Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 44, September 2000


The Heward Agricultural Scheme

By Gordon Mathieson

The appointment of Mr Humphrey Rex Heward to the new position of "Secondary Head", but still under the control of the Wood Street School Headmaster - also a new appointee, Mr Gubbins - both commenced duties on 24 May, 1949 - brought a different perspective to the life of the school. Mr Heward, came from a teaching family, his father and grandfather both being teachers. He was born in Whangarei in 1900, while his father was teaching there, and he was educated there. He obtained his Master of Agricultural Science and Dip. C.A.C. Degrees at Lincoln College and was considered to be somewhat of a 'character'. He was soon to make his mark, being a leader, rather than a follower. His teaching specialities were science and agricultural subjects. He was invited to be guest speaker at the September 1949 meeting of the Paeroa Branch of Federated Farmers at which he outlined a system of close co-operation between the school and farms as contained in the following report:-

"These four methods for use in High Schools are proposed -

1.Day visits to farms by bus - one each fortnight. Boys to work on a questionnaire which would be sent to the farmer in advance of the visit.

2.Practical farm training visits of seven to ten days during the year, the boys to work on the farm. Would also be a social training for the boys to live for a few days with other families.

3.The large scale farm management survey - proposed to run one at Ngarua (south of Te Aroha) - depending on whether the Auckland Education Board would provide the money.

4.A special farm management survey would be made by the boys who would spend about thirty days away from the school, during which time they would work for three periods of ten days each on three different farms."

Mr Heward said that he had in mind the establishment of an intermediate agricultural school - something between high school and university.

The Federated Farmers lent its support, with the motion outlined by Mr Oliver Liddell -

"I am going to suggest that we get behind Mr Heward's scheme for agricultural education and that we form a deputation to proceed to Auckland to interview the Auckland Education Board and urge that the necessary money be provided to enable him to carry out his work. Failing that, the farmers supply the money themselves."

Mr Liddell then outlined the advantages of a deputation rather than a letter. A committee of four was formed - namely Mr Liddell, Mr Frank Johansen, Mr W Clarry and Mr Fielden Thorp to assist Mr Heward.

Even the Paeroa Chamber of Commerce lent its support. During its November 1949 meeting, Mr John Bartlett (Secretary of the Chamber, and a former Paeroa District High School Committee member) explained that £150 was needed for the purchase of equipment. An application was made to the Auckland Education Board accordingly. Unfortunately from there, the proposal came unstuck. When Mr Gubbins was approached for his support, he felt that Mr Heward's forthrightness was undermining his authority as Headmaster. Another meeting was called early in the new year - after the holiday break - on 14 February, 1950, with the resultant Gazette headline and article:-


A most vigorous debate took place at the Paeroa District High School over the delayed implementation of Mr H R Heward's proposed agricultural scheme for schools. The Auckland Education Board had turned down an application for funds to run the scheme and had added that without the Headmaster's support, had no choice but to delay the scheme until further debate could take place. Mr Heward said that he could not stress enough, the potential that such a scheme could have for the district, and for the future of agriculture as a whole. When Mr Gubbins' turn to speak came he said, 'This is my school, I am the Headmaster, and I will run my school as I see fit.'"

With both sides opposing each other, no further progress was made, and in May 1950 the Education Department scrapped the scheme for good. No doubt Mr Heward was bitterly disappointed, but paradoxically, both "Shorty" Heward and "Baldy" Gubbins, as they were affectionately known, stayed at Paeroa District High School until the end of 1957.

After leaving Paeroa, Mr Heward taught at Rotorua Boys' High School and he retired in 1970. He died on 5 February 1990, aged 89, living in Papatoetoe until his death.

Mr Heward's only daughter, Gillyan, attended Paeroa District High School, entering Form 4 in 1949, on their arrival in Paeroa, until Form 6 in 1951.