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History of Avondale College

The site and buildings of Avondale College began their life as an American Naval Hospital in 1943: U.S. Naval Mobile Hospital Number 6. At that time the USA was preparing for an extended Second World War battle in the South Pacific and Auckland was chosen as one of a few New Zealand cities for hospitals to tend the wounded army and naval personnel. Fletcher Construction was the builder of the hospital. The Department of Education had some of the site planned for a new secondary school to cope with the overcrowding of Auckland secondary schools. The hospital was given first priority, but a small portion of the buildings were built in permanent materials so that the wards, the gymnasium, the hall and some other buildings could easily be converted into a school at the end of the war. The extent of the hospital was huge, taking up all of the present school site as well as the nearby Rosebank Park and fields. 

The war in the Pacific did not reach the scale it was feared it could become and, in fact, the hospital was not used for wounded personnel. In February 1945 the Education Department recommended that Avondale Technical High School (as it was first named) and the neighbouring Intermediate School should be supervised by one school committee and it was the 6th February when five hundred and fifty students and twenty-one teachers gathered to begin turning the former hospital into a school. This was no easy task as New Zealand was still virtually operating under war conditions so that supplies and orders for the school were a good eighteen months from order placements to delivery.

However there were compensations. Student accounts from the school magazine Taikaka reveal how proud students were of their brand new school buildings, their very well qualified teachers and the sense that Avondale College (renamed in 1948) was leading new Zealand in a number of ways: it very soon became one of the largest schools in New Zealand; it embraced with vigour the new national curriculum; it took students outside the classroom on field trips; it developed a huge orchestra; it produced wonderful dramas and musicals; it had an expansive technical block.

Since 1945 the six principals of Avondale College (L.E Titheridge, A.R. Stephenson, W.R. Familton, A.H. Burton, P. R. Raffills, B. Lewis) have all extended and rebuilt the buildings (especially after the devastating fire in 1990), redeveloped the site and playing grounds, created an outdoor education camp in the National Park, established exchange schools in Japan and Noumea, developed business relationships with the local community, installed the latest technologies for students and staff. Along with this has been a steady increase in the scholastic and sporting achievements of the school to the present day where both the school and its achievements rank it among the best in New Zealand.

A fuller account of the school’s history up to the 50th jubilee can be found in the jubilee book called: Avondale College 1945-1995, the First 50 Years, available from the National Library service.

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