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In tune with change

It has been a remarkable year for many reasons. And not least for a dozen girls at The Cathedral Grammar School who make up the Girl Choristers, the first group of its kind in the school’s 139-year history. Metropol finds out more about the trailblazing initiative.



Equality sounded very harmonious recently, when 12 eight-to-13-year-old girls sang their way into the nearly 140-year-old record books.

Founded in 1881, The Cathedral Grammar School was established to educate boy choristers and prepare them for further education. In 1995, this mandate was extended and a girls’ preparatory school was opened, too.

But the Cathedral Choristers remained a boys-only group.

That was until this year, when the Girl Choristers of the Christchurch Cathedral Choir was formed.

A series of Covid-19-related postponements may have delayed their launch, but on October 18 the girls made an inaugural public performance of the aptly named ‘A New Psalme’, a piece of work especially composed for them by international choral conductor and composer Sarah MacDonald.

Now, the girls will share the treble parts of choral performances with the boys, on their own assigned occasions, and will occasionally sing together at major events, too.

This opportunity was what attracted girl chorister Evelyn Lowe, pictured right, with her parents Sarah and Adrian.

“I wanted to sing with my dad,” she says.

Director of the Girl Choristers, Alex Goodwin, told those in attendance at the launch how the girls represented progression in the church, school and wider society.

“It is an absolute pleasure to be able to get to this point finally, after some cancellations this year, the 12 girls behind me represent an enormous step for the life of the Cathedral, city and country.

“They are supremely talented, have been working extremely hard for a long time, and I am really, really very proud to have finally got to this moment.”

Director of Music at the school, and Evelyn’s mum, Sarah Lowe, pitched the notion of a girls’ group after seeing similar initiatives while teaching music overseas.

“My love of music is around developing a spark in students, so that their education journey is fulfilling and meaningful,” she says.

The musical endeavour has also attracted attention from vocal heavyweight, Malvina Major, who is a donor. As well as King Singer, Chris Brueton, who is also a donor.

Dean of Christchurch, The Very Revd Lawrence Kimberley, says the Girl Choristers embody the very reason the girls’ school was opened.

“There are a number of reasons why the girls’ school opened, but one of them was to make it possible for Girl Choristers to emerge.”

At the launch, he said: “You have emerged, and we celebrate this wonderful new development. I want to acknowledge all of you young women, the hard work that you have been doing with Mr Goodwin this year, the choral training you have received, and the growth we have been able to see this year in your musical proficiency.”

The Girl Choristers have not only caught the attention of their local school and church communities, but been the subject of their own feature film by South Island current affairs film collective, Frank Film.

The historical significance of the occasion has also been celebrated by The Press and Anglican E-Life Magazine.

Principal Scott Thelning says in the Frank Film production how he hopes the doors opened by the girls will expand to other community groups, too.

He’d like to “work with local rūnanga in order to make a process work for them, not just that they come and sing with our girls but that we make this environment one that’s going to appeal and work for our full New Zealand culture.”

As well as being a specialist choir school, The Cathedral Grammar School is known for its music and arts curriculum, with more than 300 individual instrumental music and speech and drama lessons taking place on top of usual classes every week.

The school has an orchestra, stage band, rock band and string and woodwind ensembles, and a biennial Operetta which alternates with a concert.


The Influencers: Scott Thelning

Principal Cathedral Grammar

In challenging times it is often the things that bring us a sense of comfort, stability and normality that we fall back to support and guide us through the ups and downs.

For me it was getting back into my early morning gym routine, on my bike in the Port Hills, and supporting my kids on the sidelines on Saturday mornings. Structure, routine and enjoyment – it all feels normal and a part of daily/weekly life.

As a school, it was critically important after lockdown that we returned back to our site with all of our students and staff in order to provide this sense of normality, routine, structure and connectedness.

