Rangi Ruru Girls’ School was founded in 1889 by Miss Helen Gibson. The school was administered by this remarkable family for nearly 60 years. The Gibson sisters, Mary, Beatrice, Helen, Alice, Lucy, Ethel, Ruth and Winifred, with the support of their brothers Frederick and Thomas and their mother Mary, all helped in some way with teaching, the boarders, and the life of the school. When Helen Gibson died in 1938 her sister Ethel Gibson took over the running of the school.
In 1891 the sisters moved the growing school into a large house on the corner of Webb Street and Papanui Road built by their father, Captain Frederick Gibson. This house was gifted the name Rangi Ruru (generally translated as ‘Wide sky shelter’, a place for hospitality and generosity) by an old friend of the Captain from Rapaki, the Ngāi Tahu leader, and former warrior, Paora Taki. Miss Gibson’s School for Girls quickly became known as Rangi Ruru.
By 1923 the school had outgrown the Webb Street premises and the sisters made the bold decision to purchase Te Koraha, the large house and grounds formerly owned by the Rhodes family, and moved the school to its present site. It was at this time that the Rangi Ruru Old Girls’ Association was formed.
The Christchurch Presbytery had long envisaged a sister school for St Andrew’s College and purchased Rangi Ruru in 1946 to provide this school for girls. Ethel Gibson took well-earned retirement and Rangi Ruru went from being a private family run school in the Anglican tradition to a Presbyterian school controlled by a Board of Governors whose members are appointed by the Alpine Presbytery (previously Presbytery of Christchurch). The school became officially known as Rangi-ruru Presbyterian Girls’ School. The curriculum was broadened, the school was registered with the Education Department and the roll continued to grow.
Rangi Ruru continued to be led by strong women with a vision for girls and their education. The School Board has supported this vision with ongoing upgrades of buildings and facilities to equip the students for their future. Science, Music, Art and Technology and improved Sports facilities have enhanced the strong teaching core. The Boarding House has been rebuilt. In 1986 the historic St Andrew’s Church building, (built for the first Presbyterian congregation in Canterbury and with strong links to the early settlers) was moved to the Rangi Ruru site to provide a chapel for the school. In 2017 the school took over ownership of the building from the Parish.
The Christchurch Earthquake Sequence damaged many of the buildings on the site, but with the resilience that has been a hallmark of the past 130 years the Gibson Centre, a new Science Block, Mana Wahine, and Performing Arts building have been built. Te Koraha, St Andrew’s at Rangi Ruru, and the Art and Technology building have all been restored and the work for the new Sports Centre has begun.
For its long history Rangi Ruru has been dedicated to educating and equipping girls to take their place in a changing world. The school has been served by dedicated teachers and Principals, and supported in this by families, Old Girls, and the Board. The school started as a family venture, and the school has grown to embrace a larger and more diverse family than the Gibson Sisters ever imagined.
Our motto, Whaia to te Rangi – Seek the Heavenly Things, reminds us that education cannot be limited to physical, cultural or academic studies only, but must include our spiritual dimension if we are to find values that are really worthwhile in life.