Many believe that Shirley Boys’ High School has a girl’s name. This is a myth. The origin of the ‘Shirley’ district comes from land gifted to the Wesleyan Methodist Church in 1868 on the Shirley Road-Quinns Road corner by Mrs John Buxton, the former Miss Susannah Shirley. From the church came the name of the village which grew up around it.
The start of the groundswell of support for a secondary school that would eventually become Shirley Boys’ can be found in the comments of The Shirley Intermediate Board of 1938. Transport to distant schools such as Christs College and CBHS was difficult due to the lack of sealed roads.
Lupin-covered sandhills were levelled and converted into the site for Shirley Intermediate School which opened in February 1934 and 23 years later, Shirley Boys’ High School was created on its southern boundary. In September 1954 approval was given by The Minister for Education, R. M. Algie and construction began in 1955. The school was officially opened with a roll of 156 Form 3 (Year 9) students on 14 November 1957 by the Minister, with a Prayer of Dedication offered by Bishop Warren. The first Board of Governors included Christchurch businessman and Chairman Ernest Adams as well as the Governor-General’s Representative, Mrs Lillian Hartley.
Mathematics teacher and Shirley BHS foundation Headmaster, Charles Gallagher, MA, had been a gunnery officer with 2NZEF in World War II and had designed a special protractor which was later used successfully by British Army artillery regiments. The original staff members had served in military units and Shirley BHS began a tradition that included school cadets, an activity which lasted until the mid-1960s.
As the only single-sex State secondary school on the east side of Christchurch, Shirley’s roll expanded swiftly and offered a full academic curriculum as well as many sporting and cultural activities. In December 1961, the first ‘Upper Sixth’ [Year 13] graduated with three students being awarded University National Scholarships.
By 1968 Shirley BHS was firmly established as a leading Christchurch secondary school. Two years later, Charles Gallagher moved to a new position as the Principal of the Christchurch Technical Institute [now CPIT].
Shirley’s second Headmaster, English teacher and former head of Tararua College, Murray Denholm, MA, piloted the School through a decade of educational change which included liberalising School Certificate to allow single rather than four-subject passes as an introduction to Form Six [Year 12]. Outdoor Education replaced school cadets, ‘Liberal Studies’ broadened the Form Six curriculum, ‘video’ became a teaching tool in the classroom while various sports produced Canterbury and New Zealand representatives in several codes, including Old Boy All Blacks Steve Scott and Bruce Cochrane. In addition, significant numbers of Shirley BHS students moved on to university studies in New Zealand and overseas which would lead to successful careers. Shirley also became the first school in NZ to teach Japanese, and Outdoor Education was introduced to the 4th Form (Year 10).
In 1986, after 16 busy years at the helm, Mr Denholm retired at the end of Term 2 and for the balance of the year the role of Headmaster was performed by Deputy Headmaster, Mr John Mullins, one of many teachers in the history of the school who made a huge impact on the lives of the students of the school.
In 1987, Shirley BHS Old Boy, English teacher and Woolf Fisher Fellow, Denis Cocks, BA, left his Deputy Principal role at Auckland’s Avondale College and took over the position of Headmaster. This was the beginning of the Labour Government’s ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ era with new directions in education. Shirley students continued to receive scholarships to overseas and local universities and the list of alumni grew into the thousands. Sporting excellence continued, with cricketer Craig McMillan in the New Zealand Development Squad. Denis Cocks’ aim was to introduce boys to the wider world and, during this period, the School moved into the computer age.
In 1996, Denis Cocks moved on to develop teacher-training in the emerging Malaysian state of Brunei. Deputy-Headmaster at New Plymouth BHS, John Laurenson, BA(Hons) became the fourth Shirley BHS Headmaster at a time when ‘Information Communication Technology’ was beginning to revolutionise daily life.
Shirley’s next batch of New Zealand sporting representatives would include All Black Chris Jack, Black Cap cricketer Nathan Astle, All White soccer player Glen Collins, as well as Black Sticks hockey players Dean Couzins, Hayden and Bradley Shaw.
Change as a constant was maintained when the current Headmaster Mr John Laurenson took over after Mr Cock’s departure in 1996, however high standards and worthy achievement levels have been maintained in teaching and learning in the classroom and outside it as well.
The school is currently working with the Ministry of Education to establish itself on the site of the 1974 Commonwealth Games at QE2, and it is expected that the time of the shift into the first newly built school for boy’s for more than 50 years, will be announced later in 2016.