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Auckland Grammar School (AGS) is a state secondary school for years 9 to 13 boys (ages 13 to 18) in Auckland, New Zealand. It has a roll of 2577 as of March 2019,[1] including a number of boarders who live in nearby Tibbs' House, making it New Zealand's largest single-sex school and placing it among the six largest schools in the country.[4]

Auckland Grammar School
The school is built in 'Spanish Mission' style architecture.
87 Mountain Road
Auckland 1023
New Zealand
Coordinates36°52′9″S 174°46′10″E / 36.86917°S 174.76944°E / -36.86917; 174.76944Coordinates: 36°52′9″S 174°46′10″E / 36.86917°S 174.76944°E / -36.86917; 174.76944
TypeState, Day & Boarding
MottoPer Angusta Ad Augusta
Through difficulties to greatness.[3]
Established1869; 150 years ago
Ministry of Education Institution no.54
HeadmasterTim O'Connor
School color(s)Navy Blue, Gold          
School roll2577[1] (March 2019)
Socio-economic decile9[2]

Grammar is well known for its old-fashioned traditions. These include the compulsory Latin subject for higher stream first year students and its continued use of the old system of year names.

Grammar regards itself as the pre-eminent academic secondary school in New Zealand.[5] The local publication Metro claimed that "Grammar's results in the Cambridge system are comparable with most private schools, and it scores extremely well in Scholarship too".[6]



The school was established in 1850 by the then Governor-in-Chief, Sir George Grey, and was officially recognised as an educational establishment in 1868 through the Grammar School Appropriation Act.[7][8] The school was initially privately funded, as New Zealand did not have a state education system until 1877.

Auckland Grammar School buildings contain two Category I historic places, the school's main block and a war memorial.[9][10][11] An obelisk located in front of the school commemorates former students who fought in various wars. The school's main block, built in 1916 in the "Spanish Mission" style, is used for daily assemblies, exhibitions, and contains various classrooms. Surrounding the main hall in which the daily assembly is held are the school honours boards listing the names of the school's top scholars including Rhodes Scholars and Girdlers Scholars.

The school owns a facility called the VentureLodge located in the township of Ohakune, in the central North Island, which is used by students for camps.[12]

The school's motto is "Per Angusta ad Augusta" which translates to "Through difficulties to greatness." The school has also translated the motto as "Through rough ravines to hallowed heights."[13] The origin of the motto is uncertain, but it was a common maxim at the time of the school's founding.[14]

A documentary on the school titled Grammar Boys was aired in July 2005 on TV3.[15]


A view of the main building.

The main building was constructed in 1916, designed by the architectural firm of Arnold & Abbot. It, and the adjacent caretakers residence are in the Spanish Mission style and probably the earliest example of that style in the country. Following the completion of the main building, three smaller buildings were constructed in the same style; The Library block to the north, the Gymnasium to the south and a toilet block adjoining the main building. In the 1950s, a large Science block was constructed to the south of the main block in a modern style with metal windows. Further to the South again is a concrete Block from the early 1970s raised on Pilotis to give access to the upper playing fields. Between it and the 1920 Gymnasium is a large Gymnasium which was constructed in the mid 1970s and opened by the Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

Adjacent to the Spanish Mission Style Library from the 1920s is the Centennial Theatre (opened 1969) and the Swimming Pool. This abuts the Motorway, the construction of which in the 1960s removed some of the School's land to the north. Between the 1970s and 2014-2015 a complex of 'prefabs' adjacent to the Mountain Road boundary evolved, built to house the increasing roll, but following the development of a new classroom block in 2015 (see below), these have now been almost entirely removed. The loss of playing space on the upper part of the school property meant new Sports Fields need to be created in two former quarries at a lower level than the original school. Each has a sports Pavilion. Recently the pavilion on the upper field was rebuilt.[16]

Between 2014 and 2015, the toilet block adjoining the main building (affectionately know to generations of pupils as the 'Taj', due to its Spanish Mission-style dome) was demolished and a new building constructed in its place for classroom use.[17]


Auckland Grammar's enrolment home zone covers the eastern Auckland Central Business District (CBD) and inner suburbs south-east of the CBD. The school is marked by the red circle.

