According to the Ngunguru School Centennial booklet, two Maori chiefs, Paratene te Manu and Henare Te Moananui, were the beginning of Ngunguru School.
As known by every current pupil of Ngunguru School, in 1869 Paratene Te Manu, on behalf of the Te Waiariki and Ngatiwai people, gifted the property on which Ngunguru school stands for the education of both Maori and Pakeha children. The school was erected originally as a Church Missionary Society project in 1869. Teaching started a year later.
Paratene Te Manu was very interested in what went on in the classroom, and was often found sitting in on lessons. He apparently would finger and sort the beads on the counting frame, and trace words on the blackboard with his finger. Our local children have a lot to be grateful to him for.
In 1890 Ngunguru School was constituted a public school. Ngunguru was then a timber settlement, and progressed on to also exporting coal from Kiripaka. In the 1920s, when my Dad attended Ngunguru School with his brother and sisters, it was not uncommon to see a dozen or more scows in the river, picking up coal and timber.
Dad became an amputee at the age of 2, his father having to fashion him his first artificial legs out of wood and tire rubber. Dad was probably very apprehensive about starting school, but one of the Maori girls followed him around the entire first day of school, to ensure he came to no harm. Dad, like some of the other children, would ride to school from the family farm in Waiotoi Road, tying up his horse in the paddock next to the school. He often rode with one of his sisters, but their horse took to stopping beside a blackberry bush to scratch its flank. Dad, with his wooden leg, could sustain that, but his sister would have to hop off the horse and walk the rest of the way.
Dad's memories of Ngunguru School include how once a week the boys would spend a day fishing - I bet some of the boys at today's Ngunguru School would be happy to go fishing once a week instead of being in the classroom! He also remembers his teacher writing maths questions up on the board, and simultaneously wiping them off as soon as he had written them. The kids had to answer the question before he had rubbed it off. Luckily Dad was a whizz at maths, and enjoyed the challenge. He also remembers with pride that the school inspector took his maths book away with him, to show other school-children how clever he was.
In 1931 it was decided that the little schoolhouse was inadequate for the number of children, but it took some time for a new school to be built. However, in 1938 a new two-classroom building was erected, and the old building shifted to a farm up Waiotoi Road. In 1940 an asphalt playing area was added. And in 1948 the old tippy-tin lavatories were removed and new flush toilets were erected. In the 1950s a road was completed from the main Ngunguru Road to the school, which previously had been accessed by a track which ran to farms and baches on Te Maika Road. Dad can remember colliding his horse into one of the Amos' cows along that track, with the cow coming off second best! In 1955, with the roll at 92, an additional classroom was added. These classrooms stand to this day.
During the 1960s the school roll steadily declined as Ngunguru changed from a farming community to a seaside resort. This has turned back the other way in the past few years as the nation has become wealthier, because Ngunguru is a seaside resort and people want to live by the sea, and because it is an easy commute to Whangarei.