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UNSW has joined forces with Matraville Sports High School in a unique partnership that creates Australia’s first university presence on a high school campus.

The UNSW Matraville Education Partnership will see around 70 UNSW pre-service teachers based at the school in Sydney’s south-east for extended periods throughout each semester. The student teachers will actively address academic and social disadvantage by leading in-school and after-school enrichment programs, including in drama, music, science and gifted education.

“I know that as a result of this partnership HSC results will change, opportunities will change and conversations at home will change.”

A UNSW-sponsored building to house the partnership was officially launched today by Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, Dr Michele Bruniges.

The UNSW Matraville Education Partnership is a new initiative between the UNSW School of Education and Matraville High School, delivering a suite of educational, fun, and supportive activities to students and the community. Visit

“What a great collaboration this is between teachers, the university and the wider community to bring this great idea to fruition,” said Ms Bruniges, before joining UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Ian Jacobs to cut the ribbon to open the facility.

Professor Chris Davison, the Head of the School of Education at UNSW,  said the partnership would benefit the University, offering rich opportunities to enhance teacher training and academic applied research.

“We are taking a strategic, holistic approach,” Professor Davison said. “It is about pooling resources, knowledge and skills, and in the end it’s about making a better learning environment for everyone.”


Dr Michele Bruniges, Secretary of the NSW Department of Education and UNSW Vice-Chancellor Ian Jacobs (centre) cut the ribbon to officially launch UNSW's facilities at Matraville Sports High School.

Professor Davison said that unlike other school collaborations, the UNSW Matraville Education Partnership was unique in that it involved all year levels and curriculum areas and the whole school community, including Matraville’s five feeder primary schools.

Matraville’s student band performed ‘Stand by Me’ to welcome dignitaries to the launch. They included Federal Member for Kingsford-Smith Matt Thistlethwaite, Member for Maroubra Michael Daley, the Mayor of Randwick Noel D'Souza and Matraville Sports High School graduates and sports heroes Marcia Ella-Duncan and Mark Ella.


Matraville Sports High School Principal Nerida Walker (left) and UNSW's Professor Chris Davison

Matraville Sports High School is among Sydney’s most diverse schools. It has one of the highest concentrations of Indigenous students (31%), and 24% of students are from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Best known for its elite sports program, the school has turned out football stars (rugby league’s Russell Fairfax and rugby union’s Ella brothers) and netball stars (Marcia Ella –Duncan) but also foreign ministers (Bob Carr). It was built in the 1960s to cater for around 1000 students, but in recent years the school’s population has hovered around 250. 

“While we have elite sports coaching that we are known for and want to retain, we’re trying to offset our sports branding with wider academic achievement,” Matraville Sports High School’s principal, Nerida Walker has said.

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

Ms Walker pointed to the school’s win this week in the national Archibull Art Prize competition and the success of the student band as symbols of the school’s changing fortunes.

“A term-and-a-half ago this band did not exist. The sole reason it does now is UNSW,” she said acknowledging the musical tuition provided by the pre-service teachers.

“These kids have talents of all different types and to pigeon-hole them does them a disservice.”

Ms Walker said the partnership’s educational and community building initiatives were already delivering results: enrolments for Year 7 had more than doubled – from 23 students this year to an expected 50 next year. The increased numbers had boosted the viability of the school and will attract additional resources from the state government.

“I know that as a result of this partnership HSC results will change, opportunities will change and conversations at home will change,” she  said.


Matraville Sports High School students perform an Indigenous protection and cleansing dance at the opening.

Read more about the UNSW Matraville Education Partnership in UNSW magazine – Uniken.

Watch the ABC 7.30 story here or read the background at ABC Online