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Our Patrons

Our Patrons

Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu is honoured to have the support of influential New Zealanders. These outstanding individuals exemplify our vision to address educational inequality and provide equal opportunities for all young people in Aotearoa New Zealand to succeed.

Dame Lesley Max

Dame Lesley Max has dedicated her life to advocating for the welfare of young people in New Zealand, and her efforts have been acknowledged internationally.

In her early twenties, Dame Lesley Max taught at Hounslow Manor Comprehensive, a secondary school in West London, during which a deep interest in the subject of children’s welfare and educational opportunity grew. Upon returning to New Zealand in the 1980s, Dame Lesley began to write for the newly established Metro Magazine, penning articles which focused on children’s wellbeing. She wrote many cover stories during her thirteen years of contributing to the magazine, and came to wider public attention after writing “ A Children’s Story”, a myth-puncturing piece that challenged New Zealand’s reputation as “a great place to bring up kids”. Dame Lesley then went on to write “Children: Endangered Species?”, published by Penguin in 1990. In the same year, Dame Lesley co-founded Great Potentials Foundation, formerly known as The Pacific Foundation, a social enterprise agency that works to help address many of the same challenges she wrote about, including breaking the cycle of disadvantage. 

The most notable strategy the Foundation introduced is HIPPY,  the Home Interaction Programme for Parents and Youngsters. The programme, which has benefitted many thousand New Zealand children and their families in poorer communities across the country since 1992, works by unlocking the latent potential of parental teaching in the home setting as a way of boosting children's learning achievements.

“Creating awareness is one thing. Creating solutions is another.”
– Dame Lesley Max

Dame Lesley’s first major initiative, where HIPPY was trialled, was developing the Family Service Centre model, in 1992.  It is a one-stop-shop for health, education and social services in disadvantaged communities.  Seven such centres are now operating in New Zealand.

In 2002 a further initiative was established, the programme known as MATES, the Mentoring and Tutoring Education Scheme, which matches university student tutor/mentors with younger learners, those making the transition from intermediate school to secondary, and those making the transition from secondary to tertiary study.  Again, the programme is provided for students in low decile schools, to provide opportunity otherwise not available.

In 1993 Dame Lesley Max was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship and a year later she was made a Member of the British Empire [MBE] for her services to children.
In response to new scientific evidence on the impact that experiences in the early years have on the brain development of a child, Dame Lesley assisted in the establishment of the Brainwave Trust in 1998, to enable relevant knowledge to be disseminated in presentations around the country.

Dame Lesley’s government appointments have included terms as a Director of the Northern Regional Health Authority and as a member of the Family Violence Advisory Committee. She was a member of the Family Service National Advisory Council (FSNAC), is co-patron of the Family Help Trust, is patron of the National Council of Women and now Teach First NZ.

Dame Lesley and her husband, Robert, have four grown-up children, living in Auckland, Melbourne and New York, and five grandchildren.


Remembering Sir John Graham

9 January 1935 - 2 August 2017

Sir John served as Teach First NZ patron from our launch in 2013, and we are grateful to have had one of New Zealand’s most respected and inspirational education leaders involved with our work.

Sir John was well known as an All Black, as headmaster of Auckland Grammar School and as founder of the Academic Colleges Group (ACG). As a Trustee of both the New Zealand Education and Scholarship Trust (NZEST) and Woolf Fisher Trust, Sir John worked with many initiatives helping young people to achieve their potential and addressing educational inequality, including providing support for the Teach First NZ programme. As an educator, sports person and leader, Sir John was an inspiration to us all here at Teach First NZ.