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Our History

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William Colenso College was established in 2004 as the result of a voluntary merger between Wycliffe Intermediate School and Colenso High School.

William Colenso College was named after a very prominent individual who lived and worked within the early Hawke’s Bay Region. He displayed and shared many talents: he was a painter, a missionary, an explorer, a teacher, a botanist, a translator, a politician, and he spoke fluent Te reo.

Name: William Colenso (17 November 1811 – 10 February 1899) 
Born: 17 November 1811, Penzance Cornwall, England.
Died: 10 February 1899 (aged 87) Napier, NZ
Nationality: British
Occupation: Missionary

The surname Colenso is locative, and it originates from the place name COLENSO near Penzance in West Cornwell, England. William Colenso trained as a printer’s apprentice then travelled to New Zealand in 1834 to work for the Church Missionary society as a printer / missionary. He was responsible for the printing of the Māori Language Translation of the New Testament in 1837; a version of the Bible written in Māori /Te reo. It was the first book printed in New Zealand and the first indigenous language book published in the Southern Hemisphere. On 5 February 1840, Colenso recorded and translated Māori Chiefs debating the Treaty of Waitangi. He was ordained a deacon on 22 September 1844. He was an avid botanist, he wrote several books and he published over a hundred papers to scientific journals. In the 1840’s, from his mission station in Hawke’s Bay, Colenso made several long exploratory journeys through the central North Island in the company of Māori guides. His use of existing Māori routes into the central North Island contributed greatly to European exploration. He represented Napier as the member of Parliament for the Napier electorate from 1861 to 1866 (when he retired).

The naming of the new school (William Colenso College) came from consultation with community, staff, students, whanau, parent, and caregiver feedback. With the two schools merging, it changed the makeup of the school to Year 7 to Year 13. Since the merger this has been a positive influence on our school community and families. William Colenso College has produced a number of high calibre alumni.

William Colenso College has experienced many changes to buildings, uniform, and teaching practices. Over the years, William Colenso College has maintained amazing and supportive staff who establish positive relationships with students and whanau. Our facilities feature an indoor climbing wall which is used to provide an outstanding outdoor education programme. Our vast range of subjects on offer allow for a range of learning opportunities to take place.

William Colenso College serves the community of Napier in a co-educational setting. We have achieved a number of outstanding awards for outstanding educational practices, we are very proud of the efforts of those who worked extremely hard to achieve the following to such a high standard:

  • Best Outdoor Education Programme - Finalist in Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce Business Awards
  • Only school in New Zealand to receive a Ministry of Education Recommendation for achieving improved NCEA results for four consecutive years.
  • Prime Minister’s Excellence Awards Finalist in Three categories; Winners: Excellence in Leadership
  • Prime Minister’s Excellence Awards Winners: Inclusive Education. The only school to win two consecutive Prime Minister’s awards.