With the start of a new school year, it's time to think about which public high school is best for your child.
And while you may not have many choices in your area, there are certainly some considerations that will help make the decision easier.
One consideration is whether or not you want to send them to their local public school or an out-of-town option.
If you're looking for something closer by, then take into account factors like class size (smaller classes generally equate to better outcomes), student diversity (students who attend diverse schools tend to be more well rounded), and parental involvement levels (parents who are involved with their children's education have higher graduation rates).
To help you get started on your public high school hunt, we’ve rounded up our best public high schools from right across Melbourne, Victoria.
Ultimate List of Public High Schools in Melbourne, Victoria
McKinnon Secondary College - Public High School Melbourne, Victoria
(03) 8520 9001
McKinnon Secondary College is a Year 7 to 12 co-educational school with over 2000 students. The College was established in 1954 in the Melbourne suburb of McKinnon. It has a long history of academic excellence and instrumental music performance. The college is consistently ranked as one of Victoria's top non-selective government schools.
Box Hill High School - Public High School Melbourne, Victoria
We put students at the heart of our vibrant and nurturing learning community, and we achieve excellent results as a result of their positive attitudes, parental and community support, and our commitment to high-quality teaching and learning.
Melbourne Girls' College - Public High School Melbourne, Victoria
(03) 9428 8956
MGC, which was founded in 1994, is a forerunner in innovative education. We offer inquiry and trans-disciplinary units in Years 7-9, followed by a large number of Year 10, VCE, and VET subjects in the senior years to local, regional, and international students.
Our College's programs and learning schedules are constantly evolving to ensure students are future-ready, with an emphasis on perseverance, teamwork, respect for diversity, and personal best.
Suzanne Cory High School - Public High School Melbourne, Victoria
(03) 8734 2801
Suzanne Cory, which was founded in 2011, provides highly capable students with an individually tailored and challenging educational experience that results in exceptional outcomes and pathways into tertiary education.
The school has 900 students from Years 9 to 12 who come from 84 different schools of origin, with equal representation from government and non-government schools.
The educational focus of the school is to provide a challenging and rigorous academic curriculum for intellectually and creatively gifted students, as well as a rich co-curricular program designed to extend their learning.
Balwyn High School - Public High School Melbourne, Victoria
"Success is not by chance. It takes perseverance, hard work, learning, studying, sacrifice, and, most importantly, a love of what you are doing or learning to do." (Pele)
Every day, Balwyn High School strives to provide each student with a truly holistic education that promotes personal growth, self-reliance, community responsibility, and academic achievement.
We are dedicated to excellence and community by actively challenging and supporting every student and staff member to achieve their full potential.
We hold all members of the community to the highest standards, and we proudly recognize and celebrate success in all of its forms.
Apollo Bay P-12 College - Public High School Melbourne, Victoria
(03) 5237 6484
Apollo Bay is a lovely coastal town on Victoria's Great Ocean Road, surrounded by the Otway Ranges.
Students, parents, and the wider community all play an important role in the development of our College Vision, Mission, and Purpose statements, as well as our school Values of 'Excellence,' 'Respect,' 'Integrity,' and 'Balance.' Apollo Bay P-12 College is a small school with approximately 260 students ranging from Prep to Year 12.
Nossal High School - Public High School Melbourne, Victoria
+61 3 8762 4601
One of only four academically selective high schools in the state, Victoria's first coeducational government high school is fully selective in terms of both genders. Nossal High School was created with the intention of serving a student body that is adult, academically driven, and aspirational.
The structures are cutting-edge. And ICT-rich, with features and approaches similar to those found in universities. Our location and collaboration with Monash University, Federation University, and Chisholm Institute provide our community with access to programs and facilities at both the secondary and tertiary levels, allowing for the development of rich connections and challenging opportunities.
Mac.Robertson Girls' High School - Public High School Melbourne, Victoria
+61 3 9864 7701
Hello and welcome to Mac.ob! Over the next Term, I am looking forward to finalizing plans for the launch of the International Baccalaureate in 2022, admiring students' outstanding performances and achievement in all aspects of school life, and moving the school one step closer to realizing a new school building.
Melbourne High School - Public High School Melbourne, Victoria
+61 3 9826 0712
Melbourne High School is Victoria's only selective State School for boys in Years 9-12. The School continues to be one of the best schools in Australia, producing some of the best thinkers and leaders in the country.
Melbourne High School (MHS) was founded in 1854 as the National Model School. In 1905, the School renamed itself the Continuation School and declared itself Victoria's first state secondary school. It provides comprehensive academic education for boys in grades 9 through 12 across the state.
