Biggest cohort yet at Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu

Voices - In the media - 14 December 2017

Our CEO Jay Allnutt welcomes our newest and biggest cohort to date at our annual Ako Mātātupu 2017 event, and talks about what this means for our work in helping to address educational inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand. *This article originally appeared on

Teach First NZ was launched in 2012 as an innovative new teaching and leadership programme to encourage more great people to enter teaching and contribute to addressing educational inequality as leaders. In November this year we welcomed our sixth and largest cohort into our whānau to start this journey.

These forty-five new participants will begin teaching in schools serving low-income communities at the start of the 2018 academic year, following their intensive pre-service, residential training over the summer. Once in school they receive dedicated, funded in-school mentoring, along with support from Teach First NZ and our tertiary partner, the Mind Lab by Unitec, to complete their teaching qualification. Beyond the two-year programme, our hope is that they commit their career to working towards the vision of an Aotearoa in which all young people can fulfil their potential.

At our Ako Mātātupu event on 28 November we were joined by 300 alumni, friends, family, supporters and school partners at Mangere Arts Centre – Nga Tohu o Uenuku to celebrate the new cohort. This annual event is our opportunity to draw together the network that has grown around our programme. It’s our chance to recognise those who have supported us this year, and to celebrate those participants coming to the end of the programme and joining our growing alumni network.

This year’s event comes at a point of inflection for our community. To date we have worked with 150 high-achieving individuals, all of whom have completed the programme working in schools serving low-income communities. We continue to focus on high-demand subjects, and in the new cohort 74 per cent are teachers of STEM or te reo Māori.

Of the alumni who have completed our programme, over 90 per cent have continued to teach – many now entering their fifth and sixth year in the profession. One in four have taken on a position of leadership within their school. Of those who leave teaching, we see a number going on to study or work in policy, with an eye to how this influences inequality in the classroom.

For the 2018 cohort we have reviewed our programme and worked with the Mind Lab by Unitec to develop a new Master of Teaching and Education Leadership (MTEL). Our participants will complete this teaching and leadership qualification as part of our programme, while they teach. The new qualification draws on evidence from both New Zealand and overseas about what works in school-based initial teacher education and leadership development. This includes lessons from our first five cohorts, and the independent evaluations of our work completed by NZCER.

Our Ako Mātātupu event was a celebration of this new collaboration with the Mind Lab by Unitec, as well as for our partnership to date with the University of Auckland. With the new qualification we are setting out to ensure that we’re preparing future-focused teachers and leaders who can deliver exceptional educational experiences for the young people they work with. With this, we’re excited to be contributing to the great work that is already happening in the initial teacher education sector.

A number of the young people we work with in schools serving low-income communities joined us for the evening. The event included performances by students from our partners Tangaroa College, Wesley College, and South Auckland youth theatre company the Black Friars. Keeping students at the centre of our work is a reminder of our vision and of the difference that our participants and their colleagues are making in these schools.

Recently, one of these students was in our office helping us to plan for the year ahead. I asked her what she thinks are some of the reasons why many young people do not fulfil their potential through education. Her answer was: “The freedom to learn” – many young people are held back from owning their learning and grasping the opportunities that are afforded to others.

These things need to be untangled if all young people are to really have the same opportunities and go on to fulfil their potential. The Ako Mātātupu event was a reminder of the many fantastic people alongside whom we work and who will support our newest cohort to contribute towards making this a reality for all young people in Aotearoa.


2017 Teach First NZ Participant Rewa Worley offers a mihi at the start of Ako Mātātupu 2017.

Members of the Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu whānau network before the event.

Members of the graduating 2016 cohort sing their waiata, led by Charles Looker.

To read the article on Education Gazette, click here.

To view the full album from the event, click here.

To listen to Jay Allnutt's speech from the Ako Mātātupu event, click here.