Our school today
Northcote High School is a large, vibrant and highly successful co-educational school. Since it was established in 1926, the school has developed strong traditions and a rich intellectual culture, manifesting through a record of consistently positive student achievement and high levels of participation in the school’s comprehensive co-curricular program.
The school remains one of a few government secondary schools in Melbourne that has not been renamed, moved or merged since opening.
Northcote High School delivers excellent educational outcomes in a supportive learning environment where all students can achieve success. Highlights include a renowned music program, diverse sporting opportunities, vibrant performing and visual arts alongside excellent public speaking and debating programs.
A feature of the school has been an outward-facing perspective regarding contemporary education trends and an elevated focus on internationalisation through partnerships and experiences of all students. The school encourages active citizenship and aims to prepare young people for a fast-changing world through participation in challenging learning – both in the classroom and through learning that fosters curiosity and student agency.
Significant and ongoing redevelopment of facilities and programs creates a progressive learning environment where student needs and development are central to curriculum provision. This also creates a learning and care framework that supports young people developing both personal and social responsibility.
The school is one of the largest stand-alone providers of secondary education in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Its results (NAPLAN and VCE) are strong and have been on a continuous improvement trend for almost 20 years. Students enjoy a vibrant co-curricular program, including music, sport, debating, leadership, and international travel and study tours.
The school currently has around 1,800 students. At Year 7 level, we currently enrol around 300 students each year, with the vast majority coming from local primary schools and living locally. We usually receive applications from more than 30 different primary schools.
To compare demographically similar schools, view Northcote High School’s entry on the Federal Government My School website.
In the early 1920s, there were only five Melbourne metropolitan high schools providing less than 2,000 places combined.
In 1926, local member of parliament and future Premier John Cain Senior led the agitation to establish a local high school in Northcote and Lt Colonel J. Sidney Kitson became the first headmaster of the new school, with 71 boys and 61 girls enrolled in the first year.
The new building facing St George’s Road was in use by February 1929 and was officially opened in September by the Minister of Education, Hon. H. I. Cohen. With this new space, enrolment increased to 468 boys, and then to 520 the following year.
The Education Department required all Northcote High School girls to leave and attend the newly established Preston Girls High School.
The curriculum offerings and facilities expanded as the school reached a maximum of about 700 boys. During this time, the school’s reputation blossomed as a provider of international education, the school to beat in inter-school sport and as a school with a strong academic tradition.
Due to increasing pressure to become co-educational again, the school made a decision to again offer places to girls. Female students now comprise close to 50 per cent of the student cohort.
Despite the educational turbulence of the 1990s, Northcote High School continued to develop its reputation as a leading provider of rigorous academic education for Melbourne’s inner north.
Grants made it possible for facility improvements, a science and technology centre of excellence and for piloting learning technologies. New subjects and programs, such as the music program, French and Chinese languages, the ACE program, and the Duke of Edinburgh program were also introduced or extended.
Rapidly increasing enrolments in the early 2000s coincided with a new building program and the expansion of the Music, Creative Arts and Physical Education and Sports programs.
As one of six state-funded Navigator schools, the school also became a pioneer in the use of learning technologies in the classroom. Additionally, with a specially designed Science and Technology Centre onsite, it also offered professional learning for visiting Australian and international teachers.
At the same time, the school expanded its commitment to international education, providing a dedicated program for international students in Years 10–12 and establishing three sister school partnerships. By 2017, this commitment had further strengthened as we became the first government school to provide a VCE offshore program at two partner schools in China.
In addition to the people listed below, our notable alumni includes:
- Professor Bruce Dawe, poet and writer and winner of the Patrick White Literary Award
- Jac Nassar, former chairman of BHP Billiton and former chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Company
- John Ritchie, historian
Lieutenant-Commander Lloyd Bott, CBE, DSC attended the school between 1930–34. He served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War where he played a vital role in secret service operations leading up to D-Day. Future President of France, Francois Mitterand was a passenger on one of his 12 operations to France. He went on to lead a distinguished career within the Department of Supply, where he was involved in important projects including the Woomera Rocket facility, Mirage jet purchase and space projects.
Suzanne Wilkinson (Thoraval) LLM (UBC) Masters in International Trade Law attended the school between 1990–92 where her roles included school captain and captain of the debating team. She was assistant director at the Institute for Comparative and International Law (University of Melbourne), worked as a lawyer for legal firms in Vancouver, Canada and Australia, and was seconded as in-house counsel for the 2006 Commonwealth Games. She later became a corporate Lawyer at TRUenergy and is presently with the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Melbourne.
Chris Leptos, AM, BComm, MBA, FCA, FCPA attended the school between 1971–76 and was school captain in 1976. His roles include chief executive officer and managing director, Southrock Corporation, chief of staff to Hon. Senator Button, Minister for Industry, consultant at KPMG Peat Marwick, member of Infrastructure Planning Council of Victoria, delegate at World Economic Forum 1997–2000 and Swinburne University Graduate School Management Advisory Board member. In 2000, he was invested as a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the mining sector and the community.
Professor Max Lay was dux of the school in 1953 and matriculated with three first honours and a senior scholarship in 1954. As an engineer, Dr Lay worked for the State Electricity Commission and BHP before becoming executive director of the Australian Road Research Board. He became a director at VicRoads in 1989 and later became a principal at Sinclair Knight Mertz. He is a fellow of many important Institutes and organisations, and in 2005 was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to engineering, particularly in quality road design and as an educator and historian.
Notable alumni from within the medical field include Associate Professor Alex Lopata, MB, BS, PhD who attended the school in the 1950s. He had a very active involvement in IVF research leading to Australia’s first ‘test tube’ baby at the Royal Women’s Hospital. He went on to train medical groups from around the world in this reproductive technology and sat on the World Health Organization Advisory Committee on Human Reproduction. Alex has addressed numerous conferences around the world and published over a hundred papers.
Leslie Miers, distinguished concert pianist and conductor, attended the school in the 1940s where he was very active in School Music and performance groups. He went on to teach many well-known singers and instrumentalists and was known for his skill as an accompanist. He accompanied, among others, Dame Kiri Te Kawana, Liberace and Henry Mancini.
Notable politicians include Hon. James Ford Cairns (Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer of Australia 1973–75), who attended the school in the 1930s and John Cain, Victorian State Premier 1982–90 who attended the school from 1943–46, as well as Donald Chipp, politician and first leader of the Australian Democrats.
Professor Kenneth Inglis AO, MA, DPhil, (Oxon), FAHA, FASSA, DLitt. (Hon.) attended the school from 1940–44. A prominent professor of Australian history, he was the recipient of several distinguished awards, including the NSW Premier’s Prize for Australian History, the Centre for Australian Cultural Studies Award and the Ernest Scott History Prize.