Alison Sutton - Winner 2015

Oral language skills are an important part of learning, and yet research has shown that roughly a third of young people lack the necessary language skills needed to make a great start on reading.

COMET Auckland and Learning Auckland are sponsoring Talking Matters, a collaboration of representatives from more than 30 organisations in teacher education, health, early learning, family services, child development researchers, parenting programmes, family literacy and government.

Talking Matters is raising awareness of the importance of early oral language and will explore ways to encourage and upskill families and educators to provide the richest oral language environment possible.

Two forums have explored the importance of early oral language and school readiness and considered strategies that are effective in growing the communication confidence of children in their first few years. Already some of the participating organisations have made small changes to their practice as a result of the information shared.

Talking Matters is drawing on insights from Alison Sutton’s Winston Churchill Fellowship early in 2015 when she looked at city-wide literacy initiatives. Enhancing oral language in families and in early learning and family services emerged as a key strand of action in the cities Alison visited in England and the USA. Alison has been active in the media, advocating for more attention and action on children’s oracy. We are encouraging adults to talk, sing, read and tell stories to their kids as much as they can – simple, free and easy strategies that make a big difference.

NEXT STEPS: Talking Matters has been in a scoping phase this year. More network meetings are planned for 2015, a work programme is being developed and we are applying for funding to support this collaboration.

If you’d like more information on Talking Matters, please contact Alison Sutton, COMET Auckland’s Manager, Literacy, at



r-FINANCIAL-LITERACY-FOR-WOMEN-large570The Auckland Financial Literacy Network met last month at the HSBC House in Auckland CBD, to discuss:

  1. Women’s financial independence
  2. The importance of closing the gender pay gap, and
  3. How financial literacy issues affect young Pasifika women in New Zealand.

There was a fantastic turnout, with the conference room reaching capacity. Guest speakers Kelsi Cox and Saumalu Kali from YWCA highlighted that although the gender pay gap is steadily decreasing in New Zealand, a gap of 9.9% was recorded in 2014 – meaning that women earned an average of $300 less per week than men.

Participants learnt that women in New Zealand face constant delays in their careers, with policy and organisations limiting paid leave and employment. This is a disadvantage for women trying to pay off student loans and contribute to their savings.  For example, statistics show that it takes women three years longer to repay student debt.

More organisations are looking at their diversity policies however, and making changes to counteract gender inequalities in the workplace.

For more information on the work COMET Auckland is doing in financial literacy, or to be involved in the next Financial Literacy Network meeting, please contact our Skills Manager Shirley Johnson at

For the full March 2015 newsletter, please click here.


We all know that children are more likely to thrive in education when their parents support them and understand how the education system works. Parent engagement

As long-term advocates for family learning, the COMET Auckland team were delighted to see that many of the themes in our submission and in the submissions of our stakeholders to the Select Committee were reflected in the resulting report. You can read our full submission by clicking here and you can access the Parliamentary inquiry report here. That’s why we were pleased to see that a recent Select Committee inquiry report recommended cross-sector initiatives to encourage parents to get involved in their children’s learning. Policy changes needed if we are to promote and value family learning.

Whānau Ara Mua, Parents as First Teachers, Reading Together, and HIPPY are proven examples of family learning where parents are encouraged, supported and given the skills to support and engage with their kids’ learning.  What we need now is for programmes to connect up and to scale up to meet the need across Auckland.

For the full November newsletter, please click here.


YEP1 gradFor many young people in NZ, this will be their last year at school.  Being prepared for this shift from school will have a strong influence on how positive they feel as the year ends.

Families have a key role in helping their teens successfully launch into the next chapter of their life-adulthood. Patience and perseverance will help, but dig in, as it could be an uphill battle all the way.

Decisions about future study, training or work are too important to leave teens to sort it on their own, to leave to chance or to last minute negotiations. In a time of high youth unemployment, young people who leave school under-prepared are more likely to miss out on the limited opportunities available.

In an article in the NZ Herald, Fran O’Sullivan highlights the need for the Government to get serious about youth unemployment.

Research has shown that young people have a lifetime of expectations and habits created by the start of their career-so those who leave school to ‘do nothing’ wear the scars of this ‘failure to launch’ for many years. If you want to know more about the significant impact of youth unemployment, you can read some interesting research on the long-term effects here.

Groundwork for family with school leavers

  • Sit down with your teen; discuss how best you can help them to grow into their new adult role
  • Support your teen to achieve at school or in training – Qualifications count!
  • Encourage your teen to seek out work experience – even if it’s voluntary
  • Create opportunities for them to build their self confidence and ‘work- valued’ skills such as self-management and communication skills
  • Take him/her to a career advisor or check out sites like Careers NZ
  • Help your teen build a CV and gather references
  • Check out future destination options – Use opportunities such as university open days and Workchoice Day
  • Connect with your social and work networks and let people know your teen’s study or work goal(s) – they may be able to help
  • Ensure your teen at least has their restricted driver’s licence by the time they finish high school, as some employers won’t hire a person without one.

What other ideas do people have for parents of school leavers?