The former principal of two Maori Catholic boys' schools has been jailed for eight years and four months for historic sex crimes against pupils.

Elvis Dobson Shepherd, 49, sexually abused students at Hato Petera College in Northcote in the early 1990s but the abuse did not come to light until 2007 when he was principal of the Hato Paora College in Feilding.

He was sentenced in the High Court at Palmerston North yesterday.