Whanganui High School

Whanganui High School is a large state co-educational New Zealand secondary school located in Whanganui, New Zealand. Founded in 1958, the school has a roll of 1479 students, including international students as of July 2018[5], making it the largest school in Whanganui.

Whanganui High School
Purnell Street
Wanganui 4500
New Zealand
Coordinates39.9335°S 175.0331°E / -39.9335; 175.0331
Ministry of Education Institution no.189
PrincipalMartin McAllen[2]
Years offered9–13
School roll1466[3] (March 2019)
Socio-economic decile4L[4]

The school spelled its name Wanganui High School until May 2016, when it changed to "Whanganui".[6]


In February 1958 a group of 148 Third Formers gathered for the first Assembly in the present D1. There was a staff of nine.

By 1969 the roll had risen to 1100. The first Principal, Mr A.T. Gibson, emphasised 'manners, character, scholarship and human relations'. He stressed that the School was not an 'it' – the 'family' life of the school was vital. These emphases have remained.

The school developed a tradition of 'self-help' and through much fundraising has built up some very good facilities for the use of the students and staff. Facilities such as the Swimming Pool (1962), the Gymnasium (1968), the Centre Court, the extensions to the Cafeteria and Theatrette (1980's), the Shelters (1990's), The Department/Ministry of Education has added the Library (1970), The Music Block (1972), Te Atawhai (1996), Music and Drama renovations (1999), Staffroom – Te Arahi (1999), Science Block and Deans' House – Te Whare Kaiārahi (2002), and new Gymnasium facilities (2006). In 2008 the school celebrated its 50th reunion.[7]

School motto and life values

The school’s motto is 'That we might have life' and comes from the Book of John, in the New Testament (Chapter 10, Verse 10) “I am come that they might have life, and they might have it more abundantly".[8] The school interprets this to mean that through academic, cultural, sporting and socialisation opportunities the school provides, each individual will have the opportunity to live life to the full.

Stemming from this motto is Whanganui High School’s LIFE values. These are; Learning, Integrity, Fellowship, Excellence. These values form the bases of daily teaching and learning at Whanganui High School[7]


Whanganui High School follows the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC)[9]. In Years 11 to 13, students work towards the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) the main secondary school qualification in New Zealand [10], and international qualifications such as Cambridge Assessment International Education in Mathematics[11].


The school has had eight principals in its history:[12]

  • A.T. Gibson (1958–1967)
  • M.D. Fountain (1968–1978)
  • P.G. Canham (1979–1985)
  • L.I. Power (1985–1993)
  • W.J. Maguire (1994–2009)
  • N.G. Hanton (2010–2012)
  • G. Olver (2012–2016)
  • M.G. McAllen (2017–present)

School houses

The official Houses Opening Day for all students and staff of Whanganui High School took place on Friday 16 February 2018 at the Jubilee Stadium, Whanganui. Whanganui High School historically had a house system but it lapsed in 1972; eight Houses were introduced in 1982 just for swimming and athletics but this lapsed in 1989. During 2017 the community was consulted about possible House names and identities. The four House names chosen were Awa, Maunga, Moana and Whenua. Those names were gifted to the school, along with the iwi story of the origin of the Whanganui River[13] at the Houses Opening Day.[14]

The houses of Whanganui High School are:

  • AWA

The houses originate from a well-known whakataukī proverb[15]

E rere kau mai te awa nui, Mai i te kāhui maunga ki Tangaroa, Ko au te awa, Ko te awa ko au.

The river flows from the mountain to the sea. I am the river, the river is me[16].


Fifty-three percent of students were male and forty-seven percent were female. Sixty-five percent of students identified as New Zealand European or Pākehā. Twenty-seven percent as Māori and eight percent as another ethnicity.[17]

Confucius Classroom

In 2013 Whanganui High School was approved by the International Confucius Institute in Beijing to set up a Confucius Classroom – one of only four secondary schools in New Zealand and only 400 worldwide. Confucius Institutes are non-profit public institutions aligned with China that aim to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally and organise student cultural exchanges.[18]

Performing arts

  • Whanganui High School were regional winners in 2018 of the DanceNZ Made Stage Art Competition.[19]
  • Whanganui High School are ten[20] time winners of the New Zealand Regional Smokefree Stage Challenge competition, including 2016,[21] 2014[20][21] and 2012.[22]
  • National winners of New Zealand Smokefree Stage Challenge in 2016[21] and 2004,[23] and second Nationally in 2009.[23]
  • Whanganui High School are winners of the New Zealand Regional Smokefreerockquest in 2019,[24] 2018,[25][26] 2017,[27] 2016,[28] 2014,[29] 2012,[30] 2007,[31] and National winners in 2002,[32][33] and third nationally in 2005.[34]
  • Whanganui High School were in the top seven bands in the 2018 New Zealand Smokefree Tangata Beats Competition.[35]

