Knighton Normal School

(07) 856 5399 Knighton Road, Hamilton 3216 Contact Us

School History

Knighton Road School opened with a roll of 170 children on 4 February 1957 but was not officially opened until 19 August 1957 by the Minister of Education, the Hon R.M. Algie.  He was accompanied by Dame Hilda Ross and representatives from the Education Board. Interestingly Peachgrove Intermediate was opened the same day.

The first Headmaster was Mr.V.J. Cook with a staff of four. The School Committee of Hillcrest Normal School looked after the school until the first Knighton Road School Committee was elected on 12th April 1957 with Mr T.S. Lorimer its first chairman. The first P.T.A. was elected on March 17 1957 with Mr E. Metcalfe as Chairman.

The school closed at the end of 1957 with a roll of 206.

In 1958 it was decided to build a swimming pool and construction started on 16 September. A Learners and Toddlers pool was completed on 27 October and Mrs M. McWhannell, the first women member of the South Auckland Education Board, opened the pool on 8 November.

The School motto of "Always My Best” was adopted in February 1958 and in November the School’s first gala was held. Galas became a "Knighton” tradition for the next forty years and it was in 1998 that Twilight Festivals replaced them. Galas and Twilight festivals have been a great source of revenue for the school over the years but were also seen as a popular community event

Mr V.J. Cook resigned as Headmaster at the end of 1959. For the first term in 1960 Mr J.H Ward was the relieving Headmaster and on 23 May 1960 Mr Warwick Dempsey was appointed as Headteacher. Roll numbers continued to increase and the first pre-fabricated classrooms were brought on site

Mrs Nola Miskell was appointed Clerical Assistant in 1961 – a position she held until 1986

In 1962 a hall fund was established by an enthusiastic P.T.A. with a deposit of 250 pounds generated at the Gala, which raised 814 pounds.

By 1963 the roll had grown to 367 pupils and the Knox Presbyterian Church hall was used as there were no more prefabricated classrooms available. Later that year a new double classroom was built and modifications were made to the administration area in order to provide more office space.

In 1964 the school was repainted for the first time. This was repeated in 1978, 1985, 1992 and in 1999.

By the end of 1967 the Assembly Hall fund had reached 8250 pounds and at the end of that year a tender was let for the erection of the hall and on 25 May 1968 the school’s assembly hall was opened by Mr J Thomas, Chairman of the South Auckland Education board in front of 380 people including many ex staff and many of the original school committee and P.T.A. The school’s first assembly was held in the hall on 31 May. The hall served the school really well until the late 1990s when the school roll was so large that the whole school could not fit into the Hall. In August 2004 the hall was upgraded with the removal of the stage, installation of extra windows, upgrade of the kitchen, provision of storage space and computer cabling.

On 1 November 1968 it was announced that Knighton Road School was going to become a Normal School and as from February 1969 it was to be called Knighton Normal School. Mr Dempsey left at the end of 1968 after 8 years as headmaster to become principal of Vardon School. Mr George Spurway took up the position of Principal on 1 February 1969.

The implications of Knighton becoming a Normal School meant the school would become increasingly involved with the practical training of students from the Hamilton Teachers’ College. This meant that additional accommodation and major alterations to existing buildings needed to take place. After lengthy negotiations with the South Auckland Education Board a start was made on 15 December 1969 on a building programme that included the erection of a Student Common Room comprising two offices, a Group Teaching room, and two large Common rooms equipped with with a kitchen and toilet facilities. A well designed Library attached to which was another Group Teaching room was another valuable acquisition. Major alterations to the administration area, a complete new heating system, the enlargement of two existing classrooms, the upgrading of six prefabricated classrooms, extensions to sealed areas, car parking, an entrance gateway, additional concrete paving and the construction of a sandpit outside the infant area completed the project which was finished in September 1970.

This Normal School continues until the present and currently the School hosts and helps teach the one year Graduate training programme in conjunction with the School of Education at Waikato University.

