History of Whittlesea Secondary College

Whittlesea Secondary College, (formerly Whittlesea Technical High School), was established on its site in February 1977 following two years of community interest and demand. With an initial enrolment of 166 students, the school has been co-educational from its inception.

In 2007, the College celebrated its 30th Anniversary with past staff and students attending a celebrating day. The College has served a mixed community: long established farming communities, people on small holdings, suburban commuters, workers and small business owners from the northern industrial suburbs.

The foundation Principal, Mrs Phyllis Hipworth, held the position from July 1976 until February 1993. During this period the College continued to grow until it had 56 relocatable rooms on site and 1076 students.

Mr George Rochfort was appointed Principal in 1994. He first arrived at Whittlesea in 1980 to take up the position of Deputy Principal. Prior to this he had a teaching career serving in both metropolitan and country schools.

In 1984 a joint school-community basketball stadium was completed and construction commenced on permanent school buildings including the canteen and administration blocks. The school is architecturally unique with the design based on the idea of a Victorian colonial village. This provides a very pleasant working atmosphere in a rural environment, which reflects the district’s historical background as one of Victoria’s earliest farming districts in the Plenty Valley. The College was officially opened by the Premier of Victoria, the Hon. John Cain MP on November 6th 1987. The Phyllis Hipworth Library was opened by the Hon. Marie Tehan MP, Minister for Health and Member for Seymour, on May 28th 1993.

In 1996, Ms Avril Salter was appointed as Principal to the College resulting in innovative curriculum changes, new and updated buildings and enhanced student welfare programs. On October 12th 2001 the Science Wing and Administration upgrade were completed and officially opened by Ben Hardman, MP Member for Seymour. On September 16th 2002 the Premier, Steve Bracks and the Minister for Education, Lynne Kosky, officially opened the new Technology Wing, Canteen upgrade and the new Fabrics and Graphics rooms.

On 22nd November, 2006, the new Performing Arts Centre, Drama, Dance and Music rehearsal rooms were officially opened by Mr Geoff McIllvenna, School Council President. The WETARC (Whittlesea Environmental Technology and Research Centre) was completed at the beginning of 2007. This centre uses the Environment as an Integrating context for learning with particular emphasis on ICT (Information and Communication Technology), Thinking, Communication, Design, Creativity and Technology.

The College expanded its VCE program to cater for Year 10 students seeking an accelerated learning program. This has been extended to students commencing tertiary studies at university whilst completing Year 12. The College has strong links to Kangan Batman TAFE and other TAFE’s and Universities through its involvement in Vocational (VET) programs and is recognised as one of the leaders in the state. In 2003 Whittlesea Secondary College was awarded the VET Excellence Award and in 2007 awarded winner VET-State Training Awards and Finalist, VET – National Training Awards and in 2008 Host Employer of the year. In 2004 the College introduced VCAL, a practical hands on course equivalent to the VCE.

Other innovations in recent years include: the establishment of House groups with elected College House Captains and Vice Captains, mentoring programs for boys and girls, peer mediation and the introduction of a number of scholarships for students commencing Year 7.

After twelve years service to the College, Principal Avril Salter retired at the end of 2008.

In 2009, Mr Terry Twomey was appointed bringing with him an extraordinary school year by any standards and dominated by the aftermath of the February bushfires. The fires have taken an enormous toll on the school community. Tragically the College lost students Nathan and Krystal Breeze and Caitlin and Nicola Rolands, long serving staff member Carol Holcombe and her husband David, David Stokes husband of staff member Jenice, and present school councillor Karen Rolands and her husband Paul. Sixty of our College families and seven staff members lost houses and half of the students personally know someone who perished in the fires. Some students have travelled significant distances to continue to attend school whilst others are living in alternate accommodation or with extended family.

The fires have provided unparalleled challenges for us as a school community yet despite all the distress and devastation the resilience and spirit has however been equally astounding. Our classroom teachers have been at the forefront of our school response (especially through their roles as home group teachers) which has been built on the excellent relationships they have with students.

Our welfare team led by Sue Muir and Ian Findley have carried out their work with great care and empathy. The memorial service held at Plenty Ranges Convention Centre on Wednesday April 1st was attended by more than 800 of our students and staff as well as a number of our Federal and State politicians including the Premier Mr Brumby and the Minister for Education Bronwyn Pike. School Chaplain Ian Findley led the service in which the Premier spoke and our school captains and house captains read out tributes written by fellow students. Performer Sylvie Paladino sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and an inspiring version of ‘You Raise Me Up’. The day concluded back at school with the release of 800 multi-coloured balloons on the basketball court.

We have had wonderful support throughout the year, from all levels of government, our local members of parliament, our parent body, a range of community groups and individuals, teacher unions, volunteers and schools from all over the country. In the April school holidays, thirteen teachers from St Helena Secondary College volunteered their time for a 3 day VCE revision program which seventy of our students attended.

Despite the challenges facing Whittlesea Secondary College after the bushfire crisis, the College continues to provide students with opportunities and great success in a wide range of exciting, innovative curriculum preparing them for fulfilling lifelong learning.

2010 has seen the largest intake of Year 7 students for six years and the announcement of a new Trade Training Centre that will provide new facilities for us to deliver programs in Automotive, Engineering and Carpentry.