Public High Schools FAQs
Academic Programs Offered
Many times, experts say, deciding on a type of school comes down, at least in part, to the academic programs offered, from dual enrollment to Advanced Placement courses or International Baccalaureate programs.
If the student is interested in pursuing a particular subject area, such as theatre, parents might also consider whether the school provides related opportunities.
Determining how much money to spend – if any – on a child's high school education can be a challenging but important decision for parents.
Private high schools generally charge tuition, for example – though parents considering public schools, which are usually free, should also be aware of costs that aren't stated outright.
Consider the diversity of a high school, experts say, to ensure that teachers and officials are sensitive to cultural issues and that the child becomes aware and respectful of different values.
Parents might want to examine how schools teach diversity, including when it comes to historical issues.
Whether it's a small school with more personal attention or a larger high school with more opportunities to build relationships, parents should pick the environment that's best suited for their child.
Keep the child's personality in mind, experts say. For an introverted student, for instance, a smaller school might be best.
When touring a school, looking to see how students and teachers interact with each other can give parents an idea of the school's overall atmosphere, says one expert.
Take note if any students or teachers greet parents personally and observe students' moods and how they treat each other.
Graduation and College Attendance Rates
While parents shouldn't base their decision on numbers alone, certain statistics can suggest how successful a school has been at bringing students to the next stage of their lives.
Two stats to consider, experts say, are graduation rates and college attendance rates.
The best way to get a feel for a school's culture is to walk through the halls, Mark Reford, then CEO of BASIS Independent Schools told U.S. News.
Parents might consider what they expect the school to teach their child about life beyond academics and determine whether the school seems like a joyful place overall.
Technology and Resources
It's important to understand what schools are doing with emerging technology to benefit
students and how they are integrating it into the classroom setting, experts say.
Some high schools use interactive whiteboards, provide students with laptops or tablets and assign online coursework.
Students need to get involved outside the classroom through extracurricular activities, and experts say to look for a school that offers a variety.
Extracurriculars are also an important part of the college application and can speak volumes about students' interests and values.
One expert says that determining whether there's a parent group or parent-teacher association can help parents learn more about the high school their child is attending.
They should ask how involved parents can be in activities and other meetings or events. Parent involvement can show students that they should take their education seriously.
Average Class Size
When it comes to choosing a school to attend, two numbers are very important. One is the average class size or the number of students typically found in an individual class; the second is the student-to-teacher ratio, which measures the number of students in a school compared to the number of instructors. Generally speaking, the lower these numbers, the better your experience is likely to be at a school.
Why? Smaller class sizes bring several benefits to students, including more individualized attention from instructors, a stronger sense of community, and more opportunities to contribute to discussions, all of which can positively impact your overall academic experience.
While many factors should be considered when choosing a school to attend, the average class size can be a rule of thumb to help you quickly rule a school in or out of your list.
College Support & Student Outcomes
Class size and student-to-teacher ratios aren't the only important numbers you should consider when deciding which school to attend. You should also seek information about what happens to students after they graduate by asking questions like:
- What are college matriculation rates?
- What percentage of graduating do seniors get into one of their top-choice schools?
- Which colleges and universities often accept graduates from the school that you are considering?
These questions are important because individual student outcomes can offer insights into the kinds of support and success you can expect as a student, should you attend a particular school.
Just as it is important to understand the average class size and educational outcomes of the schools you are considering, you should also be sure to understand the unique educational philosophy that guides each of your possible schools.
Different types of schools operate with different educational philosophies in mind. Public Schools, for example, are typically very driven by performance and a mandate to "teach to the test." On the other hand, Independent schools often have much more creativity and flexibility to develop their curriculum in a way that goes deeper and allows the student to learn more holistically.
Exactly what kind of high school will be the right fit for you will depend on your interests, the way you like to learn, and the specific skills (critical thinking, creativity, interdisciplinary thought, etc.) that you would like to develop.
The Academic Program
In addition to understanding the educational philosophies of the schools you are considering, you should also understand what the academic program looks like. You will be spending the next four years at this school; you should make sure that they offer classes that interest and challenge you!
Make sure you ask questions like:
- What are the required courses to graduate?
- What electives are available?
- Are there any unique classes that you can't find at another school?
- Are there opportunities to do independent research or writing?
- Are our advanced classes available? Does the school offer AP classes?
Mentorship Programs & Resources
Not every school offers mentorship programs for their students, but those who do often report amazing benefits (Link to another article once published).
