Clifton was the original unofficial name of Bulls in the mid 1800s. The cliffs near where the town and school were built, and which surround the larger area of Bulls, gave rise to the name. The name was later changed in honour of Mr James Bull, who built the first general store and post office.

Clifton School opened in 1967, replacing Rangikea and the old school at Ohakea. Only four civilian families attended Clifton School then, the rest being service families. The school started with five rooms and the swimming pool followed 18 months later. During the 1970s as the roll increased to over 300 pupils the number of classrooms was extended to twelve.

The Maori carving (The Tree of Life) at the entrance to the school was carved by Te Aturangi Nepia Clamp and signifies a place for all children to learn. The totara log used for the carving was presented by Mr Jim Littlejohn, who served on the School Council for many years. Mr Littlejohn dedicated the carving to the Clamp family in appreciation for their long and industrious involvement in the school's welfare.

Right: THE TREE OF LIFE - This carving symbolizes life. The base of the tree is where life begins and ends, the branches are the paths in which you choose to take and the fruit is the life that you live. Sometimes in life we might be climbing a branch that is leading us to bad fruit, but see how the branches cross over each other, it is giving you the opportunity to swap branches and head for the sweet fruit - it's all up to you; it is the decisions that you make in life and the paths that you choose to take.