situated on Fenton Mill Road, Mr Peter Salter was the first principal. He had a staff of eight teachers and there were eight permanent classrooms. On the opening day which was the first day of the second term the roll was 224. Putauaki was different from the other schools in it was an open plan system until this was modified in the late 1990's. In 1999? Putauaki became a full primary school offering classes from new entrants to year 8.

The school rolls in Kawerau rose and fell with the decline in population. In 2010 the Ministry of Education decided to put a proposal forward to reorganise education in Kawerau. A consultation process was held with the local community and in July 2011, the Minister Of Education, Anne Tolley announced: ´╗┐Kawerau North, Kawerau Central and Putauaki Primary schools would merge to form one school. It would become a year 1-8 primary school, with the possibility of becoming a year 1-6 school in the future. She also announced that Kawerau South School would remain and a kura kaupapa Maori would be established on the vacated grounds of Kawerau North School. She said the reorganisation of schools in Kawerau would bring a much brighter future for education in the town, and raise achievement levels for students. Tolley also proposed the merger of Kawerau Intermediate and Kawerau College, which would see a junior high school for years seven to ten, and a senior high school for years eleven to thirteen, as two separate campuses on the same site. This was confirmed by the new Education Minister, Hekia Parata, in December 2011.

In spite of various community protests, Kawerau Central and North Schools closed December 2011 with all the buildings at Kawerau Central removed or demolished February-March 2012. Kawerau’s newest school Te Whata Tau O Putauaki moved into the old Kawerau North School site on Galway Street. The official opening was held on the 7thFebruary 2012 with many dignitaries attending the opening, including Associate Education Minister and Maori Party Co-leader Dr Pita Sharples and MP Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki and Maori Party spokesperson for Education.

Kawerau Intermediate School's board of trustees went to the High Court challenging a Government plan to close the school and force it to merge with the town's high school but this was unsuccessful with Kawerau Intermediate to close 25 January 2013. An establishment Board of Trustees was set up for the new school which included Aaron Rangihika (chairman), Sonny Rua, Helen Stewart, Elizabeth Pennington, Warwick Godfrey and Miriama Postlethwaite. The new Principal, Helen Tuhoro, was announced August 2012 and after community consultation, the name of the new school was announced as Tarawera High School. Kawerau Intermediate and Kawerau College both closed December 2012 with Tarawera High School opening on the old Kawerau College site (River Road) January 2013.

The Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum curated an exhibition on Kawerau School History September 2012-August 2013.

References: Moore, Ken. "Kawerau: Its history and background". 1990, pp 138-143.
                       TVNZ website: Kawerau primary schools to merge Published: 4:23PM Tuesday July 12, 2011 Source: ONE News / Newstalk ZB     (
                       Motion, Samantha. "Meet the trustees of new school". Whakatane Beacon: Wednesday 18 July 2012, p.5.

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion