Matraville Sports High School principal Nerida Walker is determined to challenge the stereotypes surrounding her school, and central to her plan is UNSW’s centre for gifted education, GERRIC. 

More known for its sporting program than its academic opportunities, Matraville High has struggled in recent years to maintain its enrolments. 

"We're famous for turning out football stars like Russell Fairfax and the Ella brothers," Ms Walker told the Sydney Morning Herald.  "A lot of parents see Matraville as a sports high and they think the school is just for sporty kids and that you need to go somewhere else if you want academic success. And, because rugby league is one of our sports, anything associated with league somehow leaves a bit of residue in our school."

Walker believes there’s scope for excellence in both sport and studies at the south-east Sydney school, where many students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and almost a third are Indigenous.

“There have always been gifted students at Matraville High, we’ve just never had the resources to assist them,” Walker said. 

With the assistance of GERRIC, 25 of the school's students have been identified as gifted and talented and are attending UNSW’s Creative Scholars after-school program. 

Six of the students received scholarships to join around 200 other students at a three-day school holiday program this week. The program includes workshops in globalisation, electronics and the anatomy of the human brain. 

Presented by UNSW academics, the courses are designed with a level of difficulty two years above the students' grade level, offering participants a challenge. 

The classes also give students the opportunity to meet like-minded peers. 

For 13 year-old Ziggy Williams, the courses so far have been eye-opening. 

“Last week, we had to recite poems we’d written in front of an audience of 20 people. And I had to go first, which was the scary bit. 

“Today we were in a lab looking at human brains. I never thought I’d ever be doing something like that,“ he said.

Read more in the Sydney Morning Herald

For more information about UNSW’s centre for gifted education, go to the GERRIC website.

Media contcat: Steve Offner, UNSW Media, 02 9385 1583