Historically, because of its reputation, the demand for places in the school has outstripped capacity, and entry was selective. The school was zoned at least since the 1960s. Since 2000, school zoning is determined by a state school enrolment scheme, which gives first preference to students living in a designated home zone, and then to brothers of current students who live outside the zone. The school argues that zoning increases house prices in the zone, reducing access to the school for students from lower socio-economic groups.[18] Research by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand shows there is a 30 percent premium ($257,000) on houses in-zone compared to those out of zone.[19] In 2014, nearby One Tree Hill College and Selwyn College introduced enrolment schemes which initially planned to overlap parts of the Auckland Grammar zone. Both were forced to backtrack after opposition from parents in the overlapping areas, who feared it could ultimately lead to Auckland Grammar shrinking its zone and affecting the resale value of their homes.[20]

Auckland Grammar's requested voluntary donation is the highest for a non-integrated state school in New Zealand. In 2014, the requested donation reached $1050 per student per year. The school claims the donation is high to cover the gap in government funding between it, a decile 9Q school, and the lowest decile schools (i.e. decile 1A).[21] As a comparison, Auckland Grammar's female counterpart, Epsom Girls' Grammar School, asks for a donation of $665,[22] despite also being decile 9Q.

International students are tested for English language proficiency and some students may be required to complete an intensive course of English language before starting at Auckland Grammar School. The international students at Auckland Grammar School paid the highest tuition fees in New Zealand state schools at more than $20,000 each year.[23][24]


As a state school, Auckland Grammar School is required to follow the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC).


In 2015, 95.1 percent of students leaving Auckland Grammar held at least NCEA Level 1 or IGCSE, 91.6 percent held at least NCEA Level 2 or AS level, and 81.5 percent held at least NCEA Level 3 or A level. This is compared to 87.1%, 76.3%, and 45.8% respectively for boys nationally.[25]


The last headmaster, John Morris, is a vocal critic of NCEA. In response to what is perceived by the school to be a poorly designed system being forced on them, the school introduced Cambridge International Examinations in 2002, offering the IGCSE, AS Level and A2 examinations to its more talented students. Other students sit NCEA exams. Students placed in an IGCSE/AS/A2 class are allowed to switch to NCEA, but this is usually discouraged by the school. However, in the ensuing years the majority of students were encouraged to take part in CIE qualifications. The introduction of New Zealand Scholarship has been viewed sceptically by the school, and it encourages only the top students to attempt it. Despite this, the school had the highest number of scholarships of any school in New Zealand in 2006.[26] The 2008 Education Review Office (ERO) report commented the School ranks among the highest performing schools in New Zealand from the results in national and international examinations.[27] From 2011, the school will only offer the CIE Form 5 programme to all students in Form 5.[28] From 2019, the School will replace all external examinations (both Cambridge IGCSE and NCEA Level 1) for Fifth Formers with an in-house preparatory qualification, Pre-Q, set to be "more rigorous than IGCSE", in response to planned reforms to NCEA, abolishing external examinations at Level 1.[29]

School songEdit

The school song was introduced in March 1955. The words were composed in 1954 by L. W. A. Crawley, senior Classics lecturer at Auckland University College (now the University of Auckland). The song consists of two verses in Latin and includes the school motto as a refrain. It is sung to the melody of the German hymn "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God").[30]


Period Headmasters
1869–1870 Dr Robert Boyd Kidd, BA, LLD (Dublin)
1871–1882 Farquhar Macrae
1882–1892 Charles Frederick Bourne, MA (Oxon)
1893–1922 James William Tibbs, CMG, MA (Oxon)
1922–1928 James Drummond, MA
1928–1935 Harold James Del Monte Mahon, BA
1935–1954 Colin McGregor Littlejohn, Coronation Medal, BSc, MA,
1954–1972 Sir Henry Cooper, Kt, CBE, MA (Hons)
1973–1993 Sir John Graham, KNZM, CBE, ED, MA (Hons)
1994–2012 John Morris, ONZM, MA (Hons)
2012 – Tim O'Connor, BEd

Notable alumniEdit

The main building shortly after its completion in 1916


The ArtsEdit


  • John Hawkesby – former news presenter for ONE News and 3 News in New Zealand




Public serviceEdit



Auckland Grammar has produced the most All Blacks out of any New Zealand school; it has a total of over 50 former All Blacks.[55]


