Schools in the Northcote area were usually not built in anticipation of population growth, but were put off until the numbers enrolled at other schools were unbearably high, with overcrowding, classes in corridors, and children fit in anywhere they can. There was a piece of land in Clarke Street set aside for a school in 1915 and as houses were built around it, and the population of the area greatly increased, a school was not built on this site until 1924, almost ten years later.
The building of this school came as a result of a public meeting held in 1922 condemning overcrowded conditions. The school was not ready until the end of 1924, and as soon as it opened on November 24th, it too was overcrowded as the population growth in Northcote in the 1920s did not let up. Extensions to the school were approved immediately.
After extensions, Westgarth Primary School had room for up to 1100 students. The new building was completed in 1927 and opened on August 12th. At this time the school was averaging 950 students in attendance a day.
In the 1970s Westgarth Primary School erected administration offices in Brooke Street close by to the main school. Before this time the site was known as ‘Smith’s Paddock’ and used as a park. This spot also hosted Guy Fawkes bonfire nights for the community which were very popular.
The original red-brick building in Clarke Street was demolished in the 1980s to make room for a number of new school buildings. Today students still attend Westgarth Primary school with 540 students enrolled in 2012. Prep to Grade two attend at the Brooke Street site and Grades three to six attend the Clarke Street site. There are 38 equivalent full time staff employed.
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2012). 2011 Annual Report to the School Community. Westgarth Primary School. School Number: 4177. Retrieved from http://www.vrqa.vic.gov.au/StateRegister/Provider.aspx/GetFile?Type=AnnualReport&EntityID=1&SchoolNumber=4177
Lemon, Andrew (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.
Swift, William George (1928). The history of Northcote: From its first settlement to a city. Northcote, Vic: Leader Publishing.
Westgarth Primary School (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2012, from http://www.wgps.vic.edu.au/about/history.html