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This article contains information that is for general information only and should not be used for the basis of making any decisions regarding education or anything else. It is solely the writer’s opinion of the writer’s experience of one open day at the school and the writer’s interactions with the people present on that day. The writer’s article is purely subjective. Facts and information may or may not be complete, accurate, reliable or valid reflection of the school in question.

I encourage you to personally tour the school and meet the educators and students, form your own opinion and leave a comment here.

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Name: Nossal High School

Sector: Public

Gender: Co-educational

Religion: N/A

Year 12 Fees: N/A

Location: 40 Sir Gustav Nossal Bvd, Berwick VIC 3806

Phone number03) 8762 4600

Website: https://www.nossalhs.vic.edu.au/

Tour Details

The tour of Nossal High School was taken by the principal Roger Page on a Wednesday morning so the school was in action. 

Roger spoke to the group in the foyer then showed us around all the important areas of the school

Finally Roger picked some students at random ( while they were having recess ) who he left with us so we could ask questions while he wasn’t around.  

Nossal High School overall vibe

Nossal High School is a coeducational selective public school selecting for academically high achieving students.  It is one of only four selective schools in Melbourne ( others being Melbourne High School, Mac Robertson High School and Suzanne Cory ). 

Overall the school was impressive in that the students seemed very well behaved, calm and focused.   Being a selective school with only grades 9-12, the students were also more mature than the average grades 7-12 high school. 

As you would expect at a selective school, there is a high achieving, mature vibe that runs through the school.  It’s clear the kids are here for one reason only – to learn and achieve.  They’re not interested in misbehaving and it shows in the calm, clean, university-like environment.  For example, the small library has no doors and students are expected to check out their own books like at a public library, yet apparently very few books go missing.  

Nossal is small enough to have a community feel. With only four grades and 200 students in each grade, the school has only around 800 students altogether. Also being situated out on large undeveloped fields in Berwick, there is a feeling that the school is its own cosy community where students can leave their lockers unlocked and feel secure that no one is interested in stealing their valuables.

Classes have around 24 students, which is relatively large but apparently still easy to manage as there are no disengaged students according to the principal.   

Roger speaks about how smart kids arriving from other schools finally can feel comfortable because it’s “cool to be smart” here.  

The teaching is designed to extend high performing students, so some students who have been accustomed to being the best at their school, may suddenly find that there are others just as smart or better than them at Nossal.  

This can either be a positive, where academic kids can finally feel like they belong, or a negative, when some kids find it hard to cope with being average amongst their peers. 

View full gallery here.

Nossal High School principal’s view

Roger Page is the first and only principal of Nossal High School since its beginnings in 2009. Having been there since its inception, Roger was involved in the planning of the buildings and hand selected its teaching staff.  

Roger explains that because of the selective process, they have very few problems with disengaged kids or misbehaving kids.  They treat the children like adults – there are no school bells as “everyone knows how to tell the time”.  Children are treated as equals and expected to behave accordingly.  

Students at the school have been selected because they are exceptionally good at one or more academic areas, all are high achieving as expected at a selective school.  

Roger says that parents worry that it may an overly competitive environment, but his view is that it’s a happy school with happy students who are supportive of each other.  He says that growth mindset is encouraged and it’s not important how well students do against their peers, but how much they’ve improved since last year.  

Roger is at pains to emphasise that although the school excels in academics, students are encouraged to become well rounded though arts, sport and social activities.  He wants to encourage students to think outside the traditional university courses for top scorers such as medicine and law.  Unlike most schools, teachers here have to place limits on amount of time spent on homework as these kids take it to the next level and spend too many hours studying or being tutored.   

It seems that the students themselves and their families are the ones that have to be convinced there’s more to life than an ATAR score. 

Roger spoke about life after graduating high school, stating that some university courses have a 60% drop out rate after first year.  He thinks that Nossal students adjust well to university as the teaching and timetabling is very much like university.  Students are given a lot of flexibility and responsibility for their own learning. 

For example, for assignments, they’re given deadlines, when the work is done ( study periods or at home ) is up to them.

Nossal High School selective school entrance exam

All students must sit the entrance exam to enter the school. 

