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In many countries, your educational bragging rights centre on where you went to university.
Here, with the varsities being pretty much even-stevens, the snob factor revolves around where you went to secondary school.
A good school doesn’t come cheap.
King’s College fees run to more than $24,000 a year, so you’re looking at the thick end of $200,000 to send a couple of your sprogs there for five years – although that’s still less than the up to $500,000 premium you’ll pay for a house in Auckland’s double grammar zone, aka the area that takes in the two state schools with the highest prestige factor – Auckland Grammar and Epsom Girls Grammar.
Is it worth it?
There are obvious benefits (as reflected in Metro’s exam tables) of going to a top school in terms of better resources, better teacher-to-pupil ratios and the chance to rub shoulders with classmates from well-connected families.
And that combination of factors does indeed send some alumni from the likes of Christ’s College, the ACG group and the holy trinity of girls’ schools (Baradene, Diocesan and St Cuthbert's) to the top of the ladder.
But then again, at university I knew more than one person who went through Auckland Grammar who could not adapt to thinking for themselves or managing themselves in the tertiary education environment.
And, when you look around at the movers and shakers in New Zealand business and society, a good whack of them – including many of the NBR Rich Listers (and just, quietly, NBR’s previous and current publishers) – went to meat-and-potatoes schools in working class suburbs like Mt Roskill and Mt Albert (yes, I know house prices there are no longer in that bracket, but many incomes still are).
That fits our egalitarian mythology. New Zealand is not a country of equally distributed wealth, but there is degree of equality of opportunity. No, it’s not perfect, and the landscape is shifting; those coming through the system today don’t get quite the same leg up as, say, a John Banks or John Key. But if you’re smart and hard working, it is there.
My quick survey below indicates that social mobility is alive and well in Godzone.
In fact, in a stark contrast to the UK, there has only been one prime minister in modern times who went to a “good” school (Epsom Girls Grammar graduate Helen Clark).
And sifting through the CVs of NZ-educated chief executives of NZX-50 companies, I did find a number with a traditional blue-blood education.
But others were from run-of-the-mill schools or dropouts. And those who are are super rich, entrepreneurs or and iconoclasts more often than not come from outside the top-tier of formal education.
Here’s a look at where a selection of our business leaders, innovators and politicians went to school:
Jacinda Ardern (prime minister): Morrinsville College
Jamie Beaton (Crimson Education founder): King’s College
John Banks (politician, property developer): Avondale College
Helen Clark (former PM, former head UNDP): Epsom Girls Grammar
Peter Cooper (NBR Rich List #12; property, online sports broadcasting): Kaitaia College
Richard Chandler (Rich List #3): Auckland Grammar
Christopher Chandler (Rich List #7: Auckland Grammar
John & Michael Chow (Rich List #90, founders NZX-listed Chow Group): Naenae College
Barry Colman (NBR Rich List #100, author, investor): Rotorua Boys' High School
Sir Russell Coutts (Rich List #200, yachting): Otago Boys' High School
Eliot Crowther (Rich List #207, PushPay co-founder): Bethlehem College, Tauranga.
Rod Drury (Rich List # 22, Xero chief executive): Napier Boys’ High School
Diane Foreman (Rich List #80, entrepreneur): Takapuna Grammar (fifth-form dropout)
Sir Michael Fay (Rich List #10=): St Peter's College, Auckland, St Patrick's College
Carmel Fisher (Rich List #203, co-founder Fisher Funds): Sacred Heart College
Rob Fyfe (professional director, former CEO Air NZ, Icebreaker): Burnside High School, Christchurch
Theresa Gattung (Telecom chief executive, MyFoodBag co-founder): MacKillop College, Rotorua*
Doug Hastie (Syft, Chanui): Gisborne Boys' High School
Graeme Hart (NBR Rich List #1): Mt Roskill Grammar
Chris Heaslip (Rich List #199, PushPay co-founder): Kaipara College, Helensville
Sharon Hunter (entrepreneur, director of NZX-listed Veritas; pictured): Papakura High School
Stephen Jennings (Rich List #9 ): Spotswood College, New Plymouth
Sir John Key (Rich List #187, company director, former PM): Burnside High School
Sir Robert Jones (Rich List #14, Property): Naenae College
Richard Keys (Abano Healthcare chief executive): Auckland Grammar
Chris Liddell (Rich List #131, advisor to Trump Whitehouse, former CFO GE, Microsoft, Carter Holt Harvey): Mt Albert Grammar
Christopher Luxon (Air NZ chief executive): Christchurch Boys’ High School
Ian McCrae (Rich List #127, Orion Health chief executive): Hamilton Boys’ High School
Jake Millar (Unfiltered founder): Christchurch Boys’ High School
Phil McCaw (Rich List #132, angel investor): Napier Boys' High School
Sam Morgan (Rich List #29, Trade Me Founder, entrepreneur; pictured): Rongotai College
Simon Moutter (Spark managing director): Palmerston North Boys' High School
Sir Ralph Norris (Fletcher Building chairman, former CBA chief executive): Lynfield College
Adrian Orr (Reserve Bank govenor elect, Super Fund head): Taupo-nui-a-tia High School
Craig Piggott (founder/chief executive Halter): St Peters College, Cambridge
Annette Presley (Rich List #147, technology): McAuley High School, Otahuhu
Wendy Pye: (Rich List #43, self-made publisher): Harvey High and Bunbury High**
David Richwhite (Rich List 10=): King’s College
Victoria Ransom (Rich List #51, software): Whanganui Girls' College
Craig Smith (founder, Education Perfect): Saint Kentigern
Sir Stephen Tindall (Rich List #62, Warehouse Group founder/director, startup investor): Takapuna Grammar
Mark Vivian (Movac partner): Scots College
Fraser Whineray (Mercury chief executive): Auckland Grammar
Joan Withers (director Mercury, TVNZ, Warehouse Group, ANZ): McAuley High School, Otahuhu (left after fifth-form)
Ian Wright (co-founder of Tesla, founder of Wrightspeed): Dargaville High School
* A private school, but I know from someone who went there with the small army of Gattungs that it was pretty modest — like many Catholic schools pre-state integration.
** Wendy describes them as "just country high schools" in Western Australia. Although she's a living example that you can make it without going to a posh school, she tells NBR, "It is more of an uphill struggle when you don’t have those connections through family or from school."
those family connections or from schools
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