Sparking a new era in education.
The UNSW Matraville Education Partnership is an ongoing community engagement initiative between the UNSW School of Education and Matraville Sports High School (MSHS), and the broader Little Bay Community of Schools (LBCoS) serving children in southeast Sydney.
Academics and students from UNSW work with Matraville students, teachers and the wider public to deliver a suite of educational opportunities that support the aspirations of the school and its community.
For more information about the achievements of the partnership between Matraville and UNSW, view our infographic.
Get involved with the program.
Once known primarily for the strength of its sports program, MSHS is now gaining recognition for its success in improving student educational outcomes. New academic opportunities are becoming part of the school culture thanks to the alliance between UNSW and MSHS.
The diversity of the Matraville student population is one of its greatest assets and presents a unique opportunity for UNSW teacher education. Matraville is a place UNSW students can learn from young people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, non-English speaking and low-socioeconomic backgrounds, and from their teachers, families and communities.
Research supports the view that the best places for children to be educated are those rich in diversity and initiatives that support community aspirations are the best way to raise educational outcomes. For UNSW and MSHS, the partnership is more than just an opportunity for the mutual development of their respective students; it is about education, connection and community.
The UNSW Matraville Education Partnership involves enriched curriculum activities for students, professional learning and ongoing research with teachers, events for parents and community members, and partnerships with the La Perouse Aboriginal community and the wider community to which the school belongs. We seek to build teacher, family and community capacity to meet the needs of all students.
The Matraville Education partnership has evolved since its beginnings in 2015. Its initial pillars were to extend the student experience, enrich initial teacher education and applied research, enhance teacher professional learning, and engage the school community. After several years of successful track record across these areas, in 2021 the strategic priorities of the partnership were reenvisaged to better support students from the Matraville community to achieve positive educational outcomes.
Strategic priority 1: Raise the educational motivations, aspirations and achievement of low-SES and Indigenous students in the Matraville area
UNSW is an integrated part of students’ experience at MSHS from the moment they start in Year 7 till they complete their secondary studies. The UNSW Matraville Education Partnership manager works onsite at MSHS, connecting staff and students to people, events and opportunities across UNSW and supporting MSHS students’ educational needs. Examples include afterschool and holiday programs, working with UNSW tutors, extra assistance in classes from UNSW education students, the UNSW Gateway Program, incursions and excursions involving UNSW staff from a variety of disciplines, and dedicated scholarships for Matraville graduates who attend UNSW.
Strategic priority 2: Engage UNSW with the Matraville community and build capacity to raise low-SES and Indigenous student outcomes
Student success doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and working closely with families is key to ensuring our work has lasting impact and aligns with a particular community’s hopes for their children. UNSW works closely with the local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG), MSHS Parent and Citizens’ Committee, and individual families to ensure our activities are helpful, supportive and culturally appropriate. A free parent lecture series has attracted parents from local schools and further afield, and flagship research projects such as the Culture, Community, and Curriculum Project (CCCP) and the Cultural Residents Project seek to elevate the Aboriginal community’s voice in local schools.
Strategic priority 3: Engage UNSW with the Matraville teaching staff and build capacity to raise low SES and Indigenous student outcomes
Research shows that teacher effectiveness has a profound impact on student success. The partnership offers professional learning opportunities to teachers from MSHS and its surrounding primary schools to build their capacity across a range of areas, including gifted education, special needs education and meeting the needs of culturally diverse learners. These teachers also open their doors to research undertaken by UNSW academics, helping advance and trial cutting edge educational practice. Matraville staff engage in mentorship of the next generation of teachers through hosting UNSW pre-service teachers as classroom assistants and practicum students, and report that these experiences help them gain new skills and creative ideas, and feelings of self-efficacy.
Matraville Future Students Hub
In recent years, the impact of COVID 19 has affected the development of new research projects, academic initiatives that enhance student experience, and social engagement programs that are reciprocal and beneficial for both UNSW and the Matraville community. The extended time students, teachers and their families have spent away from the regular routines has contributed to high levels of disengagement and isolation, impacting students’ wellbeing, academic achievement and aspirations.
To address these challenges, the MEP Future Students Hub was envisioned in 2022 to reconnect the Matraville and UNSW communities through in-person engagement initiatives.
The MEP Future Students Hub seeks to continue to “share the wealth” of resources that UNSW has to offer with members of our local community. It has provided opportunities for high school students to learn more about university and to be supported in their education and their aspirations. In turn, these activities have helped UNSW staff and students to build their knowledge and skills in working with and learning from diverse communities.
