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About us

About us

Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu’s mission is to tackle educational inequality by developing talented individuals into highly effective teachers and inspirational leaders in all fields.

What is Teach First NZ?

Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu is an innovative not-for-profit organisation that engages Aotearoa New Zealand’s top graduates and career-changing professionals in contributing to tackle one of our country’s most pressing challenges – educational inequality.

The programme works to make teaching a high-status graduate choice, attracting highly-qualified and well-rounded university graduates and career-changing professionals – often those who may otherwise not have applied to teacher training – to secondary schools serving lower decile communities.

Our immediate objective is to improve student outcomes in areas of educational disadvantage, by supporting our participants to teach for at least two years in their placement school. Longer term, we aim to build a community of committed alumni who have first-hand experience of educational inequality, and who use these experiences to continue to work towards closing the education gap.


Long-term impact

The Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu vision extends beyond the two years participants spend in the classroom. We need leaders in all fields to encourage debate and action in response to system-wide factors – outside the control of a school – that significantly impact upon educational outcomes.

Our participants receive training, support and networking opportunities designed to extend their teaching skills and prepare them for leadership roles. We aim to support our alumni to remain engaged with the Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu mission beyond the two years. Many will stay in schools, while others will go on to work in wider education, business, or the public service. Those who don’t work directly in education remain strong advocates of its cause, taking with them a personal understanding of the realities in their schools – especially of the potential of their students to achieve. Others may become school trustees or continue to mentor students. Our main aim though is for all alumni to remain in some way engaged with the vision of educational equity for all.


Our history

Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu is an independent and non-partisan not-for-profit organisation, supported by both public and private sector partners. In March 2011 we became incorporated as a charitable trust, and registered as a charity with Charities Services (DIA).

The establishment of Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu is a result of collaboration among a number of individuals and groups from across the political spectrum and from all sectors of society, united by a commitment to improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged children throughout New Zealand.

Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu is inspired by similar programmes of the international Teach For All network, but is carefully adapted to the local New Zealand context and legislation. Our sister programme in the UK, Teach First, is now one of the largest recruiters of Oxford and Cambridge graduates, and has been able to make teaching in a school facing challenging circumstances one of the most competitive graduate opportunities in the UK.

Teach First NZ’s Founding CEO, Shaun Sutton, and Founding Chair, Deborah George, have been involved with the programme since its earliest inception, and Emma Russell from Teach First (UK) assisted in writing the original feasibility study. The Dean of Education at the University of Auckland, Professor Graeme Aitken, led the process of establishing our intial partnership with the Faculty of Education.

The individuals and organisations that have supported our establishment are too many to name comprehensively, however early supporters include the Aotearoa Foundation, Chapman Tripp, and Deloitte. For more information see Our partners.


Our values

Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu has six core values, which reflect deeply held beliefs about what is important or desirable to us. While our mission statement inspires and motivates us to fulfil Teach First NZ’s purpose, our values guide the thoughts and behaviours that drive the achievement of our goals. The values should be evident in our philosophy, structures, relationships, actions and language.

All Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu staff, trustees, participants, and alumni commit to pursuing and reflecting these values in their work. Every decision and every interaction that takes place should be guided by the values of the individuals involved, the values of their communities, and the collective values of the Teach First NZ partnership and wider network.

   -  Integrity / Te ngākau pono
   -  Respect / Te whakaute
   -  Partnership / Te mahi ngātahi
   -  Continuous learning / Te ako mā te whakaaroaro
   -  Resilience / Te manawanui me te ū
   -  Excellence / Te kairangitanga

Click here to find out more about why we believe these values are important and how we enact them.


Ako Mātātupu

The Māori name for Teach First NZ is Ako Mātātupu, which can be directly translated as ‘the first shoots of teaching and learning’.

Ako itself means teaching and learning – that is, it is a reciprocal activity through which both the learner and the teacher learn from each other.

Our whakataukī (Māori proverb) is Ko te piko o te māhuri, tērā te tupu o te rākau. This can be translated as ‘the way the sapling is shaped determines how the tree grows’. Embedded in the whakataukī are notions of nurture, support, teaching and learning, and guidance.


Our brand

The Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu logo is composed of geometric shapes, representing education and learning. The shapes are arranged to symbolise an adult teacher on the left and a child learner on the right, representing nurture through partnership. 

Download our logo


The geometric shapes throughout our brand continue the theme of education and learning. They are designed to evoke the poutama tukutuku pattern, representing growth, learning, and the building blocks of education. The patterns also represent the aspirational values of our programme.

Multiple colours represent Aotearoa New Zealand's richly diverse student population, and the diverse community of participants and alumni we aim to build.

We work towards greater equity of educational outcomes. Equity of outcomes involves adaptability, shift, resilience, rearrangement, and collaboration – part of weaving a new pattern over time, that is modern, aspirational and inclusive.