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Senior School

Year 11-13

For our Year 11, 12 and 13 students we aim to provide a senior curriculum that encourages all students to achieve personal excellence in learning. Our curriculum remains broad in the senior school, and our NCEA and Scholarship results remain among the highest in New Zealand. At this level we are flexible in what and how the girls can access their subject choices: some study through the Otago Polytechnic or University of Otago; some through Te Kura. Our partnership with our brother school, John McGlashan College, allows senior girls and boys from each College to access specialist subjects at the other school. Our senior school aims to:

Provide a curriculum that maximises opportunities for each student to meet her individual learning needs.

Encourage each student to identify, seek out and achieve personal excellence in academic and co-curricular pursuits.

Ensure students have access to highly qualified, committed and experienced staff who stimulate, extend and challenge student learning.

Columba College Senior Student

Contribute actively to the caring, family school environment by acting as positive role models and leaders for the entire school.

Widen leadership and service opportunities to build socially aware citizens who can connect to key issues locally and globally.

Ensure students are able to develop an autonomous approach to learning, build self-efficacy and confidence.

Student Life and Learning

In the Senior School the focus is on developing confident young women who are motivated to achieve their potential and who leave school with an enjoyment of life-long learning and an enthusiasm to share their talents and abilities with others.

Our philosophy is to enrich the curriculum for all students and to provide opportunities for everyone which extend and challenge.


While some classes at Columba College are streamed, all offer differentiated learning programmes to enrich and extend student learning. All students have access to visiting speakers and participate in programmes which promote a global awareness and focus.

However, in addition to this and a co-curricular programme of cultural and sporting activities and clubs, the school offers Gifted and Talented programmes for all students and an extensive Scholarship programme for Senior School students.

Through becoming involved in leadership, students experience for themselves the close relationship between leadership and service.

Senior students are encouraged to suggest initiatives and new ways in which they might show leadership. The School Council is a student-led forum, chaired by senior students, that meets regularly and where students are able to discuss matters of interest, make recommendations and decide on the expenditure of funds raised by students.

A Year 13 Leadership Camp is also held each year in which all Year 13 students participate and for girls in year 13 there are several Prefect positions. Senior leadership opportunities are not, however, confined to Year 13 students. For example, senior students can participate and contribute as captains of sports teams or take a leadership role in a club or cultural activity; they can coach or mentor junior teams and students; be part of their year level formal committees or develop their skills through participation in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award, Spirit of Adventure or Outward Bound courses.

Careers programmes are aimed at ensuring the girls are knowledgeable about how to access careers-related information and are able to make a confident entry to the next stage of their education or the workplace.

All students in the Senior School have a special Careers Unit or Module taught by the Careers Adviser.  In Year 11 the focus is on increasing students’ self-awareness. Students are encouraged to recognise their strengths and weaknesses and the attributes they wish to develop further. The focus of the Year 12 programme is to explore opportunities and to begin preparation for the transition from school to tertiary study and the work place.  Year 13 is a time for making decisions and taking action. To that end goal-setting and action planning activities are provided.

All Year 13 students are interviewed and encouraged to develop a Career Plan. We wish to see all our senior students leave well informed about the world of work, tertiary courses, course pre-requisites, necessary qualifications for careers, how and when to apply for tertiary courses, well prepared for interviews and with up-to-date curriculum vitaes.

Old Girls and friends of Columba are invited to speak at special assemblies or the biennial ‘Careers Show Case Evening‘ about their tertiary courses and careers. Students and parents receive information about events such as the annual Otago Careers Festival and tertiary information days. The Careers’ Adviser is always available to speak individually with any student or parent.

Senior students have a wide variety of courses from which to choose.

Religious Education Careers, and Health and Life Skills are delivered as modules. In Years 11, 12 and 13, students have Religious Education as an eight-week unit. The topic covered are, respectively, World Religions, Church History and Ethics.

All the areas of the New Zealand Curriculum are covered:

  • English Years 11-13
  • Mathematics Year 11-13, Calculus Year 13 and Statistics Year 12 and 13
  • Science Year 11 Agriculture Years 12 and 13, Biology Year 12 and 13, Chemistry Year 12 and 13, Physics Year 12 and 13
  • Geography Years 11 -13, History Years 11-13, Classical Studies Years 12-13
  • Physical Education Years 11 -13
  • Digital Technology Years 11-13
  • Chinese Years 11-13, French Years 11-13, German Years 11-13
  • Art Year 11, Design Year 12 and 13, Painting Year 12 and 13, Photography Year 12 and 13
  • Drama Years 11-13, Music Years 11-13
  • Economics & Accounting Year 11, Accounting Year 12 and 13, Agribusiness Year 12 and 13, Economics Year 12 and 13
  • Future Pathways Years 12 and 13
Year 11-13 Course Handbook +

All Columba College students work towards achievement in the national secondary qualification, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA): Level 1 in Year 11 Level 2 in Year 12 Level 3 in Year 13 Scholarship in Year 13 (though Year 12 students may sit Scholarship)

Students usually study six subjects for Levels 1 and 2 though five subjects may be studied which gives a daily supervised study period. Five subjects is the norm for NCEA Level 3 but it is possible for an able student to study six Level 3 subjects provided she is committed and well-organised.

NZQA Student Handbook +

Education Outside the Classroom


Education Outside the Classroom opportunities in the senior school are based more around the curriculum with field-trips in subjects such as Biology, Geography and Physical Education.

Senior Students are also offered the opportunity for overseas experiences with-in the curriculum such as trips to Europe for Classical Studies or French or German students. China is a biennial destination for our Chinese language students and cultural or scientific trips also travel to the United States. Further overseas service opportunities are available through World Challenge and the Presbyterian Church.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award which senior students are actively encouraged to be involved with also provides opportunities for EOTC with its expedition component. The Award is balanced with four Sections providing a framework to encourage physical activity, mental challenge, individual perseverance, teamwork and interaction with other people. It is non-competitive and voluntary.

Confucius Classroom 

The first Confucius Classroom in the South Island of New Zealand was established at Columba College in 2012.

China, through the Confucius Institutes, has established non-profit public institutions which aim to promote Chinese language and culture in foreign countries such as New Zealand. The Confucius Institutes not only provide a place to teach Chinese language and culture but they have also become a platform for cultural exchanges between China and other countries as well as a means of encouraging friendship and co-operation between China and the rest of the world.

Through our affiliation as a Confucius Classroom with the University of Canterbury we are fortunate to have a full-time Mandarin Language Assistant to assist with our Chinese language programmes.

Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Science and Business

As a Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Science and Business, we aim to stimulate and encourage our graduates to pursue tertiary study and careers in the primary sector, up to and beyond the farm gate. John McGlashan College and Columba College are proud to be collaborating as New Zealand lead schools in delivering an exciting Agribusiness course. By introducing academically rigorous Agribusiness courses to secondary school students, more of New Zealand’s brightest young minds will become inspired by the opportunities available in this sector and realise that career prospects are numerous and diverse. We are at the forefront of this work, being two of just eight Centre of Excellence lead schools in New Zealand.

View Brochure +

Student Handbook

The Student handbook can be found here.