By the end of 1969 the school roll had increased to 618 and 18 classrooms were in use. This was the largest the school roll reached in its first thirty years. It was not until the late 1990s and early 2000s that school roll closed each year with a roll around 630. In 2006 the school closed with a roll in excess of 660.

From 1970 – 76 the grassed area was tile drained, a new sound system was installed, Adventure Playground equipment built, pebble gardens constructed and
rose gardens and shrubs planted. The Library was well stocked and relocatable classrooms replaced the old pre-fabricated classrooms.

The School Committee and P.T.A continued to provide more equipment and amenities for the school. One notable undertaking was the erection of a pipe and mesh fence across the front boundary.

The Te Kohanga pre school unit in Knighton Rd was established in the mid 1970s and was seen as an attached unit to the school. Initially it was used for research purposes. Many pre schoolers, and children with language, environment and other problems benefited from programmes initiated to help them adjust to school life upon enrolling at school.

In 1977 new changing sheds equipped with toilet facilities and a new sports / physical education shed were built by voluntary labour and from 1978 the pool was used for out of school swimming by the community. This community use continued until 1994.

In 1977 the first dishwasher was installed in the school and it is interesting to read of how tea coupons were used to buy school equipment. In 1981 the Te Kotahitanga Maori parents group was formed at the school to promote the learning of Maori language and culture.

Mr Spurway retired at the end of the 1981 school year and Mr Jim Pope took up the position of principal at the beginning of 1982.

On 5 June 1982 Room 7 was totally destroyed by fire as a result of arson. There was also a fire in 1996 when Room 15 was partially destroyed.

In August 1982 the school celebrated its 25th Jubilee.

In the 1970 and 1980s the school was involved each year in the annual Music festival held at the Showgrounds and then more latterly at the Founders Theatre.

In 1987 Mrs Nola Miskell retired after 26 years as the School Secretary and was replaced by Mrs Sue Groufsky.

In 1989 the pre school was moved onto the school site and the junior playground was developed and completed in 1990/91

1989 was a significant date in New Zealand Education history with the introduction of Tomorrows Schools and in May 1989 the first Board of Trustees was elected with Mr Chris McAlonan elected Chairman.

At the end of term 1 in 1990 Mr Pope retired and Mr John Faire began as Principal in term 2. Mr Faire came to the School from the Education Review Office and he had previously been a Senior Lecturer at the School of Education.

The first Board of Trustees decided that a priority was to upgrade classrooms and in 1991 a new classroom was added. In May 1991 the school was rerouted, rewired, new heating installed and new lights put in. A courtyard was developed outside the Library. The senior and junior blocks were upgraded.

In May 1991 the former Hamilton Teachers’ College became the School of Education at Waikato University and Knighton held an open day to show the School / University partnership in operation

In February 1993 a new building for the pre school was brought onto site. The school roll was increasing and in February 1993 an Enrolment scheme was introduced. A geographical area was defined and if you lived out of this zone you had to apply for an out of zone place in the school. People living in zone had automatic entry to the school. This is still in place.

In June both the junior and senior school playgrounds were developed and in November work was started on an upgrade to the administration area which had become totally inadequate. This was opened in February 1994.

Throughout 1993/4 there was significant debate throughout New Zealand as to whether there should be 3 or 4 term years at school. This was finally resolved in favour of the four term option in 1995.

In April 1994 the new Curriculum framework was introduced.

In June 1994 Mr Faire resigned to go and work at the Ministry of Education in Wellington and in October Mr Jeff Freeman started as Principal. Mr Freeman came to the school from the principalship of Leamington School and he also had previously been a Senior Lecturer at the School of Education.

In 1995 Knighton introduced a school fee (the last school in Hamilton to do so), also that year an old disused classroom was refurbished thanks to the generosity of a parent. In 1996 the Life Education programme was launched in Hamilton – a programme used regularly ever since by the school.

In 1996 two additional classrooms were built on site beside the pre School.