We had supported our school community very well with a strong remote learning programme, and it was vital we then settled everyone back into school and work in a manner that met the requirements of the Ministries of Health and Education, but resembled school as ‘normal’ as much as possible.

We chose to adopt a simple, safe and sensible approach and not twist ourselves in knots creating unnecessary processes, systems and compliance headaches that would in turn create an unrecognisable environment for our students and staff.

Structure, routine, normality.

Conversely, through these challenging times we are being encouraged to innovate, adapt and evolve so as to meet the new demands of our communities and customers.

The Cathedral Grammar School and Christ Church Cathedral have recently broken the glass ceiling on a 139 year old tradition and introduced girl choristers.

Equality in action and creating a new normality.


Meet the Principal: Cathedral Grammar

‘Every child. Every day.’ This simple yet powerful statement is the esence of my educational philosophy. It seems so obvious, yet in a school setting, can get lost in the pursuit of greatness, narrow measures of success and the desires of adults. At The Cathedral Grammar School your child is truly at the heart of the matter as we set about nurturing them, knowing them and growing them in a holistic and heart-focused manner. Of course, academic performance and high expectations are key, but not at the expense of their wellbeing and the development of skills and qualities to thrive in a challenging and evolving world.


Scott Thelning – Principal


The Cathedral Grammar School is an independent school providing high-quality education for pre-school, primary school and intermediate aged girls and boys.

This is a place of ambition alongside preparation where students learn from the best right from the start. Every year level benefits from the expertise of our high-calibre specialist teachers across multiple subjects, and small class sizes mean learning is amplified, ensuring every child’s strengths are identified and built on, with support provided where and when needed.

The prime inner city location provides the school with the most wonderful nearby resources.

As an example, the Year 7 and 8 students head to Ara Institute for Engineering and Food Technology, Christ’s College to study Hard Materials and selected students are involved in an Enrichment Programme at Tūranga, the new central city library.

This is an exciting opportunity and aims to enrich and extend the school’s current learning programmes inside and outside the classroom.

The school structure is unique and designed to ensure students have the opportunity to make the most of their formative school years.

Teachers understand that learning happens in different ways at different ages; their students work in both co-educational and single-sex learning environments at times when this best suits their learning journey.

In Pre-School and the Junior School, children learn in a co-educational environment.

Students in Years 4 to 8 attend either the Boys’ or Girls’ School.

Allowing students the best of both worlds, single sex classes offer the opportunity to target and deliver the curriculum in the most effective and interesting style possible, while social skills are developed by sharing mixed-environment break times, specialist classes and activities.

Ultimately, The Cathedral Grammar School is committed to providing a balance of tradition and rigour, while being curious and adventurous every day.

All in an environment that values your child’s heart as well as their head. It’s the Grammar Way.


The Influencers: Scott Thelning


Principal Cathedral Grammar

Foresight and fortitude – sowing the seeds of hard work and reaping the fruits of success.

COVID-19 has created, once again, challenging times for our city, and this brings with it a mix of emotions.

For me, I am grateful for the foresight held by a team of governors whom some years ago set the pathway forward for our school to evolve, adapt and embrace a way of thinking that would prepare our students and staff for an ever changing world.

Through this transition period as a school, there were, as there inevitably will be, challengers and challenges to this way of thinking.

I am thankful for the fortitude of our staff for staying to the course and ensuring what is best for students, their learning, and their future was at the heart of the matter.

When the lockdown was announced, our team was ready and delivered superbly in a time of need.

The vision and strategy developed, coupled with a great team of skilled, open minded and solution focussed teachers, enabled our school to respond quickly and create and deliver a high quality and structured remote learning programme for our community.

It is through these difficult times, that as organisations our business models and cultures are truly tested.

All aspects are placed under the spotlight as we grapple with the financial and employment implications, together with the wellbeing of our people and the ability to adapt and innovate.

Success comes in many forms. For us, foresight, fortitude and agility have been key.


