Education Inequality in New Zealand

The potential of young people in Aotearoa New Zealand is limitless. Access to opportunity is not; nor is it evenly distributed.

Aotearoa has one of the highest levels of educational inequality in the developed world. We are working to help change this.

Our system doesn't currently support all young people to flourish. While serving to benefit some, our society is failing thousands of children who leave school each year without the most basic qualifications and what they need to live full, happy and flourishing lives, including accessing further education, and growing in a career they love.

The failure to meet the needs of all young people comes at a huge cost to the young person, the community they live in, and society as a whole.

The barriers to realising an equal society are many and complex, and to make the systemic change we need to achieve equality, we must address the causes at all levels.


Aotearoa New Zealand ranks 33rd out of 38 countries in the OECD for levels of educational inequality.


64% of students from schools serving the poorest communities leave school with NCEA Level 2 or higher ...


... compared to 93% of students from schools serving the most affluent communities.

Our approach

We believe it is possible for all young people in Aotearoa New Zealand to realise their potential, on their own terms.

Our contribution is a sustainable, national network of community-driven leadership. We know that inspirational leadership, both inside and outside the classroom, is crucial for improving outcomes for our rangatahi.

Developing leaders in the classroom
We provide an opportunity for outstanding people with a drive to help lead change, and a firm belief in the limitless potential of all young people, to make a commitment to addressing inequality. One of the ways to do this is through our flagship programme.

“Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi. Engari, te toa takitini.”
My strength is not the strength of one; it is the strength of many.

Our flagship programme is one way we are contributing to building a national movement of people working together for educational transformation.

Another way is through our Kairapu community, a dynamic force for social change, uniting of all those with an interest and belief in our kaupapa and vision, as well as all participants and alumni of our flagship programme.

United by the shared experience and knowledge of the challenges that schools and wider communities face, as well as the commitment to address the issues, our community continues to galvanise toward educational equality.

Our approach

Ko te piko o te māhuri, tērā te tupu o te rākau

The way the sapling is shaped determines how the tree grows

Our Programme

After nearly ten years, Ako Mātātupu: Teach First NZ has taken the natural step in becoming an independent Tertiary Education Organisation. While the academic element of the Teach First NZ programme was previously delivered by a tertiary partner - firstly the University of Auckland and then The Mind Lab - in 2021 we welcomed the inaugural Cohort for which a Postgraduate Diploma of Secondary Teaching will be both delivered and supported by Ako Mātātupu.

Our Programme

Our impact

The aim of our work is to help all children to fulfil their potential, by disrupting the inequities that exist in education and in society.

This is a big aim. It’s one we know we aren’t working towards alone, and that will take a long time to achieve.

Through our flagship programme, we contribute to achieving this vision by attracting more great people into the education sector who are committed to the same vision as us. We support them to grow in the knowledge and skills that can help them to make a difference, and long-term to connect with each other as Kairapu to make an increasing difference together for children.

Through our flagship programme:

  • Our participants and alumni have worked directly with 30,000 children from low-income backgrounds
  • We have recruited over 220 great people to teach in schools serving low-income communities
  • We have worked in partnership with over 60 English and Māori-medium secondary schools serving low-income communities from Kaitaia to Invercargill
  • Over 80% of those who have completed our programme have continued to teach, many now with over 5 years of experience in the profession, and over 25% in a school leadership position. Of those who are no longer teaching, many are now studying or working for change through policy and other means.

Educational inequality is the complex result of multiple factors. Evidence shows that teaching is the most significant in-school factor that can positively affect this, and we aim for our programme participants to grow as exceptional teachers and education leaders who can make the biggest difference possible, alongside the many other great teachers and school leaders already in the profession, to help all children realise their potential.

Our impact

"It's about teachers taking ownership. It's about teachers knowing that the change can start with them. Teach First NZ Programme participants are contributing to a shift in our staffroom"

— Tom Webb, Principal, Mangere College


We are committed to evaluation and continuous improvement to ensure that we are making the greatest impact possible.

Our flagship programme was subject to an ongoing external evaluation from 2014 to 2017 led by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) and supported by the Ministry of Education. The final report was released in May 2017, and looked at how well the programme had been implemented and had met its outcomes and objectives. You can read these reports here.

As a part of the Teach First NZ Programme, participants in Cohorts 2021 onwards will complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching from Ako Mātātupu.

Ako Mātātupu: Teach First NZ is a voluntary member of the Teach For All global network of similar, independently and locally funded and governed organisations in 52 countries around the world. Quantitative and qualitative impact studies have been published on programmes similar to ours.


Education Pastoral Care Code

The Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice serves as a regulatory framework established to safeguard the well-being and welfare of tertiary and international students within New Zealand's education sector. This code sets forth a comprehensive set of guidelines, policies, and standards that tertiary education organizations must adhere to when delivering services to both domestic and international students

Its primary objective is to ensure that students benefit from a superior standard of pastoral care, support, and a secure learning environment throughout their educational journey. The code is dedicated to upholding the rights and protecting the interests of learners by advocating for ethical conduct and responsible practices among educational providers.

More Information About the Code Ako Mātātupu Code Self Review
Education Pastoral Care Code

Take our eligibility quiz

Are you eligible to join our flagship programme? Our quiz will help you understand whether you meet our eligibility criteria as well as what subjects you may be able to teach.

Take the eligibility quiz!

Request an info pack

If you would like to find out more about our programme, how it works and who we are looking for, we have created an information pack just for you!

Request an info pack!

Get involved

Our flagship programme

Our flagship programme

The Teach First NZ Programme is employment-based and provides carefully selected participants with the opportunity to teach in a secondary school serving a low-income community, whilst completing a Postgraduate qualification.

Learn more about our flagship programme
Information for schools

Information for schools

We are building a network of partner schools to help us work towards educational equality. We connect with all schools interested in collaborating with us to make our education system fairer for our young people.

Learn more about information for schools
Master of Community Action & Social Impact

Master of Community Action & Social Impact

This 180-point programme is flexibly designed to suit those working full-time or part-time in schools, community, public service, not-for-profit, philanthropic and social good sectors, as well as graduates from a range of disciplines.

Learn more about master of community action & social impact
Kairapu Network

Kairapu Network

Inequality is stubborn. It takes a constellation of people - each with their own positioning, experiences, and insights - to achieve equity in our schools and in our society. Let's align our waka and urge each other on as Kairapu.

Learn more about kairapu network
Support & Donations

Support & Donations

It’s a cold reality in Aotearoa New Zealand that not all young people reach their full potential. Government, individual and philanthropic supporters help Ako Mātātupu: Teach First NZ work towards changing this and achieving equality.

Learn more about support & donations
Education & Equality Events

Education & Equality Events

Interested in innovation, equity, or social change? Ako Mātātupu facilitates community events in the spaces where education and equality intersect. These are open to all - come along to connect, innovate and grow with a like-minded community.

Learn more about education & equality events