Planning for a new secondary school
The following details of setting-up the College were taken from the New Plymouth High School Board minutes (which are held at Puke Ariki), from the Taranaki Daily News and Taranaki Herald publications, and from the 1960 magazine and the 25th Jubilee booklet. We also wish to acknowledge the research undertaken by a former staff member Mrs. Jo Connor (1966-1975), and by Mr. Phil Gayton a former student and staff member (1978-2019).
A NEED FOR A NEW SECONDARY SCHOOL
The planning for a third State secondary school in New Plymouth began almost 11 years before Spotswood College opened. At a meeting of the New Plymouth High School Board on the 27th February 1950, a resolution was passed that the Grounds Committee be asked to investigate and report on possible sites for a future secondary school in the city.
Initial enquiries were being made for the establishment of a fourth secondary, and for the possibility of a purchase of the Westown Golf course, although none had been investigated.
The rapidly growing western part of the city, being a considerable distance from the Boys’ and the Girls’ High Schools, seemed to be the best location. Two parcels of land on either side of the Bayly Road extension, between Blagdon Road and the Mangaotuku Stream, were considered. This site is very hilly, however, so the Board suggested that this area be exchanged for a part of the Marfell Block which had been set aside for State Housing. Since nothing came of this suggestion the Board continued its search.
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE RANGIATEA TRUST
By the beginning of August 1952 the Board had inspected the land upon which the School now stands. This was part of an area of a little over 50 acres which had been purchased by the Rangiatea Maori College Trust for the purpose of establishing a Maori Girls’ School and Hostel. By this time the Trust had abandoned its plans for a school but was proceeding with its plans to build a hostel. The Trust officials were sympathetic to the suggestion that they should sell part of the land for a school, so the Board agreed to approach the Department of Education to take the necessary steps to purchase the required portion of land. The members of the Rangiatea Trust and the High School Board realised that the proposal would be mutually advantageous; the Board would have a very suitable site in a rapidly growing western suburb; the Trust would have a Secondary School, with all the facilities such an institution can offer, very close to the Hostel. Such problems as those of transport and supervision would be much simplified. A discussion on the purchase of the property from the Rangiatea Trust took place on 12th February, 1956 and a request was sent to the Department of Education to include the new school in the planning for a start in February 1959.
After lengthy negotiations about the amount of land to be bought, and about the exact situation of the land, the purchase of 26 acres was finalised by the Land Purchase Officer in April 1956, five years after action to find a site had first been taken.
On 4th February, 1957 Proclamation 2280 decreed that-- that the part shaded on the plan of the site be taken for a secondary school and also a section of the closed road. (Further information can be found in the NZ Gazette 1957, as once land is taken by the Crown, further records are not held in the Land Information Office).
In the period 1956 - 1969 there were numerous parcels of land purchased and gazetted as the various developments took place. The Alumni expresses it's most grateful thanks to ex-spotswoodian Bruce Needham(1966-1970) for compiling this material.
CONTROVERSY OVER THE DESIGN
In May 1956 the Officers of the Department of Education decided upon the use of the “Porirua” design for the school, catering for an ultimate roll of 800 pupils and opening in 1958. This plan, known as the “cluster” or “exploded” type consisted of separate single-storey blocks of classrooms.
The boundary pegs for the school were being placed but the question of the southern boundary, which was a creek-bed or swamp needed an inspection. The land purchase had been arranged by the Ministry of Works on 12th February, 1956 and they were to be involved. By 27th August, 1956 the boundaries had been finalised, but the point was made that a "Porirua" type school would take up too much land so it was decided that this would be investigated.
In August, 1956 the High School Board was invited to inspect the Inglewood High School, built on the “Porirua” plan, and to give thought to a name for the new school.
However, the High School Board, experienced as it was with the administration of two large secondary schools over a long period, and concerned for the welfare of future generations of pupils, had serious objections to this design. The chief reasons why an alternative plan was thought very necessary were:
- the harmful effects to pupils’ health in their movement from one block of classrooms to another in New Plymouth’s very wet climate;
- the loss of time involved in this movement;
- the congestion in locker rooms;
- the unsuitable position of pupils’ lavatories;
- the loss of valuable playing grounds by the excessive space to be taken by the classroom blocks; and
- excessive maintenance costs.
Tenders for the building of the school were called for in the newspapers on 10th October 1956.
The Board was concerned about this, as no reply had been received to their letter regarding the ground area. The Department was asked for an urgent reply and a special meeting in New Plymouth was arranged for 5th December 1956.
There was a heated exchange of views:
The High School Board had detailed the disadvantages of the “Porirua” type plan; the Education Department refused to acknowledge them.
Mr. McNaught (Headmaster of New Plymouth Boys’ High School) presented his own report outlining 5 advantages and 11 disadvantages and pointing out that the area of land was not sufficient.