The forefront of education: Cathedral Grammar School

The Cathedral Grammar Girls’ School celebrates 25 years



One of the distinguishing threads of The Cathedral Grammar School story is how it has honoured the legacy and contributions of past generations whilst confidently being at the forefront of educational innovation and change.

They are fortunate to have had the opportunity to nurture, know and grow the dreams and aspirations of many young women throughout the past 25 years.

The school is proud to meet this anniversary milestone and walk confidently towards the successors of the future.

The school believes “that excellence is about so much more than just academic success. It is about enabling your daughter to create, explore, develop passions and confidently move towards a bright and successful future.”

As their girls continue to write the Cathedral Grammar story, they blend the best of their past with the latest innovations to give each new generation of girls the opportunity to be more than they ever imagined.

The 25th anniversary this year was shared with the Watoto Children’s Choir visiting from Uganda.

The Watoto children and Cathedral Grammar students worked collaboratively over the day, sharing experiences and participating in choral workshops.

Coming together to provide a wonderful evening concert at the Christ Church Cathedral for family and friends.

This enriching cultural experience provided the students with a unique insight into a different and vibrant culture.

The girls’ school is proud of its 25 years of supporting and educating Christchurch girls and welcomes you to experience how they will nurture, know and grow your daughter, each and every day.

For more information on The Cathedral Grammar Girls’ School visit the website below.


Shaping child development and early learning: The Cathedral Grammar Pre-School

The Cathedral Grammar Pre-School is an inner-city, family-orientated, community-based education centre for boys and girls, located in the grounds of The Cathedral Grammar School’s central city campus.



Head of Pre-School Lyndell Turner leads a team of caring early childhood teachers who possess a deep understanding of how young children learn.

“Teachers are responsive to individual interests, strengths and abilities. They listen closely to children, support them to develop oral language skills and share their ideas.

“Our Pre-School philosophy values play as instrumental in stimulating and shaping child development and early learning. Through planned and spontaneous play experiences, children form relationships, share, cooperate, develop self-regulation, they learn to test ideas and develop friendships, extend their range of experience through reciprocal relationships with people, places and things.”

“Our programme intentionally balances times of child-centred and adult-led play, plus we value extended blocks of uninterrupted time for children to make discoveries, to elaborate on projects, and to be involved in deep meaningful play,” Lyndell says.

The Pre-School children are fortunate to be located on the grounds of The Cathedral Grammar School. This means access to numerous activities and resources such as specialist art, music and physical education teachers which add value to an already strong and varied programme.

ECE hours available. For more information and Centre tours, please contact Lydia Hemingway (Registrar, The Cathedral Grammar School) on 03 365 0385 or email inquiries to




Scott Thelning: The Influencers

The new face of Christchurch city has prompted many of us to look at the CBD afresh and appreciate all it now has to offer.


Principal Cathedral Grammar

I’m certainly aware that my own family and I spend much more time in the city on the weekends than previously to take advantage of the rapidly improving facilities and the ever-increasing array of shops and cafés.

The re-energised city has also made me appreciate anew the foresight of the founders of Cathedral Grammar. Our school truly is part of the fabric of Christchurch’s central city. As our roll grows, many parents tell us that the CBD location is a key part of the appeal.

Far from being closeted behind school gates, our boys and girls are out in the city, enjoying the wonderful nearby resources.

The fantastic new central library, Tūranga, where some students are involved in an Enrichment Programme, is a focal point, together with our art offering at the Museum and the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū. Students also head to Ara Institute for Engineering and Food Technology, and Christ’s College to study Hard Materials.

Whether it be training for a duathlon, having rugby practice, going for a run or playing bullrush, we too, like so many people in the CBD, enjoy the wonderful resource that is Hagley Park.

These are all exciting opportunities to enrich and extend our current learning programmes inside and outside the classroom. Better still, they’re all within walking distance.

We love introducing a new generation to the new generation Christchurch.