Linwood College - A History of Innovation

Linwood College has been proudly serving the students of East Christchurch for almost 60 years.  Founded in 1954 as Linwood High School, it was the first co-educational school to be built in  Christchurch after the Second World War. The community it serves is diverse, and the school is known for its ability to respond to the needs of students by the use of innovative programmes and strategies, focusing students on the school motto, Kimihia, to seek.

In 2001 the school changed its name and became Linwood College, with a new and distinctive uniform and a new approach which saw it branded by the media as ‘ the best kept secret in Christchurch’. Its reputation for making a difference for students means that its success is no longer a secret, and it has continued its innovative approach to teaching and learning.

Learning Pathways to the future

Innovation is at the heart of Linwood College’s vision: to provide ‘learning pathways to the future’ for all of its students. Linwood College’s early curriculum was highly academic, but by the 1960s its facilities for the teaching of engineering, woodwork and home economics were some of the best in the city. The school also came to be viewed as having particularly successful programmes for students with a range of learning difficulties. Linwood became the provider of secondary education for Van Asch College’s deaf students in 1975, and in the 1990s opened an Endeavour Unit for students with high level learning needs. Changes in government policy now sees such students provided with in class support so that their learning means are largely met within the mainstream environment.

The new educational climate created by the advent of Tomorrow’s Schools was particularly challenging for schools like Linwood. Its response was typically innovative. Sitting alongside the traditional academic subjects, a series of Academies were created, offering courses that prepared students for careers in arts and theatre management and the armed services. A media studies programme even offered students the chance to prepare their own newspaper and run a radio station. Senior Home Economics students experienced the hospitality industry first hand by working for a week at a commercial restaurant before presenting dinner to invited guests at the end of their training. By 1997 Linwood had so fully embraced the newly developed NZQA framework that its students had amongst the highest number of credits registered in the country.

From a very early stage Linwood has fully embraced the electronic medium as the learning of the future. Computers have been used in the school since the 1980s, the first designated computer suite room being created in partnership with the Wang computer company – a very early example of a public-private partnership as a means of funding innovation and development. External support and partnerships have enabled Linwood to operate two digital classes in the last two years and develop robotics as a part of the school curriculum as well as a co-curricular activity

The new millennium saw Linwood again seek new ways of enriching its curriculum and enhancing the experience of its students. A new Outdoor Education and Adventure programme was established, which saw students from Europe and South America joining their New Zealand counterparts in experiencing the South Island’s wonderful outdoor landscape. At the same time, special relationships were established with schools in England, Japan and China, fostering cultural exchanges and understanding. The importance of New Zealand’s future relationship with China has been recognized with the addition of the Chinese language to the school’s curriculum in 2013.

Throughout its history Linwood has proved itself capable of offering a quality educational experience to a diverse range of learners. It is well placed to respond to the particular challenges faced by schools in Christchurch, as it guides students along their learning pathways to an exciting future.

Academic successes - a distinguished alumni

Linwood College students have made their mark over the years as leaders in many professions. Alumni are spread throughout New Zealand and the world. One of the world’s top climate change scientists, USA based Dr Kevin Trenberth attended the school in the 1960s as did Ian Dunbar, who went on to become the head of England’s National Radiation laboratory. Current Dean of Law at Victoria University, and son of ex- Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer attended Linwood in the1980s. Another more recent Linwood College graduate, Michael Forster, dux in 2003, won a law scholarship to Oxford University in 2012 where his performance won further accolades.

Sports and Recreation

Sports and recreational pursuits have always been fostered at Linwood, with school teams and students making their mark at national and international level. For consecutive years in the 1960s Linwood’s hockey teams were national secondary school champions, and over the following decades, the school went on to produce a national coach and members of the national hockey team. In the 1970s and 1980s Linwood made its mark at the national level in soccer. The school has always sought to encourage student participation, and has offered the widest possible range of sporting options. This approach has seen Linwood produce national champions and representatives in a
range of sports, including fencing, rifle shooting, orienteering and surfing. The school’s long history of outdoor recreation has seen it produce two of New Zealand’s top climbers, including Guy Cotter, a noted New Zealand mountain guide, who has climbed Mt Everest.

In keeping with its innovative approach, Linwood has been quick to embrace new sports, and is currently one of New Zealand’s top futsal schools.

The Visual Arts

Linwood has always valued and fostered creativity in its students. One of the schools most respected teachers, Mr Peter Weenink, so inspired those with whom he had contact that the school community commissioned W.A. Sutton to paint in mural in the northern stairwell. The 1974 fire destroyed this most valuable work of art, but a digital image of the original can be seen at the top of the stairs adjacent to the staffroom. Linwood students and staff have gone on to make their
mark in the art world. These include sculptor Lew Summers, and nationally known painters, Kees Bruin, Saskia Leek and Tony Fomision. Fomison is viewed as one of New Zealand’s most important contemporary artists .

The Performing Arts

It is as a centre of excellence and innovation in the Performing Arts where Linwood has established a truly national reputation. Under the tutelage of a series inspiring directors students tackled the existing stage repertoire, but often with a particularly Linwood twist. The 1993 production of the Mikado was set at Otahuna. Linwood also became noted for creating its own original productions.  Amongst the most moving was the 1985 production of the The Flood, a take on the story of Noah.  In a remarkable show of resilience and determination, the show went on, despite the sudden death of its director, John Kim, just a few weeks before opening night. 

Music was often integral part of Linwood’s stage productions. Productions of Broadway musicals were popular with participants and audiences , while the school’s original stage productions invariably featured a score composed by HOD Music Tony Ryan, a composer with a national reputation.

Linwood’s musical history is as long as its dramatic one. The first performance groups began even before there was a designated music space. Within two years of its opening the school could boast a choir, a brass band and nascent orchestra. The richness of the Linwood Performing Arts experience was further enhanced in the 1980s and 1990s with the formation of successful Kapa Haka and Samoan culture groups . A succession of rock bands competed with success in the national rockquest competitions, and from amongst the orchestra there emerged a group of young players who became part of the National Youth Orchestra. Two Linwood students have made reputations on the international stage.  Rodney Macann has had a successful career as an opera singer performing throughout Europe, while Fiona Pears is a renowned gypsy /jazz violinist who currently performs in New Zealand and overseas.

It was Linwood College’s own orchestra which made national news in 2011. Despite an earthquake, the relocation of the school and a threatened funding shortfall, the Orchestra, Jazz Band and Barbershop Quartet embarked on a triumphant tour of Europe, the highlight of which was its participation in the ANZAC service at Westminster Cathedral. This experience, dubbed the 'Phoenix Tour’, came to symbolise the strength of the school and its ability to overcome diversity. It was a microcosm of wider Christchurch’s experience.

The future

Linwood has a proud and successful history. It has shown resilience and a determination to do whatever is necessary to ensure that its students have a rich set of learning experiences that will see them excel. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the way the College responded to the tragedy of the February 2011 earthquake. The death of a student, a two -term relocation to Cashmere High School, the decommissioning of an entire school block saw staff, students and the wider community work smarter and effectively to ensure the continued delivery of a quality education experience.

Staff and students look forward now to an exciting future in a new school designed for future focused learning in a dramatically different Christchurch educational environment. Buildings do not make a school however. It is the people – he tangata he tangata he tangata. The foundations for Linwood College’s future lie in the past: on the traditions, the experiences, the achievements, and the role models provided by students and staff who have gone before.