Our History


Papanui was the original Māori name for the Bishopdale and Papanui district and is the Māori word for ‘a platform in a tree from which birds are snared’. Papanui also means “The great, long flats”, symbolising the fact that the area was flat land. The main feature of the Papanui area is the river, Ōtukaikino, which marked the boundaries (as recently as 1933) of the Ōtautahi Rūnaka and Tūāhuriri.

The school was founded as Papanui Technical College (a branch of the Christchurch Technical College) in 1936, and was the only new secondary school built in Christchurch between 1936 and 1956. 

It was officially renamed Papanui High School in 1949. The first principal of the school was Mr Joseph Bell McBride.

Mr J.B. McBrideBoth Papanui and the 'Tech' were supposed to be co-educational but this was a misnomer. For many years, courses for boys and girls were largely seperate while around the school there were strict areas for each; even seperate gates for entry and exit.

It wasn't until the 1960s, and what was known as the 'Education of change', did co-education become embedded in the day-to-day life of the school. The school was proud of the outcomes that resulted and it made Papanui High School one of the most progressive schools in the South Island, as stated by the inspectors at the time.

In 2011 a new gymnasium and pool complex was introduced to the school's campus. It was opened in association with Christchurch City Council and was named in honour of Paralympian Graham Condon, who died in an accident involving a car while riding his hand-propelled bicycle. The Graham Condon Recreation and Sports Centre has become a very important part of the school community.

In 2024, two new buildings opened. 'Tuke' - Science and Mathematics; and 'Pārua' - Kimi Ora, Commerce and Digital Technology. In the same year, the new House system, Tira, was launched.

  • 1936 - 1952  Mr J.B. McBride
  • 1953 - 1962  Mr Newton
  • 1963 - 1976  Mr E. Fancy
  • 1977 - 1991  Mr P.R. Hay
  • 1991 - 1999  Mrs M. Scott
  • 2000 - 2010  Mr D.J. Pyatt
  • 2011 - 2023  Mr J. Smith
  • 2024 - present  Mr R.J. Gilbert