Secondary education began in the Matamata district in 1918. The establishment of a district High School department attached to the Matamata Primary School in Broadway was approved in February 1918. This is what is being celebrated in 2018. Over a period of 100 years secondary education has passed through several changes of status:
Matamata District High School in Broadway 1918-1924
The first secondary department attached to the Matamata Primary School started in February 1918 with a roll of 28 pupils in temporary accommodation in the newly built manual and technical school situated at the present Matamata Primary School. A special room was eventually attached to the main building for this class and in 1921 a shelter shed was enlarged and enclosed with a floor and windows to form what was affectionately called “The Rabbit Hutch”. This was moved up the Firth St area in 1925 as a classroom. Later it was divided into three rooms known as the “Prefecture” and used as the Girls’ and Boys’ Prefect Rooms and the School Shop. Still later it was moved to a football field and ended its days as the boys’ dressing sheds. An area of 15 acres was purchased in Firth Street in 1921 as a new site for a High School. It was paid for by donations from the public and financial support from local organisations towards the government subsidy. Three rooms were eventually built and remain as part of Matamata College today. They were officially opened in 1924 by C J Parr, Minister of Education.
Matamata Junior High School in Firth Street. 1925-1932
The following year the name was changed again to Matamata Junior High School, the first rural such school in New Zealand. It catered for pupils from Form 1 & 2 (years 7 and 8 today) up to Form 6 (year 12 today). Pupils from 10 local schools decided to send those classes to Matamata to take advantage of the larger classes and the specialist teachers. Some pupils from as far away as Mamaku to Walton travelled by train daily to attend. Others used a school bus system which was set up to bring them from districts not on the railway line. The two school areas were under the control of the Primary School Headmaster.
Matamata District High School in Firth Street 1933-1945
A change of regulations meant a change of name. It was now a District High School with an attached Intermediate Department on the same site in Firth Street and a Primary School on a site a short distance away in Broadway. Both were under the same Headmaster.
During this period New Zealand went through the Great Depression and World War Two when money and building materials were in short supply. Matamata District High School suffered from this lack of finance. Rooms became overcrowded and there was no money for extras including a yearly magazine. However the local newspaper “The Matamata Record”, reported many High School activities.
Matamata College in Firth Street 1946-2018
Matamata College became a full post-Primary School with an attached Intermediate Department, both under the same Principal. The Matamata Primary School was completely separate with its own headmaster.
In 1948 more land beside the playing fields was purchased. In 1953 The College was able to form its own Board of Governors. The Intermediate department moved to its own grounds and administration, with its own headmaster in 1961. Since then many more changes have taken place educationally and socially over the next 50 years or so.
Students who return to Matamata for the 100th year celebrations will observe tremendous changes. Instead of temporary accommodation in the manual and technical building situated at the present Matamata Primary School, they will find a large complex of buildings and generous playing fields in Firth Street. In 1918 the secondary department was a single class of 28 pupils with one teacher attached to the Primary School; in 2018 it is an independent, multi-course Post-Primary School with 754 students today and many teachers. Also there are many more facilities and courses of study than were dreamed of back then.
- Matamata Primary School (1907). Where it all began!
- Rabbit Hutch. Drawn by Jim Ayers.