In August 1996 the school was fortunate to win $50,000 in a lucky draw in the Caltex Dollars for Schools promotion. Planning on how to use the "Caltex” money was a challenge for the new Board of Trustees. In 1997 the Ministry of Education provided a new classroom on the north end of the Hall. Some of the "Caltex” money was used to build a small music room as part of this new classroom. The balance was used for a significant upgrade to the library. The school extended the library to include an existing classroom and created a superb Library / Learning Centre which included a computer suite, teacher resources and enough space for two classes to work in the area at the same time.

A series of meetings were held throughout 1998 with the whanau to explore the possible establishment of a partial immersion class. These meetings culminated in the opening of Te Hihiri in February 1999. The powhiri to open Te Hihiri was attended by representatives from the School of Education, Peachgrove Intermediate, the Knighton Whanau pre school, Kirikiriroa marae, and School Advisory Services.

1998 saw the changing of the name of the P.T.A. to the Knighton School Association (KSA). This was an attempt to arrest dwindling parental attendance at meetings. Each class was asked to provide a representative to attend meetings. Although attendance at meetings had decreased the P.T.A .had between 1994 and 1999 raised over $100,000 for the school. A decision was made to change from the traditional Knighton Gala and a Twilight festival on a weeknight was introduced.

In February 1999 Peter Roycroft, the school’s legendary caretaker passed away.

In March 1999 the Dental Clinic was moved from the front of the School and relocated adjacent to Room 13 where it became a Junior Bookroom. This enabled an enhancement of the school entrance to occur – wider pathways, removal of the bike sheds and more carparks.

In May a native bush area by the Somme Crescent entrance was developed. This was a middle school initiative that had a lot of parental support.

2000 started tragically with the accidental death, during the school holidays
of Ms Faith Buttimore a senior teacher at the school.

The junior immersion class in Te Hihiri opened at the start of the year 2000 and the school was completely networked for computer use. A Sunsmart Policy, making the wearing of Sunhats in terms 1 and 4 was introduced.

In 2001 four classrooms were added upstairs above Rooms 9 – 12 and the two rooms by the pre school were removed. Four temporary classrooms were put onto the Reserve behind the school while construction took place. Unfortunately we had one of the wettest winters on record and when the rooms were removed considerable damage happened to the fields. Our two storied block was opened in July and all rooms in the school were renumbered.

In 2002 the School became an Enviro School and in July that year a remodelling of the Administration area was completed. During the September holidays that year the sealed area was completely redone

The Whanau pre school was rebuilt in 2002 but unfortunately went into recess shortly afterwards and was not reopened until May 2004 when it was renamed the Whaihanga and taken over by the Central North Island Early Education Services Trust. In August 2004 the Hall was remodelled with the removal of the stage, installation of extra window, upgrade of the kitchen, provision of storage space and computer cabling.

In 2005 Mr Freeman was seconded to work for School Support Services as a Principal Consultant and Mr Foy was the acting principal. This was a great way for Mr Foy to finish his 21 years as Deputy Principal at Knighton as he retired at the end of 2005.

In 2006 there was an extensive refurbishment of the new entrant area of the school to include decks, sun shades and sandpits.

Two long standing Knighton staff members retired after more than twenty years service.  Anne Henzell in 2005 and Jill Shanley in 2006.

We introduced the Knighton Way in 2006.  This has become our core or defining document. Our core values of Getting Along, Being Organised, Being Persistent and Being Confident are well embedded in our school culture.  From the Knighton Way a new school motto has evolved: "Knighton – A Great Place to Be”.

The School celebrated its 50th Jubilee in July 2007. Knighton opened on the same day as Peachgrove Intermediate.  The Jubilee included a mix and meet on the Friday night and an open day on the Saturday.  We had about 300 people attend and Michael Redman, the Mayor of Hamilton and an ex pupil was the guest speaker.

As the the roll kept on getting larger the school needed more space.  In 2008 the Student Common Room was remodelled.  The remodel included two new classrooms, three offices for the two deputy principals and our english language teacher, a small withdrawal room and a teaching space for our english language learners.

Our English Language Centre is staffed by an experienced ESOL teacher and several Learning Assistants.  Children with english as a second language are withdrawn to the centre for one on one lessons.  This has been very successful in helping them integrate into their home room classes.

