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Rangi Ruru Girls’ School was founded in 1889 when Frederick Gibson bought a school run in Papanui by friends who were moving to Australia. Initially the school had 18 students, aged 5 to 16 years old. Gibson's daughters Alice and Helen and their mother Mary ran the school, calling it "Miss Gibson's Private School for Girls". In 1891 the school moved to a building in Webb Street and was renamed Rangi Ruru, meaning "wide sky-shelter".

As one of New Zealand’s oldest and most successful schools, Rangi Ruru has established a proud tradition and heritage.

Rangi Ruru Girls’ School was founded in 1889 by Miss Helen Gibson, and was administered by her and her sisters for nearly 60 years. The Gibson sisters; Mary, Beatrice, Helen, Alice, Lucy, Ethel, Ruth and Winifred all helped in some way with the running of the school.

In 1890 their father, Captain Frederick Gibson, built a large house with two schoolrooms on the corner of Webb Street. This was given the name Rangi Ruru, or ‘wide sky shelter’. In 1903 the school had 63 pupils. By the early 1920s the Webb Street house was proving too cramped, and the decision was made to move to larger premises. In August 1923 the remaining four sisters shifted their school, day pupils and eighteen boarders to Te Koraha – the large house and grounds formerly owned by the Rhodes family.

As a housewarming present, the Old Girls raised funds to furnish the entrance hall of the house as a personal gift to the Gibson sisters. The reunion held for the presentation led to the formation of the Rangi Ruru Old Girls’ Association and the first general meeting was held in December 1923.

Since 1946 when it was purchased by the Presbyterian Church, Rangi Ruru has been governed by a Board whose members are appointed by the Presbytery of Christchurch.

Rangi Ruru, the name of the school, was suggested by an old Maori Chief of Rapaki Pa, Paora Taki. It is translated “wide sky shelter” and indicates that the school stands for hospitality and generosity.

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.

Rangi Ruru Girls’ School Principals over the Years

Miss Helen F Gibson 1889–1938
Miss Ethel M Gibson 1938–1946
Miss May Farquharson 1946–1947
Miss Rewiti O Mason 1947–1951
Mrs Margaret G Patrick 1951–1969
Miss W Lesley Anderson 1969–1972
Mrs Raywyn Ramage (Adam) 1973–1988
Mrs Gillian Heald 1989–2002
Ms Julie Moor 2002–2015
Dr Sandra Hastie 2016–current