If a school on your shortlist offers a mentorship program, you can be sure that that school understands the importance of supporting students through vulnerable years. In addition, the presence (or lack thereof) of a mentorship program can indicate the other kinds of support you can expect as a student if you were to enrol there.
Extracurricular Activities & Clubs
Though academics are, of course, important, they aren't the only consideration worth noting when you are considering high schools. You should also be sure to evaluate the different extracurricular activities that the school offers. For example, what kinds of clubs, communities, and sports teams do you have to look forward to enrolling in the school?
Most colleges take extracurricular activities into account when they evaluate applicants. But these activities bring so much more value than simply increasing your chances of being admitted to your dream school.
In addition to allowing you to explore interests and passions that you might not be able to explore in the classroom, extracurricular activities give students something fun to look forward to and help them meet new people and develop as well-rounded, multidimensional people. Therefore, any school you consider should have at least one (and hopefully multiple) extracurriculars that get you excited.
Schools often divide kids into tracks: college-bound, honours, Advanced Placement. But all students need to learn the advanced skills that are the key to success in college and the 21st-century workplace. Thus, every student should take demanding classes in the core subjects of English, history, science, and math, and no student should ever get a watered-down course of study.
Further, students should also be allowed to earn industry certification or some college credit while in high school through programs such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or those offered through a local college or university.
Personal Attention for All Students
Every high school should be small enough – or divided into small enough units – to allow teachers and staff to get to know all students as individuals and to respond to their specific learning needs. By the 9th grade, students should have a detailed plan for graduation. In addition, students should receive frequent and ongoing support from at least one academic advisor throughout their high school years.
Extra Help for Those Who Need It
Every high school should have a system in place to identify kids as soon as they start to struggle in reading, math, or any core subject, and every school should reserve time and resources for the immediate help those kids need to stay on course.
Bringing the Real World to the Classroom
High schools should help students connect book learning and the skills needed to be successful in life. Students must develop the work habits, character, and sense of personal responsibility needed to succeed in school, work, and society. As part of their classwork, students should have opportunities to design independent projects, conduct experiments, solve open-ended problems, and be involved in activities that connect school to the rest of the world.
Family and Community Involvement
Students thrive when their high schools encourage positive learning relationships among families, educators, businesses, and other community members. Parents should have many chances to visit the school building, talk with teachers and staff, voice concerns, share ideas, serve as volunteers, and suggest ways to improve the school.
And school leaders should reach out to their neighbours by attending community events and forming partnerships with local organizations to increase effectiveness and tap additional resources.
A Safe Learning Environment
Every high school must guarantee the safety of its students, teachers, staff, and visitors, and every school should be kept free of drugs, weapons, and gangs. School leaders need to build a climate of trust and respect. They should encourage peaceful solutions to conflict wherever possible and respond directly to bullying, verbal abuse, or other threats.
Every high school teacher should know well the subjects they teach and know how to teach all kinds of students, from all kinds of backgrounds. New teachers should get the guidance and mentoring they need to be successful in the classroom. And all teachers should have enough time to plan lessons, carefully review student performance, and continuously improve their teaching.
Every high school needs a skilful principal who supervises personnel effectively, manages finances capably, and keeps the organization running smoothly. Every school also needs a strong educational leader (this could be the principal, a senior teacher, or another staff member) to define a vision of academic excellence, work with teachers to develop an engaging and coherent curriculum, and serve as a mentor and role model for teachers and students alike.
Every high school should provide all students and teachers with the books, computers, laboratory equipment, technology, and other resources they need. And every school should maintain safe, clean facilities that are fit for teaching and learning.
All community members should have easy access to information that gives a clear, straightforward picture of how well the school serves all of its students, including those from every income level, ethnic group, and racial background. Some of the key pieces of information include a school's graduation requirements, graduation and dropout rates, and student performance on state tests.
The cost of public education can't be beaten. Although some parents might complain about the recently added expenses of supplies and participation in sports teams, these schools are still much more budget-friendly than their private counterparts.
According to GreatSchools.org, the average tuition for private schools in the United States during the 2016-2017 school years was $19,310. The average cost for a boarding school during that same year was $35,118. Schools affiliated with the National Association of Independent Schools charged even more.
In addition, private schools get additional funding through private donations. In many cases, this could mean parents of students at the schools may have to invest time and money in fundraising events throughout the year. While public schools also participate in fundraisers, the bulk of their funding still comes from federal, state and local government sources.
Public schools provide access to an education for every child in a community. The Huffington Post notes that public schools cannot turn students away based on academic performance, income level, or disability by law. This ensures that every student in a neighbourhood has the same educational opportunities as the neighbours down the street, regardless of their personal or financial situation. Since education is frequently seen as the great equalizer for society, the availability of education for all is a key benefit these institutions offer.