Being selected to be a Nossal student is very competitive.  Around 2500 students apply every year and only 200 students are accepted, so less than 10% of all students to choose to sit. Entrance is based on exam scores only, with only very few ( about 10 ) interviewed by the principal to be given consideration.  This aims to eliminate any bias about who is accepted.  

The aim of the entrance exam is to select for performance and potential – so not only how the kids are performing now, but how much future potential they have.  

Testing for IQ is embedded in the exam.  Roger hinted that in the past it was easier to study for the exam, but now there are parts where it’s harder to memorise or be tutored for an answer.  

Roger discourages students from being tutored for the exam. 

Nossal High School curriculum

The school follows mainstream VCE curriculum.  Despite being named after a famous scientist, internationally renown scientist Sir Gustav Nossal it isn’t in fact a specialist science school.  

Delivery of classes is very reliant on technology.  In fact, there is an on campus “IT shop” that for help with IT issues.  Students are encouraged to purchase a high end lap top at the beginning of year 9 which should last them through to the end of year 12.  

Art is a subject that can be done through to year 12, but even the principal admits “You wouldn’t come to Nossal because you want to specialise in Arts”.  Many student excel in music however and musical excellence is actively encouraged with visiting music teachers and many bands and music group opportunities.  

Sport participation is also encouraged with Nossal faring well in some regional competitive sports comps.  

Skills based subjects such as entrepreneurship and personal finance aren’t emphasised because academics is so strong and content heavy.

Diversity at Nossal High School

As with most co-ed schools, there are more boys than girls.  The most recent intake was 60:40, which is edging towards a problem needing to be addressed according to Roger.  Apparently more boys sit the exam, which results in more male students. 

Not really surprisingly at a glance, the overwhelming majority of students are of some kind of Asian descent.  

There are many neurodiverse students.  When asked about neurodiversity at the school, Roger said that they seem to fit in well as many kids are neurodiverse and they seem to be welcomed at the school by other students.  He didn’t mention any supports that have been implemented other than the general well being program.

Wellbeing At Nossal High School

With selective schools comes high expectations of achievement from the students themselves and from their families.  One of the main issues of high achieving kids is that they are their own worst enemy, expecting achievement at all costs.  Roger admitted that there are several students with issues caused by high stress.  From his point of view, he’d prefer that students have a lower score and better mental health, however I’m not sure how much of this philosophy filters through into the culture amongst the students themselves. 

There are three student counsellors and student wellbeing sessions timetabled into their schedule.  Students are part of a small group multi year level pastoral group that students belong to.  This group  meet every morning and generally form their first port of call for any issues.  

Wellbeing sessions are held several times a week where they learn about 

  • Respectful relationships 
  • Careers 
  • Social development

Nossal High School student comments

At the end of the tour, the principal pick a few students at random to talk to visitors.  

The students that Roger picked were very obliging.  They were caught by surprise during their recess break, but were friendly and polite and happy to answer questions.  

They spoke confidently and enthusiastically and overall very well about their school.  

“I like the small school as I feel more comfortable being myself here compared to the big school I was in before”

“There’s a lot of clubs, sports, interschool sports activities” 

“I like the school because it’s student driven.  The students here are motivated and we do our own learning and the teachers don’t have to do much. It’s an adult learning environment.” 

“The principal doesn’t know us mainly because last 2 years we were in lockdown.  He’d know the year 12s better.”

“What I don’t like is sometimes they schedule wellbeing classes just before a test and I want to study for the test – but I think that happens in any school.” 

Last words

This school is obviously a very academic focussed environment which aims to bring out the best and cater to the brightest of all students.  The benefit is that academically minded, students will be surrounded with likeminded people who are serious about academic achievement.  The possible disadvantage is the lack of diversity in terms of interests, personalities, and maybe world view.  

I think the principal has a good philosophy, trying to encourage students to think about courses outside of the traditional medicine and law and trying to imbue the students with an understanding that there is more to life than ATAR.  However, how much of this philosophy filters down into the student community and how this actually impacts the culture at Nossal High School, I’m uncertain.  

However, honestly, if my child was talented enough to be selected for the school.  I would give it some serious consideration.  After all, it’s an extremely high quality education in a public high school. 

Do you have any experience, questions or comments about this school? Let our community know and add a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

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