School Insight: Melbourne High School


Is there anyone who has had personal experience with Melbourne High School either in the capacity of student, parent, or staff member?

I’m interested in learning more about the school and its culture, in particular:

-Extracurriculars available
-Leadership and volunteer opportunities
-Academic structure (curriculum / how are classes categorised/streamed
-School tradition and culture
-Social aspect / inclusivity
-Anything else applicable/useful

What are the best parts about attending Melbourne High School? In addition, what are some of the weaknesses (if any).

Why would I choose MHS over another top school in Melbourne?


Hi Anon,

I graduated a few years ago from MHS so this is my take on the above points.

Extracurriculars available
There are an abundance of involvement clubs, from GIE (Global Issues Education) which is focused on fundraising/volunteering, to Scrabble Club, to Economics Club, Debating, etc.

Each extracurricular activity earns you ‘diploma points’ and at the end of year 12, students with diploma points above a certain threshold receive either a Gold, Silver or Bronze diploma based on how many points they accrued.

“Major” involvements such as Rowing, Army Cadets, Air Force cadets and some other sports accrue the most points per year, and it is possible to gain extra points if you’re a high achiever in these activities (e.g. Captain of Boats or Corporal in Cadets). Involvements such as interest clubs typically don’t reward as many diploma points, as they are deemed by the school to be of less commitment and perhaps at times, less significant to the school.

As a public (but select-entry) school, the extracurriculars available at MHS are probably unmatched and almost comparable to those at a private school. This is one of the reasons why MHS is very highly regarded and one of the schools of choice for many parents/students.

Leadership and volunteer opportunities
There are also a lot of leadership and volunteer opportunities available, both within involvement clubs, sports, and also at the house level. For example, an involvement club might have a President, a vice-Preisdent, a Treasurer, etc. I personally took on leadership roles in a few involvement clubs, as well as the SRC. I also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity which was an incredibly humbling experience.

Academic structure (curriculum / how are classes categorised/streamed)
During Year 9 and 10 there are mostly compulsory classes, such as Music in year 9, History, Geography, weekly singing (which is compulsory for your whole schooling life!), Art, Science, English and Maths, with a few electives you can choose from, e.g. Economics, Commerce

Once you transition into year 11/12 it becomes purely based on what VCE subjects you choose, so there is a lot more freedom. In general there isn’t any streaming of classes for more advanced students, however in year 12 students doing the “Asian 5” (English, Specialist Maths, Maths Methods, Chemistry, Physics) are put in the same class for all of their subjects.

School tradition and culture
MHS has a very strong culture built on brotherhood, as well as tradition. All students at the start of each year are required to swim 50m in the swimming pool, to acknowledge one of the old Principals back in the war who swam ~50m from shore to safety. In addition, while chorals is often viewed externally as being ‘sissy’, it has a very strong place at MHS both with the annual house chorals, as well as the school-wide performances each year at Speech Night. It is often said that everyone looks back on their time at MHS extremely fondly, and that an environment with such brotherhood and friendship is seldom found after high school.

Social aspect / inclusivity
The majority of MHS students are there because they want to do well. It is often a shock for bright students, that they come to MHS being their top of their class but soon realize they’re falling to the bottom. It is often assumed that there is a very competitive environment due to the select-entry nature of the school, however I would tend to disagree (from my personal experience, at least). I strongly believe that as long as you’re willing to ‘honour the work’, the academic-minded environment you find yourself in will only help you to want to succeed and study harder. Friends study together, share resources, and not once did I feel like students were deliberately withholding information or not willing to help.

In terms of the social aspect, it does end up looking like most other high schools with different ‘cliques’. However, while people have their own group, generally everyone gets along very well and there doesn’t seem to be too big of a ‘social hierarchy’ issue at MHS.

The facilities are MHS are a step up from most public schools, slightly worse than most private schools, but nonetheless of a very high standard. There is a swimming pool, gym, basketball stadium, large oval, tennis courts and a soccer pitch. The classrooms in the old building (the one you see on Google Images, ‘the castle on the hill’) are slightly worn out due to their old age, however it’s not really an issue and not run down by any means. The newer buildings have nice looking classrooms, as does the Arts building.

The BIGGEST downside facilities-wise is the lack of air conditioning. Due to heritage reasons, no air conditioning has been installed in the old building, while there is very limited A/C in the new building, and the only place with consistent A/C is the Arts building. This is a struggle in Summer, but it’s all part of the MHS package.

Anything else applicable/useful
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself accepted into MHS, the best advice I would give is to take up as many opportunities as you can - this means getting involved with whatever interests you, especially at the year 9 level (when everyone is new to everything). Had it not been for MHS, I feel like I would be a completely different person with a different sense of direction for the future. Despite its downfalls that have been illustrated recently in the media, most students look back on MHS as one of the best times of their lives.

What are the best parts about attending Melbourne High School? In addition, what are some of the weaknesses (if any).
The best part about attending MHS are the strong academics, the extra-curricular involvements available, and the tight knit community.

Being a public school, students find at times that the calibre of teachers sometimes aren’t as up to par as you would find as a private school. This being said, there are some teachers at MHS who were absolutely incredibly and made a huge positive impact on me as a student, including ones that have been there for 50+ years and soak up and dish out every single part of MHS culture. For the most part, the teachers are exceptional, and many who are teaching there could have taken up higher paid jobs at a private school, yet choose to teach at MHS due to a fondness for the strong academic culture. However, many students find that during their time they’ve encountered maybe 1/2 teachers who may have been slightly frustrating to work with (though, I’m sure students from any school would feel this way too).

Why would I choose MHS over another top school in Melbourne?
For me the decision was easy. I wasn’t financially able to attend a private school, and MHS was hands down the next best thing. In comparison with the other selective schools (e.g. Nossal, John Monash), while I don’t doubt they’ve improved in their own right over the last few years, I still believe that MHS will have an edge in terms of culture and tradition, as well as location (who wants to travel to Berwick?)

There is sometimes argument over whether a parent should pick MHS if their son is already attending a private school. I think that given the choice, MHS is definitely very competitive when matched up against other top tier schools (e.g. Scotch, Melbourne Grammar, St. Kevins, etc.), but at times there are some limitations on the range of activities/quality of teachers at MHS given that it is a public school. In addition, while MHS has a relatively strong Old Boy network (for graduates), I know that other private schools such as Scotch have a much more established and pronounced network of old students, which may be another factor to consider for future careers.