About Ellesmere College – Te Kāreti o Waihora

A place where every student is looked after

Nestled amongst the scenic rural landscape of small-town Leeston, Ellesmere College-Te Kāreti o Waihora is a co-educational school catering to students from Year 7 to Year 13.

Close to the vibrant city of Christchurch, on seven hectares of spacious land, Ellesmere College-Te Kāreti o Waihora provides students with an outstanding learning experience.  Dedicated teachers, a nurturing environment and individualised support ensures all our students excel academically and thrive in every area of school life.

Ellesmere College-Te Kāreti o Waihora is a place where every staff member knows every student personally and provides them with the support that they need to shine.

The history of Ellesmere College-Te Kāreti o Waihora

A community hub for nearly 40 years

Located in the takiwā of Te Taumutu Rūnunga, Southbridge District High School opened in the grounds of Southbridge School in 1903  and was housed in some of the primary school’s buildings. The primary and district high school remained merged until 23rd October 1924 when buildings were destroyed by a suspicious fire. Southbridge District High School was rebuilt on the same site while the Southbridge School was rebuilt on the opposite side of the street. In 1981, Southbridge District High School was closed and Ellesmere College – Te Kāreti o Waihora was founded in Leeston.

The buildings which make up 95% of the school were built in Timaru in 1980 and transported to the present site in Leeston. During transportation one of the buildings came off the back of a truck as it crossed the Rakaia with the classroom ending up in the river!

The College opened in February 1981 with a blessing from prominent Te Taumutu Rūnunga kaumātua and Ngai Tahu rangatira the late Riki Te Mairaki Ellison. The school gym is named in his honour and at the time of his death, Matua Riki was a member of the Board of Governors. On opening day, the school was dedicated as a Marae by Riki Te Mairaki Ellison and for several decades it is believed that it was the only secondary school in the South Island to be opened and dedicated as a Marae. 23 staff and 380 foundation pupils started that year. 

We’re proud of the role we play in the community and understand the importance of maintaining a strong community-focus, actively engaging with local community groups and offering our students work experience programmes with local businesses.

Connections with Te Taumutu Rūnanga

Ellesmere College-Te Kāreti o Waihora is part of the Kāhui Ako Ngā Mātāpuna o te Waihora. Ngā Mātāpuna o te Waihora is located within the takiwā of Te Taumutu Rūnanga, one of 18 Ngāi Tahu Papatipu Rūnanga, based at Te Pā o Moki Marae, Taumutu. We have an extremely strong and important relationship with Te Taumutu Rūnanga, allowing us to utilise their knowledge, prowess and strength. Te Taumutu Rūnanga is the representative body and kaitiaki of Te Waihora and the surrounding takiwā, including the whole of the Selwyn District.

Our values

Our RISE values live and breathe throughout our curriculum and learning environment. Evolved through community discussion and consideration, they are at the core of everything we do as a school





We prepare our students for the wider world by incorporating these values into every area of school life, including our Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) programme. This helps to create a positive environment and strong support system, removing barriers to engagement and improving children’s overall well-being.