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Auckland Grammar School

Coordinates: 36°52′9″S 174°46′10″E / 36.86917°S 174.76944°E / -36.86917; 174.76944
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Auckland Grammar School
The school is built in Spanish Mission style architecture.
Mountain Road, Epsom


New Zealand
Coordinates36°52′9″S 174°46′10″E / 36.86917°S 174.76944°E / -36.86917; 174.76944
Other names
  • Auckland Grammar
TypeState, day and boarding secondary school
MottoLatin: Per Angusta ad Augusta
(Through difficulties to greatness)
Established1869; 155 years ago (1869)
Sister schoolEpsom Girls' Grammar School
Ministry of Education Institution no.54
ChairmanMark Sandelin
HeadmasterTim O'Connor
School roll2,664 (February 2024)[1]
Colour(s)Navy blue and gold   
Socio-economic decile9[2]

Founded in 1869, Auckland Grammar School (often simplified to Auckland Grammar, or Grammar) is a state, day and boarding secondary school for boys in Epsom, Auckland, New Zealand.

The school was originally situated on Howe Street in Freeman’s Bay, where Auckland Girls Grammar School is now located. It moved to its current site on Mountain Road in Epsom in 1916. As of 2020, it has 2606 students, making it the third largest school in New Zealand.[3] The current headmaster, Tim O’Connor, who was appointed in 2012, received a Blake Leader Award in 2007.[4]


The War Memorial at Auckland Grammar School
Augusta House, the former caretakers house at Auckland Grammar School

Auckland Grammar School was endowed in 1850 by the then Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey.[5]

Sir George Grey, during his times as governor in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand is also affiliated with the establishment of other educational institutions such as Whanganui Collegiate School in Whanganui, New Zealand, Grey College in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and Grey High School in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Auckland Grammar was recognised as an educational establishment in 1868 through the Grammar School Appropriation Act.[6][7] It officially opened in 1869 in the old Immigration Barracks site on Howe Street with 78 boys enrolled.[5] The school was initially privately funded, as New Zealand did not have a state education system until 1877.

A growing roll caused the school to move twice in the 1870s, and in 1880, it moved to Symonds Street, where it remained for 35 years. The site today houses the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture. Due to the economic impact of the 1880s depression, girls from Girls High School joined what was by then called the Auckland College and Grammar School. In 1909, Auckland Girls Grammar School opened on the original Howe Street site, and the renamed Auckland Grammar School became an all-boys school again. In 1916, the school moved to its current location in Mountain Road, Epsom, which was opened by Governor General Arthur Foljambe the Earl of Liverpool.[8][9]

Auckland Grammar School buildings contain two Category I historic places, the school's main block and a war memorial,[10][11][12] and one Category II historic place, the former janitor's house.[13] An obelisk located in front of the school commemorates former students who fought in various wars. The school's main block, built in 1916 in the Spanish Mission style, is used for daily assemblies and exhibitions, and it also contains classrooms on its two levels. Surrounding the main hall in which students sit[14] for daily assemblies are the school honours boards, listing the names of the school's top scholars.

In the early 20th century, inmates from the neighbouring Mount Eden Prison worked at two stone quarries adjacent to the school[15] and were involved in the construction of the 1916 school building itself.[citation needed] Early prisoners were used as labourers to quarry stone for use in road construction around Auckland, including the quarries at Maungawhau / Mount Eden and Auckland Grammar School.[15] The flat land was redeveloped into sports fields for Auckland Grammar School[15] after the closure of the quarries in the 1960s. This compensated the school somewhat for the loss of its main rugby field, which became a motorway.[citation needed]

The school owns a facility called the VentureLodge located in the township of Ohakune, in the central North Island, which is used by students for camps.[16]

The school's motto is in Latin: Per Angusta ad Augusta, which translates to "Through difficulties to greatness".[17] The school has also translated the motto as "Through rough ravines to hallowed heights."[18] The origin of the motto is uncertain, but it was a common maxim at the time of the school's founding.[19]

A documentary on the school titled Grammar Boys was aired in July 2005 on TV3.[20]


A view of the main building.

