Many believe that Shirley Boys’ High School has a girl’s name. This is a myth. The origin of the ‘Shirley’ district comes from land gifted to the Wesleyan Methodist Church in 1868 on the Shirley Road-Quinns Road corner by Mrs John Buxton, the former Miss Susannah Shirley. From the church came the name of the village which grew up around it.

The start of the groundswell of support for a secondary school that would eventually become Shirley Boys’ can be found in the comments of The Shirley Intermediate Board of 1938. Transport to distant schools such as Christs College and CBHS was difficult due to the lack of sealed roads.

Lupin-covered sandhills were levelled and converted into the site for Shirley Intermediate School which opened in February 1934 and 23 years later, Shirley Boys’ High School was created on its southern boundary. In September 1954 approval was given by The Minister for Education, R. M. Algie and construction began in 1955. The school was officially opened with a roll of 156 Form 3 (Year 9) students on 14 November 1957 by the Minister, with a Prayer of Dedication offered by Bishop Warren. The first Board of Governors included Christchurch businessman and Chairman Ernest Adams as well as the Governor-General’s Representative, Mrs Lillian Hartley.


Mathematics teacher and Shirley Boys’ High School foundation Headmaster, Charles Gallagher, MA, had been a gunnery officer with 2NZEF in World War II and had designed a special protractor which was later used successfully by British Army artillery regiments. The original staff members had served in military units and Shirley Boys’ High School began a tradition that included school cadets, an activity which lasted until the mid-1960s.

As the only single-sex State secondary school on the east side of Christchurch, Shirley Boys’ High School’s roll expanded swiftly and offered a full academic curriculum as well as many sporting and cultural activities. In December 1961, the first ‘Upper Sixth’ [Year 13] graduated with three students being awarded University National Scholarships.

By 1968 Shirley Boys’ High School was firmly established as a leading Christchurch secondary school. Two years later, Charles Gallagher moved to a new position as the Principal of the Christchurch Technical Institute [now Ara Institute of Canterbury].

Aerial Photo of 77 North Parade


Murray Denholm

Headmaster 1970 – 1986

Shirley’s second Headmaster, English teacher and former head of Tararua College, Murray Denholm, MA, piloted the School through a decade of educational change which included liberalising School Certificate to allow single rather than four-subject passes as an introduction to Form Six [Year 12]. Outdoor Education replaced school cadets, ‘Liberal Studies’ broadened the Form Six curriculum, ‘video’ became a teaching tool in the classroom while various sports produced Canterbury and New Zealand representatives in several codes, including Old Boy All Blacks Steve Scott and Bruce Cochrane. In addition, significant numbers of Shirley BHS students moved on to university studies in New Zealand and overseas which would lead to successful careers. Shirley also became the first school in NZ to teach Japanese, and Outdoor Education was introduced to the 4th Form (Year 10).

In 1986, after 16 busy years at the helm, Mr Denholm retired at the end of Term 2 and for the balance of the year the role of Headmaster was performed by Deputy Headmaster, Mr John Mullins, one of many teachers in the history of the school who made a huge impact on the lives of the students of the school.

Denis Cocks

Headmaster 1987 – 1996

In 1987, Shirley BHS Old Boy, English teacher and Woolf Fisher Fellow, Denis Cocks, BA, left his Deputy Principal role at Auckland’s Avondale College and took over the position of Headmaster. This was the beginning of the Labour Government’s ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ era with new directions in education. Shirley students continued to receive scholarships to overseas and local universities and the list of alumni grew into the thousands. Sporting excellence continued, with cricketer Craig McMillan in the New Zealand Development Squad. Denis Cocks’ aim was to introduce boys to the wider world and, during this period, the School moved into the computer age.

In 1996, Denis Cocks moved on to develop teacher-training in the emerging Malaysian state of Brunei. Deputy-Headmaster at New Plymouth BHS, John Laurenson, BA(Hons) became the fourth Shirley BHS Headmaster at a time when ‘Information Communication Technology’ was beginning to revolutionise daily life.

Shirley’s next batch of New Zealand sporting representatives would include All Black Chris Jack, Black Cap cricketer Nathan Astle, All White soccer player Glen Collins, as well as Black Sticks hockey players Dean Couzins, Hayden and Bradley Shaw.

John Laurenson

Headmaster 1996 – 2019

John Laurenson began as Headmaster in 1996 after being Deputy Headmaster at New Plymouth Boys’ High School. JBL oversaw significant change both nationally and locally during his tenure. NCEA was introduced in the early 2000’s which required upskilling of teachers and a lot of patience from boys and families as the new qualification was worked through.

John Laurenson was also at the helm as the earthquakes occurred in September 2010 and February 2011. He did an outstanding job of leading the school through challenging times of site sharing at Papanui High School for six months, and then ensuring the school remained open. His tireless work with the Ministry of Education and the community secured the future for the school. In 2015 it was announced that Shirley Boys’ would be rebuilt on the former QEII site.

JBL led the design and build of the school, and worked with Avonside Girls’ High School to ensure that co-location would be smooth. The new school was opened in April 2019 and is a fitting tribute to his 23 years of leadership at Shirley Boys’ High School. John retired at the end of 2019, and old boy Tim Grocott became the school’s fifth Headmaster at the beginning of 2020.

Tim Grocott

Current Headmaster

Tim Grocott started as Headmaster in January 2020. He is an old boy of the school, having attended in 1986 – 1990, and is the second old boy to be appointed Headmaster at Shirley Boys’ High School. Prior to his appointment he was the Associate Headmaster for four years, has held senior leadership roles at Burnside High School and Papanui High School, and began his career as a History teacher. In 2013 he studied at the University of Canterbury and completed a Master of Education with First Class Honours.

Tim Grocott is committed to continuing the excellent reputation of Shirley Boys’ High School and serving the east of Christchurch. He aims to develop a school where young men learn, and develop skills and capabilities so that they can thrive in the wider world and be Better Than Before.