Nayland College - daring to be different


Daring to be Different

Stoke’s co-educational Nayland College was established in 1966 in the shadow of the long and highly respected history and traditions of the Nelson’ city’s single sex schools. 

Nayland. 1966 first assembly

Bill Kane addresses pupils on the first day. Courtesy Nayland College.

But Nayland’s founding principal Bill Kane was not one to be daunted by tradition. He was determined Nayland would develop its own way and quickly introduced a number of firsts. There would be no cadets, no houses, no dux, and no prefect system in which prefects administered corporal punishment. Instead there was a school council with members elected by fellow students, and the school’s few rules would be simple but strictly enforced.

NaylandCollege aerial 1967

Aerial of Nayland College 1967 surrounded by orchards and farmland, and with Nelson Airport in the background. Courtesy Nayland College

The most radical and noticeable change was the introduction of mufti for seventh formers (year 13) in 1973. This was part of a strategy to transition students into the workforce by allowing them to wear clothing appropriate in an office or workplace situation. In 1975 mufti was extended to the sixth form and eventually to the fifth form (year 11).

Bill Kane retired in 1978, replaced in succession by Ras Zachariassen (1979-1994), Charles Newton (1995-2009), Rex Smith (2009-2014), and Daniel Wilson (2015-present). Each took responsibility for further developing and redefining unique school values which cemented Nayland’s reputation as a school reflective of its community while still proudly forging its own path. 

Traditional ways of doing things continue to be constantly questioned and fresh, non-traditional approaches designed to meet the changing needs of students.  As part of this process, in 1985, Nayland become the first school in the region to remove corporal punishment.

Nayland. 1989 the Radio Nayland team 1

The 1989 Radio Nayland team. Courtesy Nayland College

Innovative projects, included launching the school’s own community newspaper, Circuit, in 1979 (which went on to become an award winning publication and is now online) and the launch in 1984 of 16 years of Radio Nayland.

Nayland. Circuit

Sofie Eich, Rosie Manins and Sven Adam, part of the winning 2003 Circuit team. Nelson Mail

The college’s biennial stage performances became known for their slick production and nurturing of raw student talent, with sell-out seasons of world-renowned shows like Grease, Chess, Cabaret and Little Shop of Horrors, and successes in Stage Challenge, Rock Quest and the Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival.

Nayland 2010 production of Chess

The College production of Chess. 2010. Courtesy Nayland College

Early on, Nayland embraced the role of computers and technology in education, becoming a leader in the introduction and use of information technology in schools. There was no better endorsement of the path chosen by Nayland than being named the Goodman Fielder New Zealand Secondary School of the Year in 2002.

Nayland. 2008 NaAGS with Diversity tree

NAGS 2008 with the Diversity tree. courtesy Nayland College

Pride in being different and catering for all students is something Nayland has always encouraged. In 1969 the college provided ‘experience’ classes for students with mental or physical disabilities.  This developed into the Learner Support Centre which, in 2001, was rewarded with national recognition as a best practice model of excellence in special education. In 2002 it became the first South Island school to establish a group for gay students.  The Nayland Alliance of Gays and Straights (NAGS) was one of only five such groups in the country. By the 2010s the scope of NAGS had extended to encompass students who identified not only as lesbian or gay but also bisexual or transgender (LGBT). In 2012, it became the lead provider for the region’s first trades training academy.

Never afraid to make changes that benefit students, school houses, one of the traditions eschewed by foundation principal Bill Kane, were introduced in 2012 to enhance students’ sense of belonging and school unity. But these are houses unlike those in more traditional schools. Named for Southern Sky constellations, representing a motto adopted by the school – reach for the stars, and incorporating another original Nayland feature – the vertical form, the four houses are fronted by giant mascots representing an eagle (Aquila), a dragon (Draco), a horse (Pegasus) and a phoenix (Phoenix).

Nayland Students in uniform

Nayland Junior students in uniform. Courtesy Nayland College

Even Nayland’s announcement in 2015 that year 11 students would return to wearing a uniform from 2017 and year 12 from 2018 reflected the wishes of the wider school community while promising to look very different from traditional school uniforms. 

As Nayland entered its second half century, following its 50th jubilee in 2016, it harked back to its roots and the school crest for the inspiration for a new way forward. As principal Daniel Wilson said, Nayland students aim for Success, taking every Opportunity to reach their goals. They do this through Ako – learning, and Manaaki – Respect, which inspires students to rise to new heights, achieve their dreams, and SOAR. This ideology is represented by a new logo incorporating the symbol of the kuaka (godwit), taken from the school crest.

“Kuaka fly non-stop for 11,500km from New Zealand to Alaska in a matter of days,” Mr Wilson said. “Their resilience, persistence and local connection provide a rich metaphor for the values we aspire to at Nayland College.”

2016 (updated 2024)

Sources used in this story

  • Stade, K.(2016) Daring to Be Different, The Nayland College Way 1966-2016. Nelson: Nayland College
  • Circuit newspaper, Nayland College 1979-2015.
  • McHardy, J. and Taylor, P. (1991) Nayland College, The Growing Years. Nelson: Nayland College

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Further sources - Nayland College - daring to be different


  • McHardy, J. and Taylor, P. (1991) Nayland College, The Growing Years. Nelson: Nayland College
  • Stade, K.(2016) Daring to Be Different, The Nayland College Way 1966-2016. Nelson: Nayland College.


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