Renaming of gymnasiums

In June, 2019 Whanganui High School renamed the school's gymnasiums.[36]

  • Vogel Gymnasium was named Te Ihi (excitement)
  • Seddon Gymnasium became Te Wehi (awesome)
  • Reeves Gymnasium became Te Mana (prestige)
  • Ballance Courtyard became The Courtyard

The whakataukī ‘te ihi, te wehi, te mana’ used in its entirety, refers to the qualities which collectively spark the feeling of exhilaration. Given the purpose of the gymnasiums, these are accurate reflections of the results that are produced[37].

Notable alumni


  1. "WHS History". Whanganui High School. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  2. "Staff". Whanganui High School. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  3. "Directory of Schools - as at 3 April 2019". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  4. "Decile Change 2014 to 2015 for State & State Integrated Schools". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  5. "New Zealand Schools Directory Information". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  6. Wylie, Liz (7 February 2016). "Uniform move on adding an 'h'". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  7. "WHS History". Whanganui High School. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  8. "The Good Shepherd and His Sheep". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  9. "NZ Curriculum TKI website".
  10. "NZQA official Website – Secondary School and NCEA page".
  11. "Whanganui High School – Cambridge Math Examination page".
  12. "WHS History". Wanganui High School. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  13. "Creation Story of the Whanganui River – Gifted to Whanganui High School page" (PDF).
  14. "Whanganui school comes together in four houses". The New Zealand Herald. 19 February 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  15. "Page 1. Ancestors". Te Ara. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  16. "Whanganui High School Website: House page".
  17. "Wanganui High School Education Review". Education Review Office. Education Review Office. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  18. "China honour for WHS". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  19. WhangaChron, Jesse King Jesse King is a reporter with the Whanganui Chronicle jesse king@nzme co nz (9 September 2018). "Whanganui High School wins Stage Art with powerful Lake Alice Hospital performance". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  20. McDonald, Anne-Marie (8 June 2014). "Top honour for flawless work". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  21. "Months of rehearsing leads to one night for Stage Challenge". Stuff. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  22. Ferguson, Lin (22 May 2012). "Dynamic display as WHS rises to Stage Challenge". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  23. "WHs stage team are high flyers". 25 August 2009. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  24. WhangaChron, Laurel Stowell Laurel Stowell is a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle laurel stowell@whanganuichronicle co nz (9 June 2019). "Whanganui High School band In Business wins rockquest". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  25. ZarydW, Zaryd Wilson Zaryd Wilson is news director for the Whanganui Chronicle zaryd wilson@whanganuichronicle co nz (10 June 2018). "Whanganui High School clean up at Rockquest finals". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  26. Monday; June 2018, 11; Smokefreerockquest, 1:37 pm Press Release:. "Smokefreerockquest 2018 Whanganui final results | Scoop News". www.scoop.co.nz. Retrieved 21 June 2019.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  27. ""WHS girl band win Smokefreerockquest regional finals"". Rivercity Press (Whanganui, New Zealand). 1 June 2017.
  28. "Smokefreerockquest Results Roundup: Whanganui, Otago, Auckland, Timaru, Wellington and Manawatu". Tearaway. 13 June 2016. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  29. Reporter, Staff (25 May 2014). "High School's Contraband a winner +Photos". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  30. lin.ferguson@wanganuichronicle.co.nz, Lin Ferguson (24 August 2012). "Rockquest final's music to students' ears". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  31. BRYAN, MARY (25 May 2008). "Rockquest regional winners stoked". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  32. "History". smokefreerockquest.co.nz. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  33. "Wanganui Group Take Rockquest". www.muzic.net.nz. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  34. "Smokefree RockQuest 2005", Wikipedia, 28 October 2018, retrieved 21 June 2019
  35. "NZ's best high school acts chosen for Smokefree Tangata Beats". Māori Television. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  36. WhangaChron, Staff Reporter news@whanganuichronicle co nz (17 June 2019). "Whanganui High School renames gyms and courtyard". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  37. "Whanganui High School Website – WHS History page".
  38. "Blenkinsop wins third consecutive Dodzy Memorial Enduro". Whanganui High School. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
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