In 2022, expressions of interest were solicited from staff in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture to propose new initiatives with Matraville as part of the Future Students Hub. Ten EOIs were received and the majority of them were able to be undertaken over the past year, or are currently in progress. Examples include:
Work-Integrated Learning Opportunities
Pre-service and in-service teacher development
Matraville is a key partner school in supporting the future of the teaching profession, providing numerous placements for UNSW pre-service teachers every year. Pre-service teachers who are placed at Matraville consistently report that they gain valuable knowledge about working with students of diverse backgrounds and abilities and become more certain whether teaching is the right career for them.
“The experience at Matraville was fulfilling educationally and personally. It gave me insight into teaching and the day to day interactions of the classroom from a teachers perspective and was very helpful in solidifying my choice to become a teacher.” - B.Ed. student, 2022
“Matraville High School was a great environment to begin my placement. It was eye-opening regarding the amount of work teachers are required to do, but also inspiring about the teachers care for the students.” – B. Ed. Student, 2022
In addition, the MEP provides opportunities for Matraville teachers to pursue ongoing professional learning. In 2022, approximately 20 teachers received professional support from UNSW academics through the Culturally Nourishing Schooling project (facilitated by Associate Professor Kevin Lowe and Dr Rose Amazan) and Early Career Teachers’ Mentoring project (facilitated by Dr Karen Maras, Professor Terry Cumming, and Dr Ellen Lee).
Built Environment initiative
Education students are not the only ones undertaking WIL placements at Matraville – in 2022 the School of Built Environment began what is hoped to be an annual placement in which a group of students from a variety of SBE programs used Matraville as a site for a landscape design project. The students undertook stakeholder consultation, meeting with students, staff and community members, to create concept designs for an area of the school in need of refurbishment.
The results were inspiring, exciting and well-received by the Matraville community, providing a practical jumping-off point for the school to undertake implementing the revitalisation. The SBE students, in turn, reported that they learned a great deal about interacting with a unique group of stakeholders and about the local environment and Country, and enjoyed chance to make a difference in a real-life, local setting.
Academic Enrichment for Matraville students
Throughout the year, MSHS students receive academic support from UNSW students as in-class assistants as well as through afterschool programs such as Homework Centre and a Music club. UNSW Student Ambassadors make several visits each September to assist Year 12 students with completing their UAC applications. Additional HSC preparation support is offered to Year 12 students during the September school holidays each year.
Another key initiative is the Work Experience program for Year 10 students, in which UNSW is a key employer offering places for up to 25 Matraville students each year. Students gain experience in a variety of settings, from the gym and aquatic centre to events management, Nura Gili, various academic departments, and more. Both Matraville students and UNSW staff report this to be a valuable and worthwhile experience. You can read more about the 2022 program here.
Support of community-engaged research practices
The MEP helps facilitate research opportunities that contribute to new knowledge in education and that uphold ethical and relational practices for research involving First Nations and low-SES communities. Matraville is one of eight New South Wales high schools involved in the Culturally Nourishing Schooling Project, which aims to improve schooling experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through strengthening partnerships between schools and local Aboriginal communities, facilitating teacher learning and changes to professional practice.
Relationships with the local AECG have also facilitated a program of local Aboriginal community members and Elders working in primary schools as part of the Culture, Community, Curriculum Project (2016-2018) and Cultural Residents Project (2020-2022).These initiatives have inspired momentum among eight local schools to allocate funding for local Aboriginal Cultural Educators from their own budgets.
Karen is a Senior Lecturer in the UNSW School of Education, whose research interests include curriculum reform, visual arts education, and critical and creative thinking. As the Director of the Matraville Education Partnership, Karen works closely with members of the school community to ensure that the activities pursued will uphold the strategic priorities of the partnership. She is also the “Academic in Residence” at Matraville, spearheading a mentoring initiative for Early Career Teachers and an interactive research-practice project involving Matraville students in site-specific animation.
Program Manager: Katherine Thompson
Katherine is a former high school teacher, originally from the United States. As Program Manager, she spends two days per week on site at Matraville Sports High School, working with Matraville staff, students and the wider community to build connections with UNSW that enhance students’ learning and expand the opportunities available to them. She also works in other roles in the Faculty, related to her areas of passion for social justice, anti-racism and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.
The UNSW Matraville Education Partnership Advisory Committee comprises UNSW and Department of Education staff members and influential community members who support the aims of the partnership. The committee, which meets once a year and is chaired by Professor Claire Annesley, Dean of Arts, Design & Architecture, has been instrumental in building the partnership’s profile, raising awareness and seeking opportunities for funding and expansion.