Skip to Main Content

Pitcairn Islands Study Center

Education on Pitcairn Island

Photograph of several children posing in front of a sign with their teacher
Pitcairn school children with their teacher, Susan Davey, outside of the school building (September 2007)

The story of education on Pitcairn Island begins at the turn of the nineteenth century when the well-educated Edward Young taught John Adams to read from a Bible and a Prayer Book, which had been salvaged from HMS Bounty. After Young’s death in 1800, John Adams taught the first generation of children to read. Photograph of the inside of the classroom

Then in 1823, John Buffett arrived at Pitcairn on a British whaler, the Cyrus, and took over the role of teacher. In 1828, George Hunn Nobbs arrived at Pitcairn and assumed the triple role of pastor, surgeon and teacher, first on Pitcairn and later on Norfolk Island.

After the Pitcairners’ return from Norfolk Island in 1864, Simon Young, a descendant of one of the mutineers, and his daughter Rosalind kept a simple system of education alive until, in the last decade of the century, the school came under the guidance of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Between 1917 and 1938, when the Church again appointed a resident pastor, the academic side of the school was once again left to the islanders. In 1958 Government formally assumed responsibility. Legislation first introduced in 1838 provides for the compulsory attendance of children between the ages of 5 and 15 and for a minimum five-hour day of 380 half-days a year. 

Photograph of the Pitcairn School, with several people standing in front of it Today, the Education Officer is appointed by the Government from suitable qualified applicants who are New Zealand registered teachers. The Education Officer is also the Government Adviser and Editor of Miscellany, the island newspaper, and is contracted for two year terms. The Education Officer is assisted by a Pitcairn language teacher and staff include a cleaner and grounds person.

The school and the teacher’s residence have recently (2004) been reconstructed with the first buildings having been completed in 1950. The equipment is modern and includes a 7.5 kva generator, a film projector, piano, sound system, computers, television, VCR, photocopier and a range of woodwork tools. The school library is kept well stocked.

The average attendance at the school in the early 1950s was 20 pupils, increasing to 28 in 1959 and 36 in 1962. Since then the roll has gradually decreased, and in 1999 there were 10 pupils. 

Photograph of children studying inside the classroomThe school provides primary education, based on the New Zealand syllabus, and correspondence courses in post-primary education were introduced in 1957. Overseas secondary education is encouraged by the grant of bursaries and a number of students have received secondary education in New Zealand at Pitcairn Government expense.

The pattern of education on Pitcairn keeps pace with curriculum changes in New Zealand. The island, traditionally a land of smallholders and handicraft traders, has developed new markets for the export of dried fruit and honey products. Tourism is developing into a more significant local industry both with visits by cruise ships and with those who visit to stay a few weeks on the island.

Education policy therefore aims to provide a broad range of skills to enable adaptability in a changing environment.

Pitcairn Island School Teachers




Edward Young (teaching John Adams reading & writing)

18_? – 1829

John Adams

1823 – 1856

John Buffett, assisted by John Evans (not continuously)

1828 – 1863

George Hunn Nobbs


Hugh Carleton (While marooned on Pitcairn Island)

1852 – 1853

Chaplain Holman of HMS Portland in absence of Nobbs


Simon Young (taught the Pitcairners on Norfolk Island)

1857 – 1864

Mrs. Selwyn (while she was resident on Norfolk Island)

1858 – 1864

Thomas Rossiter (till Pitcairners departure from Norfolk)

1859 – 1864

Sarah and James McCoy (on Pitcairn Island)

1864 – 1890

Simon Young & Rosalind Amelia Young

1891 - 1893

Edward Harmon Gates & wife, Ida E. Gates

1893 – 1896

Hattie Andre


Edwin Sebastian Butz


J. C. Whatley


Walter H. Petch

1907 – 1911

Mark Warren Carey

1914 – 1917

Melville Richard Adams

1917 – 1929

Roberta Warren

1920 – 1929

Edmund McCoy


Luther Hare

1920 – 1929

Lucy Christian (nee Young), Edith Christian (nee Young)


Walter Fisher Young, Ivy Brown, Fred Christian


Roy Clark, Alfred Young, Ada Christian

1932 – 1935

Theodore Young


Roberta Warren

1936 – 1938

Bert Christian

1938 – 1944

Frederick Percival Ward


Donald H. Watson, Nurse Totenhofer


Frederick Percival Ward, Clarence Young, Bert Christian


Frederick Percival Ward

1948 – 1951

Albert W. Moverley


R. Sanders


George Allen


A. Wotherspoon

1957 - 1957

Allen Wotherspoon

1957 - 1959

E. Schubert

1960 - 1961

M. D. Howse

1962 - 1963

S. A. Kinder

1966 - 1966

J. H. Forster

1967 - 1968

A. A. Reeves

1969 - 1971

R. S. Henry

1972 - 1973

G. D. Harraway

1974 - 1975

C. P. B. Shea

1976 - 1977

T. Whiu

1978 - 1979

A. K. Cox

1980 - 1981

R. R. Whiting

1982 - 1983

A. K. Cox

1984 - 1985

L. H. Salt

1987 - 1988

L. B. Buckley

1991 - 1992

A. R. Washington

1993 - 1995

Mrs. P. M. Foley

Mrs. P. Brown (relieved in 1995)

1996 - 1997

B. B. Baronian

1998 - 1999

Mrs. S. E. Carnihan

2000 - 2001

R. J. MacDonald

2002 - 2003

Allen Cox

2004 - 2005

Mary Maple

2006 - 2007

Susan Davey

2008 - 2009

Jeannie Horrell

2011 - 2012

Hilary Millard

2012 - 2013

Ruth Shelling

2013 - 2014

Hilary Millard

2014 - 2015

James Park

2015 - 2016

Georgina Milford

Contact Study Center:

PHONE: 707-965-6244
TEXT:   707-229-1340

Contact Herb Ford:
PHONE: 559-592-0980 or

Live Online Chat


  [California Study Center]