In 1851 Fr Garin, the Parish Priest of Otahuhu, decided to set up a school for all the children who lived in the ‘Fencible Settlement.’ This was a settlement for British soldiers and their families.

The British Government had asked British soldiers to move with their families to live in areas near Auckland, as the Government was worried that Maori tribes might attack the European settlers in Auckland. The British soldiers and their families had travelled to New Zealand for free and were given some land to farm and a cottage to live in.

These soldiers were called “the Fencibles”. The word ‘fencible’ comes from the word ‘defencible’ which means that their job was to defend the area from any attacks.
St Joseph’s School was run by lay teachers until Fr O’Hara asked the Sisters of Mercy to take over running the school. The Sisters agreed, and they built a new convent and named it St Cecilia’s Convent.

The first Sisters to live and teach in Otahuhu were Sr Philomena O’Dwyer, Sr Agnes Fitzgerald and Sr Scholastica Bowes.

The Sisters taught in the old school and they also used rooms in their convent as classrooms. In 1908 new school classrooms were finally built.