QUEEN VICTORIA SCHOOL JUBILEE
Miss Brereton recalled that when she first knew the school it had no electric light and no fire alarm. The gaslight was so bad that the girls could not do their prep. by it.
As time progressed, Miss Brereton remembered, the new pupils used to arrive with better and better education. There was a tremendous advance in the standard of education, she said. Perhaps the advance was too great considering the little time that had passed since the Maori met civilization, she said.
Miss Brereton is now living in retirement at Nelson.
Foundation members present at the Jubilee weekend included Mrs H. D. Bennett (formerly Wikitoria Park), Mrs Farrell (Rangi Tamihana), Mrs Maraea Carr (Colenso), Mrs Eliza Brown (Te Raina), Mrs Daisy McGruther (Ormsby), Mrs Pare Poihipi (Franks), Mrs Ema Ryan (Waitoa).
One of the 1904 scholars present was Mrs F. A. Bennett, wife of the late Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt. Rev. F. A. Bennett. Mrs Bennett's maiden name was Hemana. Also from 1904 was Mrs Makuini Paora (Hei).
Mrs A. Aubrey, of Lepperton, whose daughter and granddaughters also went to the school, was another old-timer present. Mrs Aubrey, formerly Alice Franks, was at school in 1905–06. Her daughter, Mrs K. Rangi, Taranaki Welfare Officer, was at school in 1921–27. Mrs Rangi was present for the weekend but her daughters, also old girls, were too preoccupied with their young families to attend.
Miss Mira Petricevich, a graduate of the University of New Zealand, was also present for the Jubilee. Miss Petricevich spent her first three years of secondary schooling at Queen Victoria, starting in 1936.
The school was built as a permanent memorial to Queen Victoria in the hope that it would carry out an object always dear to her heart, namely, the benefiting of the women of the native races over which she ruled.
A history of the school, published for the Jubilee, points out that when Queen Victoria School came into being there were no institutions for educating Maori girls except Hukarere and a Roman Catholic Girls' College, both in Napier. This caused great difficulty because educated Maori boys could find few women of similar interests whom they could marry. The remedy lay in founding more girls' schools where the girls could be educated to fit them for their duties as wives of educated men. Thus, says the history, when the school came into being the emphasis was on the cultural rather than on the academic side. The wisdom of that policy, it states, has been borne out by the great contribution which the Maori women have made to the social progress of their people.
Queen Victoria's foundation stone was laid by the Duke of York (later King George V) on June 12, 1901. The school was dedicated on May 23, 1903, though apparently it began to operate in 1902. The dedication service was conducted by Bishop Neligan.
It has been the aim of the school to provide one general course which will achieve both individual and racial development. Academically, it provides a good all-round education up to the endorsed school certificate standard and University Entrance. The Maori language is an examination subject. Maori history and traditions are also studied. In the practical, everyday community life which is practised outside the classrooms the school aims to develop as fully as possible: (1) A personal sense of responsibility; (2) a willing team spirit; (3) capacities for leadership.
Queen Victoria aims to serve the Maori race. Miss Berridge believes that racial survival, with true partnership and co-operation is more desirable than assimilation. She believes that it is the school's function to present the best elements from the two racial heritages. Miss Berridge says that the best results come from pupils who, with some comprehension of the aims and spirit of the school, elect it in preference to other alternatives. Unfortunately, she says, attendance involves considerable cost and effort, and increased opportunities are needed for those whose economic circumstances make it impossible for them to elect to attend the school.
The present scholastic record compares very favourably, she says, with the average State secondary school. The scholastic record has been improving over the last few years, largely because Maori parents have been persuaded to leave their daughters at school for longer periods.
Maori schools, including Queen Victoria, are progressing according to the needs of the people, says Miss Berridge. Where formerly the accent was on training, so that the girls would be good wives and mothers, nowadays the scholastic achievements have grown in accordance with the general demand for increased education. Nowadays, too, there are more avenues open to Maori girls than formerly. One of the reasons why, till ten years ago, so many old girls became nurses or teachers was that
Oldest Living Pupils — Classes 1903. Left to right, Mrs F. A. Bennett, Mrs H. D. Bennett, Mrs J. McGruther. —Photo: J. Ashton
One matter which has been causing concern lately is the financial position of the school. The report of the Trust Board for 1952 showed that the expense of running the schools, Queen Victoria and St. Stephen's, was increasing in greater ratio than income, and it was apparent that drastic action was needed. The report said that the Trust was considering several alternatives, ‘but it is not improbable that sheer lack of finance will force the closing of at least one of the schools.’
This year the drastic action came. Fees were markedly and suddenly increased. In 1942, the education of a girl cost £35; in 1952, £70; and today, the cost is £120. This is more than many Maori parents can afford. The need for scholarships is greater than ever.
This year's increase in fees was so that existing standards could be maintained, and, says Miss Berridge, it shows faith on the part of parents that they have been willing to meet the expense. Despite the financial hurdle the school year started with a roll of 78, only two short of its maximum 80.
And despite the financial barriers the demand for higher education goes on. Whereas, in 1942, the senior pupils comprised the smallest group, in 1952, pupils in the third year upwards made up half the school. And nine of the 11 successful School Certificate candidates in 1951 returned the next year to do Sixth Form work. During the last decade, 56 girls have obtained School Certificate, practically half of them returning to leave with Endorsed School Certificate, several with University Entrance.
The variety of vocations which the girls take up is shown by the fact that of the girls who attended the school in that decade, 32 went to Teachers' Training Colleges, 20 trained as nurses, 14 went into clerical work, three became school dental nurses, two hospital laboratory receptionists, three telephone exchange operators, two took up tailoring, and one became a librarian trainee. Others were dressmakers, uncertificated teachers and nursing aids.
But Queen Victoria's reputation does not rest alone on schoolroom work.
The School excels in basketball. It has produced the champion school senior A team in Auckland for eight years, and was the first school to get into the Auckland Basketball Association Tournament Senior A grade.
First aid and home nursing, too, find a place in the school. Last year a Queen Victoria team as the Auckland representative team won the Dominion St. John Nursing Cadet Team championship at the annual competitions held in Wellington, and this year the school was selected to represent Auckland in Dunedin during the August holidays.
And in the field of singing the school's welltrained recorded voices have been used in a B.B.C. Commonwealth programme, and also in a lecture tour publicising New Zealand in the U.S.A. as well as by Radio New Zealand.