No other independent preparatory school in Christchurch can claim a history as rich or as long as The Cathedral Grammar School.
The iconic ChristChurch Cathedral has been at the heart of Christchurch city since 1881. While the building of the Cathedral progressed so did the establishment of the Cathedral Choir and a choir school. When the Cathedral was consecrated in November 1881, this Anglican school was already six months old and two of the dreams of the Canterbury Association were being realized.
The school opened on Monday, 16 May, 1881, on the site it occupies to this day, with a school roll of 55 boys comprising of 24 Choristers and 31 day boys. Number one on the school roll was Harry Jacobs, son of Dean Jacobs.
The first headmaster was George “Gudge” Merton who was to remain as Headmaster for twelve years until, in 1894, the school amalgamated with Christ’s College, being known as the Christ's College Lower School.
In 1923 the Lower School at Christ’s College was closed and the school reopened in its own right. The College supported the new school by offering their highly respected chaplain, the Rev. Stephen Parr, as the next headmaster.
The school survived the Great Depression and both major wars of the 20th century. During World War 2 all boys from Standard 5 up joined the cadet unit. It was known as C Company, 1st Cadet Battalion, Canterbury Region. The unit was issued with arms for target practice. The boys were also responsible for trench digging in Hagley Park.
Often at the forefront of educational initiatives, The Cathedral Grammar School opened its very successful Pre-School in 1973. This centre of learning consistently receives extremely positive Education Review Office reports.
In 1975 the school was gifted St Saviour’s Chapel, originally built in 1886 in Lyttelton. Although the school treasures its strong and unique relationship with the Cathedral, the children enjoyed the chapel on site, following in the footsteps of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his Antarctica expedition crews who worshipped in St Saviour’s before making their polar expeditions. Sadly the chapel was damaged in the 2011 earthquake and, the school having outgrown the building, the Board decided to gift St Saviour's back to the people of Lyttelton who had lost every church in the quake. Today the school worships in the newly designed hall chapel.
In 1984 the school became the only primary or intermediate school in Christchurch with its own student computer facility. Today, this innovation continues: IT is an integral part of the learning curriculum and laptops are an everyday classroom tool with each pupil in Years 6 to 8 having a laptop for their exclusive use.
1988 saw the most radical change in the history of the school. Girls arrived! It was decided by the Board, with the Cathedral Chapter's approval, that girls be admitted to the Junior School. This allowed a seamless transition for them between the Pre-School and their primary education.
The establishment of the Girls' School in 1995 was a natural progression, providing girls with the standard of educational excellence enjoyed by the boys.
Today, the separate Boys' and Girls' Prep Schools allow boys and girls to be taught differently to maximize their learning styles, while socially the pupils can mix in the playground – should they wish.
From the establishment of the school, successive boards and the Cathedral Chapter have employed architects to design buildings so that these remain relevant to the demands of the changing world. Open sports spaces have been integrated into the campus as the new facilities are located on the edge of the expanded site which incorporates the original space secured for the school in 1881.
Our proud school has educated All Blacks and opera singers, entrepreneurs and academics, farmers and on one occasion its own future headmaster. We have a history of which we are immensely proud and a future to which we look forward with confidence.