  1. ^ a b "Directory of Schools - as at 3 April 2019". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  2. ^ "Decile Change 2014 to 2015 for State & State Integrated Schools". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Augusta Fellowship".
  4. ^ "New Zealand Schools – Education Counts". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  5. ^ Top Academic School | Auckland Grammar School. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  6. ^ "Auckland Grammar School". Metro Magazine. July – August 2011.
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  8. ^ "Grammar School Appropriation Act" (PDF). 1868.
  9. ^ "Auckland Grammar School (Main Block)". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 2 July 2006.
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  19. ^ Nichols, Lane (27 January 2015). "Revealed: Cost of buying in Auckland's top school zones". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  20. ^ Jones, Nicholas (23 July 2014). "College backs down on zoning plan after hostile feedback". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  21. ^ Wynn, Kirsty (26 January 2014). "Auckland school donation exceeds $1k". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  22. ^ "Financial Support". Epsom Girls' Grammar School. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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  26. ^ Grammar School, Auckland (7 May 2006). "NCEA Scholarship Results 2006". Auckland Grammar School. Archived from the original on 30 June 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2007.
  27. ^ Review Report, Education (7 October 2008). "Education REVIEW REPORT:AUCKLAND GRAMMAR SCHOOL, OCTOBER 2008". Education Review Office. Retrieved 7 June 2010.[dead link]
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  30. ^ Trembath, 313.
  31. ^ A serial director who has seen it all.
  32. ^ HISTORY – COLIN MAIDEN PARK Archived 14 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
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  34. ^ Raymond Firth Archived 27 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ Sir Hugh Kawharu | Auckland Grammar School. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  36. ^ Bryant, Mark (22 October 2010). "Les Gibbard: Artist held to be one of the finest political cartoonists of his generation". The Independent.
  37. ^ Max Gimblett ’50 | Auckland Grammar School. (PDF) . Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  38. ^ Charles Goldie Archived 23 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  39. ^ a b Page 22: Augusta Awards
  40. ^ The New Zealand Edge : Media / NEWZEDGE : Arts: Russell Crowe:
  41. ^ BIOGRAPHY – Sir James Fletcher. The Fletcher Trust. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  42. ^ [1]. Dr John Gordon St Clair Buchanan. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  43. ^ Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. pp. 296–297. ISBN 0-474-00177-6.
  44. ^ "Sir Thomas Rainsford Bavin". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  45. ^ New Zealand Government Ministers Hon Doug Graham Archived 2 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
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  48. ^ Sir George laking dies at 95, ending a life of public service | New Zealand's local news community Archived 26 June 2006 at WebCite.
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  51. ^ SIR LESLIE MUNRO – 12th Session. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  52. ^ Hon Dr Lockwood Smith ’61 | Auckland Grammar School. (PDF) . Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  53. ^ Philip Matthews, "The science and myths of meth", Stuff New, 31 May 2018 (Retrieved 31 May 2018)
  54. ^ Sir Graham Liggins | Auckland Grammar School. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  55. ^ "All Sports". Auckland Grammar School. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  56. ^ New Zealand All Blacks Player Profiles, Match Details and Statistics. (5 May 1983). Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  57. ^ Hamish Carter | Auckland Grammar School. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  58. ^ a b Russell Crowe Media Man Australia. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  59. ^ New Zealand All Blacks Player Profiles, Match Details and Statistics. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  60. ^ Wales Coach Archive: Graham Henry: 1998 – 2002. WRU. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  61. ^ Sir Edmund Hillary | Auckland Grammar School. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  62. ^ Doug Howlett (rugby player) – Biography Research Guide. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  63. ^ "Famous past students". University of Auckland. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  64. ^ New Zealand All Blacks Player Profiles, Match Details and Statistics. Retrieved 10 August 2011.


  • Nicholls ("Streak"), C. N. (1987). Fifty Years at Grammar or Tales out of School. Auckland: ESA Books.
  • Trembath, K. A. (1969). Ad Augusta. Auckland: The Auckland Grammar School Old Boys' Association. OCLC 447653.

External linksEdit