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Whakapau kaha – to be better than before.

Cornwall Park District School, celebrating 100 years in 2021, of learning excellence and a strong collaborative partnership between home and school. 

In February 1921, Cornwall Park District School welcomed its first students to an inclusive and supportive world of continuous learning.

Back then the school was part of Cornwall Park Estate, which was gifted to the people of New Zealand by Sir John Logan Campbell in 1901. In honour of Sir John’s birthplace, the school’s logo was inspired by the County of Cornwall’s Coat of Arms.

On opening day, Cornwall Park District School had a roll of 198 students, aged 5 to 12. The school’s beautiful location and commitment to high quality teaching contributed to quick growth. By 1924, the roll had more than doubled. To accommodate the extra students and teachers, plans were drawn up to add more classrooms and a staffroom.

When the infant school was opened with grand ceremony in 1928, the headmaster surprised the attending children and parents with a shock announcement. He said that even though new classrooms had been added to accommodate the infant school, additional classrooms were urgently needed. Auckland’s population was growing fast, thanks to assisted immigration from Britain, and Cornwall Park District School was bulging at the seams.


Cornwall Park District School’s first headmaster was Mr W Birss, a visionary and worldly man who was named Consul of Ecuador for New Zealand in 1928. Mr Birss strongly believed that it was important for the school’s students to know more about other countries, especially as New Zealand was so far away from the rest of the world. To encourage learning about other nations and their cultures, Mr Birss used his embassy contacts to acquire flags from all countries with a consulate in New Zealand. Each week students would hoist a new flag up the school’s flagpole and sing that country’s national anthem. This practice evolved into Flag Day, which is held every December near the close of the school year.


During the years of World War II, when many families in the local community were experiencing the pain and loss that comes with war, the school’s motto ‘Honour not Honours’ took on special significance. In times of war, honour refers to the need for patriotism and commitment to achieve a shared goal. Honours, on the other hand, are personal accomplishments that must take second place to attaining the crucial objective – the protection of queen and country.

When the rock’n roll era arrived in the mid-1950s, Remuera Intermediate opened its doors and Cornwall Park District School became exclusively primary, catering for students from Primer 1 to Standard 4. While the roll dropped with the loss of Forms 1 and 2, the postwar baby boom was in full swing so numbers quickly recovered.


The 1970s and 80s brought a new principal to the school, Mr Jack Oliver. Aided by enthusiastic teachers and parents, he worked tirelessly to maintain the special character and traditions of the school. During his 17 years of leadership, Mr Oliver introduced the students to specialised music and art teaching, which was a highly innovative move at the time. The school hall we still use today was named for Mr Oliver.

During the 1980s and 90s, in parallel with Auckland City’s growth and redevelopment, Cornwall Park District School went through a major redesign and rebuild. Some in the local community were concerned that ‘their school’ would be indelibly changed; however, the new structures were designed to blend sympathetically with longstanding buildings and the school’s park-like setting. Approval for the resulting school infrastructure was unanimous, because it was so well-suited to the needs of contemporary primary students. Two decades later, the school experienced another growth spurt which saw two classrooms replaced by a five-classroom block.


Today Cornwall Park District School is a forward-thinking centre of learning that aims to teach children how to find knowledge, how to be adaptable and flexible, how to find their niche, how to be resilient and how to collaborate.

Our school community includes more than 20 cultures and is always looking for opportunities to celebrate and support its multiculturalism. Events such as Diwali, Matariki and Chinese New Year have found a permanent place in the school’s events calendar. School leaders and teachers have been responsive to whānau aspirations. And the energy and knowledge of parents has been harnessed to run interest groups, including a Tongan Group, Indian Dance Group and Kapa Haka.

The original school motto of ‘Honour not Honours’ is still celebrated and is now paired with ‘Whakapau kaha – to be better than before’. It is a philosophy that encourages continuous individual improvement. A reminder, that every day presents an opportunity to try something different and make today better than yesterday.

To guide student attitudes and behaviour, the school has also introduced ‘dispositions’, character traits that are compatible with our values. Understanding and following these dispositions helps bring out the best from both teachers and students every day.


The school’s motto and badge was designed by our first headmaster, Mr W.A. Birss (Feb 1921 – May 1938). While over the years the logo has evolved, the overall design has remained. It is a respected part of our tradition and history.

Originally created in the school colours of brown and gold the ‘badge’ features a shield which comes from the armorial bearings of the Country of Cornwall. In the centre are fifteen golden discs which represent the gold bezants contributed by the Loyal County of Cornwall towards the ransom of King Richard many centuries ago. Beneath the shield is a scroll bearing our school motto ‘Honour Not Honours’ which reflects the vision of our first Principal, Mr W.A. Birss (Feb 1921 – May 1938) and his successive generations.

Later the shield and scroll where surrounded by a gold, then blue band (the new school colours) inscribed with the words “Cornwall Park District School”. The word ‘District’ hails back to the early days when Cornwall Park classes ranged from year one to year eight, before the opening of Remuera Intermediate.

The logo had a gold outer laurel wreath added many years later. This was added to represent the recognition of success.

Today the connotations of ‘District’ have changed to that of the school primarily serving the residents living in the suburb of Greenlane and others bordering Cornwall Park.

Today the logo still celebrates the original school motto of ‘Honour not Honours’ and retains the traditional Shield of Cornwall and the school colours.

Our original motto is now paired with ‘Whakapau kahato be better than before’.
It is a philosophy that encourages continuous individual improvement. A reminder, that every day presents an opportunity to try something different and make today, better than yesterday.

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