Taupiri Mission School in Waikato was set up by Benjamin Ashwell in 1843 (the engraving shown here is based on the photograph, taken in 1859). It was a boarding school, probably also with some day pupils, which taught academic and practical subjects. Girls, for example, learnt reading in Māori and English, history, arithmetic and domestic duties. The Taupiri school closed in 1863 when the New Zealand wars forced Ashwell to leave the district.
In early New Zealand, the missionary schooling system was relatively strong and in some cases had an important role in the community. The annual examination meetings of the Church Missionary Society schools (of which Taupiri was one) are a good example of this. From 1828 students of all ages would meet at a central place and compete, with oratory particularly hard fought. With the students and their families came their teachers and families, invited chiefs, missionaries and their families – some years saw as many as 1,000 people gather. Not only were the students publicly examined, but inter-hapū and inter-iwi issues were discussed and conflicts sometimes resolved.
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Photograph reference: PA1-o-207-06