A third immersion class was opened in 2007, and in 2009  we celebrated the 10th birthday of Te Hihiri. Te Hihiri has a fantastic reputation in the community and frequently is used by the Marae at the Faculty of Education to welcome overseas visitors.

A major reconfiguration of the library was undertaken in 2009.  A new server room, an ICT office,  a new resource room and a large meeting room (Meeting Room 4) were created.

One of the busiest years in Knighton’s long history occurred in 2010.  The hotly debated National Standards were finally introduced with schools having to report to parents / caregivers twice a year on exactly where children were in relation to these standards.

A large turf was put down in 2010 and this has proven to be most popular and is used extensively.  We heated the swimming pool ensuring that the pool can be used for all of terms one and four. A new large walk in physical education equipment shed was built at the end of the library and we built rooms 27 and 28.  This was a bit ironic as two classrooms that had been on that same site had been removed in 2001 when we added four classrooms above Rooms 5 – 9.  Heat pumps were installed in all classrooms and a verandah was built in front of Rooms 1-5.

In 2013 the school was re fenced.  Although this cost $130,000 there was no cost to the school as it was a result of having a child who was a "runner.” We re roofed part of the hall, parts of rooms 1-5, the library and administration block.

In August 2013 Sue Groufsky, our long serving School Secretary retired.  Sue had been Secretary since 1987.  A remarkable statistic is that between 1961 and 2013 Knighton has had only two School Secretaries.

In 2014 we upgraded the swimming pool changing shed.  This was great improvement since the original sheds had not been modified since they were constructed in 1977.

In 2014 we introduced a Literacy Centre.  This is staffed by two experienced teachers and several Learning Assistants.  We target middle and senior school children who are struggling.  We were fortunate to gain financial support from the Grassroots Trust which is ongoing.  Results from the centre have been outstanding.

Knighton has a history of staff members with long service.  In 2012 Coryn Knapper and Diane Vernall both retired after more than twenty years at Knighton.

At the end of 2015 we started the upgrade of rooms 1- 5 and the library. This was to create an Innovative Learning Environment which is the latest Ministry idea.  It is remarkably similar to the open plan ideas of the 1980s!

This project was completed in term one of 2015.  We created break out spaces by using the cloak bays which meant we had to move the toilets and make access to them from the courtyard.  We also upgraded the Literacy Centre.

In 2015 – 2016 we relooked at the Knighton Way and the school motto.  We consulted widely  The Knighton Way remained the same but we identified 6 core beliefs and changed the motto slightly.

The revised motto is "Knighton Normal School: A Great Place to Be -  Engaging, Enriching, Evolving."

Our 6 core beliefs are:  Belonging (Tuurangawaewae), Creativity (Auahatanga), Resilience (Manawaroa), Wellbeing (Hauora), Respect (Whakaute) and Success (Angituu).

We, in a dawn ceremony, blessed six pou at the front of the school.  The pou have the core beliefs in English and Māori on them (see photo at the top of the page).

Over the last 5 or 6 years our school roll has closed at the end of the year somewhere around  650.  At the end of the 2016 school year we closed with 718 children and in 2017 we started with around 650 children.

Another long serving staff member, Carol Carr, retired at the end of term 1, 2017 after thirty years at Knighton.

Jeff Freeman, our Principal of 23 years retired at the end of term 3, 2017.  

Stuart Armistead came to our school from Silverdale Normal School in term 4 of 2017 and remained as principal at Knighton until accepting an overseas post in 2021.

Andrew Campbell returned to Knighton, this time as principal, in July of 2021.

Throughout the last 60 years Knighton has been well served by enthusiastic and capable School Committees, Boards of Trustees, P.T.A's, Whanau groups, teachers and parents

The school is very proud of the quality of its teaching / learning programmes as indicated by very successful Education Review Office reports.  It is extremely well resourced, has excellent facilities and an attractive school environment.

The South Auckland and Hamilton Education Boards, the Hamilton Teachers College and Waikato University’s Faculty of Education and the Ministry of Education have supported the School throughout its 60 years.