The heated arguments reported in detail in the minutes continued, ranging in content from wet weather to the position of the lavatories, and the meeting finally concluded after four hours. Ten days later a letter was sent from the regular Board meeting stating that the Board was even more convinced that the scheme contained grave and major errors.
The Board had never asked for the school to be built by 1958; it had requested its inclusion in the planning for 1959 and even 1960 would be sufficiently early.
Unfortunately, since the earlier letters had been sent, the Minister had recommended that Cabinet should proceed as planned. An urgent telegram was sent to the Minister of Education (Mr. R. M. Algie) asking for action to be deferred until he had met the Board.
On 17th December, 1956, the MP for New Plymouth Mr. E.P. Aderman made strong representations to the Minister of Education (Mr. Algie) to defer the decision to build the Porirua block type school, and also to the Prime Minister Mr. Holland to withhold approval of the project.
On 18th December,1956 Mr. Algie agreed to defer acceptance of a tender until he had met a deputation from the Board.
BUILDING OF THE SCHOOL POSTPONED
On 30th January, 1957 a deputation from the Board met the Minister of Education, Mr. R. M. Algie and Departmental officials. The "Porirua" type plans were not under review; the High School Board reiterated that the new school was not required until 1959 or 1960. The outcome was that the Minister agreed to defer the project and that the design of the new school would be different. Mr. Algie assured the Board that it would be fully consulted upon the design of the school, its siting, and upon the development of the grounds. All tenders were declined on 6th February, 1957.
DELAYS & NEW TENDERS
A special meeting of the Board with the Assistant Director of Education (Mr. G.G.S. Ellis) was held on 3rd October, 1957 regarding the new secondary school at Spotswood. Three types of plans were considered, and the approved design was the "Nelson" type, (so-called because it had been developed by architects of the Nelson Education Board. A single storey administration block and two-storey classrooms blocks were to be provided for. The Boards objections to the Porirua design were to a large extent answered in the new plan.
The Board meeting of 4th November, 1957 reported that they were now confident that the new school was eminently suitable and would make the best use of the ground area. The opening remained planned for February, 1960.
There were still many delays for, although Mr. Moss, the Chairman of the High School Board, announced on the 5th May 1958 that tenders would soon be called.
By August, 1958, plans had been completed and were discussed and approved at the September Board meeting on 17th September, 1958. The designing of the school had taken almost a year.
By 18th February, 1959 modifications to the plans had resulted in a delay in calling for tenders. The groundwork, carried out over the previous 15 months was so advanced that there be no hold-up when the contract was let.
By March, 1959 tenders had still not been called and the Board had a very real concern that the school would not be ready to open in February, 1960. It recommended that the opening be re-scheduled for 1961.
Tenders were called for on Saturday 4th April, 1959.
On the 14th April 1959, Mr. P.O. S. Skoglund, the new Minister of Education, announced the acceptance of the tender of Boon Brothers Ltd for the erection of 17 teaching rooms, an assembly hall and administration block on the Nelson plan design- it covers less ground and is more compact than the Porirua plan.This announcement came three years after the Cabinet Works’ Committee had approved the building of the school in July, 1956. The Department of Education advised that the school would open in February, 1960 as arranged with the first stage of construction completed.
The anticipated roll was 150 third formers(Year 9).
The following building completion date outline was given:
Stage One- February,1960:
Block 2 (Technical Block): Single storey with a specialist metalwork and woodwork block, with the rooms to be used temporarily for classrooms. Small rooms for staff.
Stage Two- May, 1960
Block 1 (A Block): A two storey block with classrooms, 2 laboratories, art and craft rooms, a geography room and a library.
Stage 3- January, 1961:
Block 3 (Administration Block): A single storey block with rooms for senior management, ancillary staff and a staffroom.
FINALLY A START:
Classes began on Tuesday 2nd February 1960 with 136 3rd form students(62 Boys' and 74 Girls') and 12 staff and the Hon. P.O.S Skoglund the Minister of Education officially opened the College on Wednesday 25th May 1960.
ADDITIONAL LAND & BUILDINGS:
The Board decided that further land should be acquired on the Eastern boundary from Mr. Vaughan Harkness and this was to be referred to the Department of Education.
The Department had refused the request for more land, but the Board responded by advising that it could not accept the reasons given for this decision and requested reconsideration.
The land the Board wished to purchase had been bought by Beazleys (a development company) and the possibility of acquiring part of it was to be investigated.
No further action was to be taken acquiring the land from Beazleys until their housing development had finished.
In May, 1960 planning was underway for Block 4 (S Block) a two storey building with 6 classrooms and 2 laboratories based on the Nelson plan and to be completed by 6th February, 1961.