Because public schools admit all children in the community, those that attend the schools are more likely to be in classrooms with other children that don't think, act or look exactly like them. Students are more apt to be exposed to students from different cultures or income levels. They may learn to work with other students with mental and physical disabilities. The diversity of the student body can be an important learning experience in itself for all of the children that attend a particular school.
According to the website for New York Schools, funding for schools is often dependent on the number of students in a school, with consideration for smaller, more manageable classroom sizes. Typically, class sizes in public schools tend to remain smaller in the early years, from kindergarten through about third grade. At that point, classes may gradually grow according to the student's age and ability to work independently.
According to Education Bug, public schools often have the resources to offer more academic opportunities like advanced classes and courses in specialized subjects like technology and the arts. Options might include gifted and talented programs, International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement classes. Students that want to excel will find various chances to do so, while those not inclined to academic acceleration find choices at their ability level as well.
In addition to the choices in the classroom, students in public school often have more options in activities after the last bell rings for the day. From athletics to music and theatre, most schools offer various extracurricular activities to keep students learning and excelling in the areas they are most interested in.
By law, public schools are also required to provide certain services to students. Some, such as transportation to and from school, are offered to all the students. Others, such as reduced-price lunches and academic assistance, are provided to students who qualify. Because the services are required, public schools have special education teachers and learning specialists at the parents' and students' disposal. Private schools may not offer such services because they are not required to admit students that meet these needs.
According to PublicSchools.org, teachers in public schools are required to be certified by the state. Certification also requires ongoing education and periodic renewal of credentials. However, charter schools and private schools do not have this requirement, which means parents don't always know the level of training attained by the teacher in their child's classroom. In some cases, these schools might not even require teachers to have a four-year degree to work in the classroom.
Public schools are held accountable by the state for their academic performance. While some have complained this has led to an overabundance of standardized testing, the schools do at least have a higher authority they must answer to. Again, this prevents abuse and leads to the management of failing schools much more quickly than if the school did not have such accountability.
According to the Huffington Post report, students in public schools score comparably on standardized tests to students in private schools. In some cases, they outscore students in charter schools. While some public schools turn up relatively poor results, those results are often found in areas with high poverty rates. When comparing apples to apples in terms of student demographics, public schools are right up there with other types of schools.
While many are complaining about the state of public schools today – and some with good reason – these schools are still working effectively for most students in the system. With many benefits from public schools, it is no wonder that most students and their parents are still choosing the public school in their neighbourhood as their first choice for education.
The Supposed Benefits of Private vs. Public School
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 10% of U.S. students (about 5 million) attend private schools compared to 50 million public elementary and secondary school students. Parents choose a private school for several reasons, including religion, a desire for same-sex education, a flexible curriculum, and smaller class sizes.
Each private school is different, but here are some of the supposed benefits of private versus public school education:
- More academic opportunities. Private schools provide a varied and challenging educational experience for students through extracurricular activities, International Baccalaureate programs, Advanced Placement courses, and gifted programs, among other opportunities. Studies show as well that private school students consistently score higher on standardized tests and college entrance exams.
- Smaller class size. Research shows that smaller class sizes improve student performance on academic achievement tests. Private schools tend to offer smaller class sizes with lower teacher-to-student ratios for more individualized attention.
- Dedicated teachers and staff. For many private school parents, the dedication of teachers is a primary reason for choosing a private school. Many private school teachers hold advanced degrees in their field and, with smaller class sizes, students can form closer relationships with their teachers in a role model capacity.
- Parental involvement. Many private schools prioritise keeping parents involved in the community through parent-teacher meetings, social events, and parent committees. Increased parental involvement in education can also strengthen parent-child relationships.
- Improved safety. Private schools often have a reputation for keeping strict standards for discipline and respect. This, combined with a stronger sense of community and lower staff-to-student ratios, makes for a safer school environment.
- Better access to resources. Because private schools are not limited by public funding, they often have access to better resources. This includes equipment for extracurricular activities as well as technology and other resources for the classroom.
- More extracurricular activities. Academics are the priority for most private schools, but there is also a strong focus on a well-rounded education, including extracurricular activities. Private schools often offer various programs, including sports, art, music, and various clubs.
Though there are many potential benefits associated with private school education, there are certainly some drawbacks. For example, public schools are paid for by local taxes, while private schools cost an average of over $10,000 a year. Private schools also tend to exhibit less diversity, and teachers have fewer requirements in terms of education and experience.