The main building was constructed in 1916, designed by the architectural firm of Arnold & Abbott.[21] It and the adjacent caretaker's residence are designed in the Spanish Mission style. Following the completion of the main building, three smaller buildings were constructed in the same style; the library block to the north, the gymnasium to the south and a toilet block adjoining the main building. In the 1950s, a large science block was constructed to the south of the main block in a modern style with metal windows. Further to the south again is a concrete block built in the early 1970s, raised on pilotis to give access to the upper playing fields. Between it and the 1920 gymnasium is a large gymnasium which was constructed in the mid-1970s and opened by then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

Adjacent to the Spanish Mission-style library from the 1920s is the Centennial Theatre (opened 1969) and the swimming pool. This abuts the Motorway, the construction of which, in the 1960s, removed some of the School's land to the north. Between the 1970s and 2014-2015, a complex of 'prefabs' adjacent to the Mountain Road boundary evolved, built to house the increasing roll. Following the development of a new classroom block in 2015, these have now been almost entirely removed. The loss of playing space on the upper part of the school property meant new sports fields needed to be created in two former quarries at a lower level than the original school. Each has a sports pavilion. The pavilion on the upper field was rebuilt soon after.[22]

Between 2014 and 2015, the toilet block adjoining the main building was demolished and a new building constructed in its place for classroom use.[23]

The school’s 150th century anniversary capital project is Te Ara Matauranga.[24] Te Ara[25] will include a new library, swimming pool and study block located in between the Centennial Theatre and the War Memorial. It is expected to cost $13.5 million.


Auckland Grammar's enrolment home zone covers the eastern Auckland Central Business District (CBD) and inner suburbs south-east of the CBD. The school is marked by the red circle.

Historically, entry was selective to the school. The school was zoned at least since the 1960s. Since 2000, school zoning is determined by a state school enrollment scheme, which gives first preference to students living in a designated home zone, and then to brothers of current students who live outside the zone. The school argues that zoning increases house prices in the zone, reducing access to the school for students from lower socio-economic groups.[26] Research by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand shows there is a 30 percent premium ($257,000) on houses in-zone compared to those out of zone.[27] In 2014, nearby One Tree Hill College and Selwyn College introduced enrolment schemes which initially planned to overlap parts of the Auckland Grammar zone. Both were forced to backtrack after opposition from parents in the overlapping areas, who feared it could ultimately lead to Auckland Grammar shrinking its zone and affecting the resale value of their homes.[28]

Auckland Grammar's requested voluntary donation is the highest for a non-integrated state school in New Zealand. In 2014, the requested donation reached $1,050 per student per year. The school claimed the donation is high to cover the gap in government funding between it, a decile 9Q school, and the lowest decile schools (i.e. decile 1A).[29] As a comparison, Auckland Grammar's female counterpart, Epsom Girls' Grammar School, asks for a donation of $665,[30] despite also being decile 9Q.

International students are tested for English language proficiency and some students may be required to complete an intensive course of English language before starting at Auckland Grammar School. The international students at Auckland Grammar School paid the highest tuition fees in New Zealand state schools at more than $20,000 each year.[31][32]


As a state school, Auckland Grammar School is required to follow the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC).


