NZ punches above its weight with Teach For All Conference

News items - Press releases - 13 October 2015

Teach First NZ Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Shaun Sutton, writes about New Zealand punching above our weight in the Teach For All Global Conference 2015.

13 October 2015
New Zealand punches above its weight with Global Teach For All Conference

New Zealand is showing that yet again we can punch above our weight on the global stage as Teach For All, the international network of charities seeking to end educational inequality, holds its annual Global Conference in Auckland this week. The fact that Teach For All has chosen New Zealand this year is a testament to the quality of our education system, of which Teach First NZ is playing an important role.

And it’s true. New Zealand does have a high-quality public education system by global standards, which the hundreds of international visitors this week are exposed to, and which all New Zealanders can be proud of.

But while the system works well for most young Kiwis, it is still failing far too many. Inequality in educational outcomes associated with low incomes, ethnicity and other factors is very real across the world. But evidence from the OECD, through its PISA tests, shows that New Zealand has one of the most inequitable education systems of all developed countries. This has significant moral, economic and social ramifications for our country.

And that’s why the local community of Teach First NZ, an independent non-profit initiative designed to tackle educational inequality in New Zealand, is growing. This network of teachers, principals, businesses, and philanthropists is committed to addressing the fact that our education system is not fair. Our vision, and I’m sure a vision that all New Zealanders aspire to, is that one day all young people in this country will achieve their full educational potential, regardless of their background.

To date, Teach First NZ has recruited, trained and placed three intakes of high-achieving individuals to teach priority subjects in lower-decile schools across Auckland and Northland. Demand has never been stronger for Teach First NZ, with just 7% of hundreds of applicants selected to join the two-year, school-based teacher training and leadership programme. We now have our first alumni, with 87% of this group still in teaching today after three-years, mostly in lower-decile schools, and a number working in leadership roles.

And we know that the Teach First model works. The New Zealand Council for Educational Research has released two independent studies about Teach First NZ. They found our participants to be well-received in schools, to have raised expectations in classrooms and energised departments, with principals “unanimously” judging them to be “performing extremely well in the classroom”. From overseas, a recent study in the UK identified our sister programme there as one of four factors that has helped bring about the incredible turnaround success of London’s education system, bringing in thousands of Teach First teachers over the past 15 years.

Educational inequity is a global challenge. Teach First NZ has been locally setup (working in partnership with the University of Auckland and dozens of schools), and is locally managed, governed, and financed. We have chosen to be a part of the international Teach For All network, along with 36 other countries. This network facilitates the sharing of research and educational best-practice around the world, and every year convenes a Global Conference in a member country to demonstrate exemplary practice.

For Teach First NZ, our number one priority now is growing the local programme to meet increasing demand from the sector, and to serve more areas of need across New Zealand. By 2020, we plan to be recruiting 60 new teachers each year, working with schools serving around half of all students attending lower decile schools nationwide. Our alumni community will by then number over 150 – and we’ve begun work to develop this new pipeline of high quality leaders in education to stay engaged long-term with one of our country’s greatest challenges.

Teach First NZ is not going to solve educational inequality alone, and we’re committed to working in partnership with the many other dedicated teachers, leaders and others with whom we share this vision. It will take much hard-work to overcome New Zealand’s serious challenge of educational inequality – and Teach First NZ has shown we can be a part of the solution.

Shaun Sutton, Co-Founder & Chief Executive, Teach First NZ

What is Teach First NZ?

Teach First NZ ( is the local New Zealand partner of the global Teach For All network ( Teach First NZ was founded in New Zealand in 2011 as a non-profit equity initiative aimed squarely at reducing educational inequalities, one of New Zealand’s greatest challenges. It has been credited with making teaching in low-decile schools in New Zealand a top graduate choice, and is now planning to expand its initial pilot programme. The success of Teach First NZ – and more broadly New Zealand’s efforts in developing an education system that is culturally responsive – has resulted in New Zealand being selected to host the 2015 Teach For All Global Conference. See recent local press of Teach First NZ at:

What is Teach For All?

Educational inequality is a global issue, which Teach For All has been setup to address. Teach For All is the global network of over 35 independent, locally-led partner NGOs, with a shared vision for reduced educational inequities in their countries. Each partner runs programmes focused on recruiting top talent to teach in their nations’ high-need classrooms, and continuing to support them as alumni leaders in their commitment to improving educational outcomes over the long term.

Teach For All was founded under the Clinton Global Initiative in 2007, by Wendy Kopp (then CEO of Teach For America) and Brett Wigdortz OBE (Founder & CEO of Teach First in the UK). Teach For All is led today by CEO Wendy Kopp, and New Zealander Chairman Sir John Hood.

See recent international press on Teach For All at:

What is the Teach For All Global Conference?

The annual Teach For All Global Conference draws together CEOs, teachers, alumni, supporters and board members of Teach For All partners across the world, global thought leaders in education, government representatives, social innovators, along with local education officials and partners. The event serves to inspire and challenge attendees about the global effort towards educational excellence for all. Previous Global Conferences have been held in Mexico, China, Chile, India, Germany, and the UK.

New Zealand has been selected to hold this year's conference entitled “Further Together”, which will provide a unique opportunity for attendees to explore the theme and value of working together in partnership to fuel truly effective movements driving high-quality high-equity education.

For more information about the Global Conference, visit