Croxton Special School officially opened on June 7, 1957 — was the first school in Victoria to be built specifically for the education of children with learning disabilities. Originally called The Leighton School, the school comprised six classrooms in total: two classrooms for juniors, two for intermediates and one each for senior boys and girls, and catered for fifteen girls and seventeen boys at the end of its first year. With the addition of another wing and The Manual Training Centre in 1960s, Croxton later grew to be one of the largest such facilities in Victoria for its time.
Zoe Roffe was appointed Head Teacher in 1957 and held the position for ten years. She oversaw a massive expansion to the school. In 1964, a new wing was built on the south side of the original school building and the old building was extended:
‘ ... During the building of the extra wing and extensions, the tone of the school deteriorated markedly. This was brought about by the near total disruption of school life by the builders. For a whole year tractors and bulldozers were roaring outside classroom windows whilst a dozen or more workmen noisily and often carelessly demolished parts of the interior of the school ... Water was often cut off, builders’ materials, plaster which had been torn from the walls of the demolished rooms, old newspapers, remains of workmen’s lunches, dirty milk bottles, schoolbooks, furniture and every other conceivable piece of rubbish littered the school corridor ...’
The new wing provided three new classrooms, an art and craft room, a homecrafts room, hall, canteen, extra toilet facilities and a boiler room. The staff numbers grew to fourteen plus the Head Teacher. The Manual Training Centre (now FOCUS room) was opened in 1968 by Lindsay Thompson MLA, Minister of Education. This woodworking facility was a Northcote Lions Club project, with fundraising by the Parents and Friends Association and the Mothers’ Club. Money was raised by door knocks, street stalls and large school fetes. A fundraising dinner was held at the Southern Cross Hotel at which the Governor, Sir Rohan and Lady Delacombe were present. By 1970 the school population had grown to 108, (of which 37 were girls) and staff numbered 15.
In the late 1970s, a modern brick building incorporating a full size gymnasium was added which also included three modern classrooms with breakaway areas, a spacious Art/Craft facility, a large multi-purpose/ library area, a small canteen off the gymnasium, office space and internal student and staff toilets and shower facilities. Student numbers and standards declined over the late 1980s, and in 1994 with a dwindling student population, Croxton School relinquished its southern wing so that Baltara School could establish a program and the Northcote site became a shared facility for the next twelve years.
From 1993 under the leadership of Principal Richard Umbers the school entered a new era of regrowth and educational innovation by negotiating the first of many annexes to be established in neighbouring primary and secondary schools and later tertiary institutions. By the end of 1999, Croxton School had established base rooms/satellite programs at Northland SC, Brunswick SC, La Trobe Vocational Program (La Trobe University), Thornbury PS, Penders Grove PS and Thornbury Darebin SC. This innovation rejuvenated the school and enrolments climbed to 180 by 2005. The reversal in the school's fortunes also allowed Croxton to regain its former southern wing from Baltara School in 2008.
Croxton School’s base room model was very popular with families who wanted their children to be supported in a mainstream setting by Special Education trained staff. With the support of the mainstream schools and their communities, Croxton students were provided with this opportunity for an inclusive education. In 2011, with the support of the DEECD, funding Croxton established a Satellite Unit in partnership with Reservoir East PS.
Head Teachers / Principals:
1956: Mr AR Chapman (temporary)
1957: Zoe Roffe (Opening June 1956)
1967: Trevor Nanscawen
1968: Leith Cooper
1971: Zoe Roffe
1974: Clarence Tepper
1987: Robert Dickinson
1992: Boris Nikitenko (Acting)
1993: Richard Umbers
1999: Terry Knox
2006: Sandra Jenkins
2014: Bev Fegan
Adapted by Sandra Jenkins and Warwick Dunbar from a history written by Owen Dingle in April, 1970
Demolition begins of the Manual Handling Centre, May 15, 2018