In 2015, 95.1 percent of students leaving Auckland Grammar held at least NCEA Level 1 or IGCSE, 91.6 percent held at least NCEA Level 2 or AS level, and 81.5 percent held at least NCEA Level 3 or A level. This is compared to 87.1%, 76.3%, and 45.8% respectively for boys nationally.[33]

In its regular survey of Auckland’s schools, Metro in 2011 reported that Auckland Grammar’s academic results are comparable with most private schools and that it scores very well in the National Scholarship exams.[34] In its 2016 report, the Education Review Office reported that the school continued to achieve high-education outcomes for its students.[35] It was ranked seventh in the Crimson-QS Best New Zealand schools in 2019 for entrance into top-ranked universities.[36]


The previous headmaster, John Morris, is a vocal critic of NCEA. In response to what is perceived by the school to be a poorly designed system being forced on them, the school introduced Cambridge International Examinations in 2002, offering the IGCSE, AS Level and A2 examinations to its more talented students. Other students sit NCEA exams. Students placed in an IGCSE/AS/A2 class are allowed to switch to NCEA, but this is usually discouraged by the school. However, in the ensuing years the majority of students were encouraged to take part in CIE qualifications. The introduction of New Zealand Scholarship has been viewed sceptically by the school, and it encourages only the top students to attempt it. Despite this, the school had the highest number of scholarships of any school in New Zealand in 2006.[37] The 2008 Education Review Office (ERO) report commented the School ranks among the highest performing schools in New Zealand from the results in national and international examinations.[38] From 2011, the school offered the CIE Form 5 programme to all students in Form 5.[39] From 2019, the School replaced all external examinations (both Cambridge IGCSE and NCEA Level 1) for Fifth Formers with an in-house preparatory qualification, Pre-Q, set to be "more rigorous than IGCSE", in response to planned reforms to NCEA, abolishing external examinations at Level 1.[40]

School song[edit]

The school song was introduced in March 1955. The words were composed in 1954 by L. W. A. Crawley, senior Classics lecturer at Auckland University College (now the University of Auckland). The song consists of two verses in Latin and includes the school motto as a refrain. It is sung to the melody of the German hymn "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God").[41][42]


The following individuals have served as headmaster of Auckland Grammar School:

Period Headmaster
1869–1870 Dr Robert Boyd Kidd
1871–1882 Farquhar Macrae
1882–1892 Charles Frederick Bourne
1893–1922 James William Tibbs CMG
1922–1928 James Drummond
1928–1935 Harold James Del Monte Mahon
1935–1954 Colin McGregor Littlejohn
1954–1972 Sir Henry Cooper CBE
1973–1993 Sir John Graham KNZM CBE
1994–2012 John Morris ONZM
2012–present Tim O'Connor B.Ed

Chairmen of the Board of Governors/Board of Trustees[edit]

The following individuals have served as the Chairman of the Board of Governors and Chairmen of the Auckland Grammar School Board of Trustees:

Period Chairman of the Board of Governors
1869–1872 John Williamson, Esq.
1872–1879 Hon. Mr. Thomas Gillies
1879–1880 Sir John Logan Campbell, MD, FRCS
1880–1916 Hon. Sir George Maurice O'Rorke, MA, LL.D.
1916–1937 Prof. Sir Algernon Thomas, KCMG, MA (Oxon), FLS, FGS, FRSNZ
1937–1940 Dr. E. Robertson, MD
1940–1948 Hon. Mr. Justice Stanton, LL.B.
1948–1951 Victor Macky, Esq., FPANZ
1951–1952 Hon. Sir Leslie Munro, KCMG, KCVO, MA, LL.M.
1952–1969 D. Sumner, Esq., JP
1969 Assoc. Prof. B.F. Harris, MA (Oxon), BA, B.Div, PhD
1970–1975 Maxwell Rae Grierson, Esq., LL.B.
1975–1984 N. Barclay Esq., FCA
1984–1985 R.V. Eades, Esq., LL.B.
1985 Prof. D.I.B. Smith, MA, PhD (Oxon)
Period Chairman of the Board of Trustees
1984–1992 B.F. Connell, LL.B.
1992–1997 Prof. Alastair MacCormick, BS, MCom, MA, PhD
1998–2009 Dr. Robert B. Kirkpatrick, B.Eng., PhD, MIPENZ
2009–2019 A. Jeff Blackburn, BCom, LL.B.
2019–present Mark Sandelin, BA, LL.B.

Notable alumni[edit]

The main building shortly after its completion in 1916


  • Terry Sturm – professor of English at the University of Auckland
  • The arts[edit]





    Public service[edit]



    As of 2015, Auckland Grammar has produced the most All Blacks out of any New Zealand school; it has a total of over 50 former All Blacks.[61][62]

    Notable staff[edit]

    • Ian Billcliff – cricketer, master
    • Kris Bright – footballer, director of football
    • Henry Cooper – educator, 8th headmaster
    • John Graham – former rugby union player, educator, 9th headmaster
    • Duncan Grant – former rower, former mathematics teacher
    • Graham Henry – former master and rugby coach of Auckland, Wales, British and Irish Lions and All Blacks [75]
    • John Morris – former footballer, educator, 10th headmaster
    • Willie Rickards – former rugby union coach, former rugby union player, master
    • Lindsay Tait – former professional basketball player, director of basketball, head coach of premier basketball
    • James Tibbs – educator, 4th headmaster

    See also[edit]


    1. ^ "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
    2. ^ "Decile Change 2014 to 2015 for State & State Integrated Schools". Ministry of Education. 29 November 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
    3. ^ "Secondary Schools in Auckland, New Zealand". Aucklandforkids.org.nz. Auckland for Kids. 7 July 2020. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
    4. ^ "Tim O'Connor". Blakenz.org. Blake. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
    5. ^ a b "Our History". Auckland Grammar School. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
    6. ^ "Enrolment". Auckland Grammar School. Archived from the original on 21 June 2006. Retrieved 2 July 2006.
    7. ^ "Grammar School Appropriation Act" (PDF). 1868.
    8. ^ "The School's history". Ags.school.nz. Auckland Grammar School.
    9. ^ "The London Gazette". Thegazette.co.uk. The National Archives of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
    10. ^ "Auckland Grammar School (Main Block)". New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 2 July 2006.
    11. ^ "War Memorial, Auckland Grammar School". New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 2 July 2006.
    12. ^ "School Campus". Auckland Grammar School. Archived from the original on 5 May 2006. Retrieved 2 July 2006.
    13. ^ "Auckland Grammar School Janitor's House (Former)". New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 18 April 2023.
    14. ^ "Auckland Grammar". ISENZ.com. ISENZ.
    15. ^ a b c Bartley, Bryan (2011). "Roads". In La Roche, John (ed.). Evolving Auckland: The City's Engineering Heritage. Wily Publications. pp. 105–109. ISBN 9781927167038.
    16. ^ Venture Lodge | Auckland Grammar School. Ags.school.nz. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
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    18. ^ Trembath, 358.
    19. ^ Trembath, 55.
    20. ^ "Programme Catalogue". New Zealand On Air. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2006.
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    36. ^ "Crimson-QS Best NZ Schools 2019". Crimson Education. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
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    41. ^ Trembath, 313.
    42. ^ "School Song Book 1957".
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    62. ^ Browning, Jennifer (30 October 2015). "Rugby World Cup: All Blacks keep rolling off the Auckland Grammar production line". ABC News. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
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    68. ^ Knight, Lindsay. "Grant Fox #857". Stats. All Blacks. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
    69. ^ "Sir Edmund Hillary". Auckland Grammar School. Archived from the original on 16 June 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
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    72. ^ "John Mills #858". Stats. All Blacks. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
    73. ^ "Dion Nash: Cricket, cosmetics and cannabis".
    74. ^ Knight, Lindsay. "Wilson Whineray #585". Stats. All Blacks. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
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    • Nicholls ("Streak"), C. N. (1987). Fifty Years at Grammar or Tales out of School. Auckland: ESA Books.
    • Trembath, K. A. (1969). Ad Augusta. Auckland: The Auckland Grammar School Old Boys' Association. OCLC 447653.

    External links[edit]