The Learning Auckland leadership table was fortunate to host Lisa Rodgers, Deputy Secretary for Evidence, Data and Knowledge at the Ministry of Education, in August 2015. Lisa gave us a detailed presentation on the cradle to career pathway for young people in Auckland, to inform our planning for future Learning Auckland actions.

Lisa and her team had conducted analyses specifically for this session, around the Learning Auckland measures, so the presentation included data that is not easily available from other sources. The data gave us a rich picture of what is happening for Māori, Pasifika and new Aucklanders and the MOE’s insights about the choke points – where children and young people are not currently successful.

In order to bring wider viewpoints to the discussion around the data, the leadership table extended an invitation to members of the Tāmaki Makaurau Education Forum and RAISE Pasifika. Lisa’s presentation was followed by a rich question and discussion time, and we will be collating questions and comments from participants and passing these on to Lisa for further data requests, and to the leadership table as they plan their next steps.

You can view the presentation here

If you’d like more information on Learning Auckland, please contact Alison Sutton, COMET Auckland’s Manager, Literacy, at alison.sutton@cometauckland.org.nz


Let’s Read Them a Story! The power of parents

All parents want to help their children learn, but parents sometimes feel unsure of the best way to help. New research shows that parents with relatively little time and no specialised knowledge can still support their children’s learning effectively.

Let’s Read Them a Story! The Parent Factor in Education, a 2013 OECD report shows that many parent-child activities linked with better reading performance among students involve relatively little time and no specialised knowledge. Key actions parents can take:

  • Reading books to children when they are just beginning primary school
  • Talking with teenagers about topical political or social issues
  • Reading themselves: When parents are interested in reading, children are more likely to be interested too.

The OECD research also highlighted that parental involvement in education is essential for the success of children throughout their school years and beyond.

Reading to children isn’t easy for everyone. Parents who are not confident readers may find it hard to help their children with reading; others may not know the importance of reading to children,particularly younger children. Growing Up in New Zealand: Now We Are Born (Morton S. et al, 2012), the second report in a longitudinal study of children born here in 2010, has found family differences in reading by the time the children were nine months old:

  • 16% of mothers and 38% of fathers in the study reported they seldom or never read to their babies at nine months of age, despite only 2% of parents saying they had no books in the home
  • 4% of mothers and 15% of fathers seldom or never sing or tell stories to their babies.

Helping parents develop reading confidence and skills is crucial if we want to break intergenerational cycles of low literacy.

What would it take to support all families and whānau to read, sing and tell stories more often to their children (including babies)?  Imagine what might happen if every child in the country had an adult read to them 10 minutes a day, every day of their preschool lives!  What would it take if we had storytellers and readers all over our communities so there was reading in parks, libraries, community centres, churches, marae?


E3 Alliance – Education Equals Economics

My last site visit was to E3 Alliance on two hot days in vibrant and fast-growing Austin in Central Texas –  with a couple of cowboys, Elvis look alikes, lots of country music, wild flowers, guns, and BBQ. Central Texas has a rapidly growing population (about 1.8 million, with rapidly increasing diversity) where, like Auckland, there is a mismatch between the skills of local people and industry demands.

E3 Alliance is a specially created backbone organisation, driving collaboration around the Blueprint for Education, to build the best skills pipeline in the country. Their four goals: school readiness; eliminate achievement gaps; high school, college and career readiness; community accountability.

Making the economics of education (and the cost of failure) visible in their organisationE3Alliance Theory of Change strapline is strategic – it helps bring business to the table and keeps return on investment front of mind when planning what actions to take up. The small Board of Directors is always chaired by a business person. To maintain neutrality, their organisation bylaws preclude any elected politicians.

E3Alliance does not see itself as a grassroots organisation.  ‘Engaging with community’ in their case means powerful and on-going collaboration with stakeholders with the power and influence to change the system.

The change process is iterative, with data central to everything they do. They actively work to grow the capacity of stakeholders to understand and use data and hold quarterly data shows that draw in large crowds! The organisation promotes a graph a month, so over time stakeholders become exposed to a wide range of issues.  A common question ‘What 2 things could you/your organisation do now to make progress toward shifting that data?

The community accountability workstream is one  aspect of their work that is different to Strive Together’s cradle to career model and has proved to be one of the most powerful. It enables conversations about success being everyone’s business. An example – attendance comes under community accountability because families, health services and employers have roles to play in keeping young people at school.  For example, fast food outlets have been challenged about employing school aged students during school hours.

E3Alliance sTEx mex Lunch E3taff were very generous with their time and expertise. Seeing the depth and progress here after nearly a decade was inspiring. I came away loaded up with good ideas, new understanding of collective impact in action – and having had wonderful Tex-Mex food.

Whatever it takes – cross-sector action in Leicester

Leicester has committed to a ten-year programme to raise children’s reading levels, through Whatever it takes. The strategic board of WIT includes representatives from a union, adult literacy, community education, as well as schools.  Last year, their results were the second most improved in the UK, so stakeholders are pleased with their collaborative action.

I met Ellen Lee, the energetic programme leader toward the end of their week-long Authors Week. Fifty children from each participating schools came to autho??????????????????????????????????????????r-led workshops to promote a love of reading (and writing). That equated to more than 5,200 children over the week- a marathon effort.

Interestingly, Whatever it takes is co-chaired by a strategic lead from both the primary and secondary sectors, full-time positions that are funded by the schools themselves.

Early aims included: providing inspirational work outside the classroom to promote reading; supporting schools to take a whole-school strategic approach to reading; and quality staff professional development. School clusters meet twice a year to discuss specific local needs. Targets have  included supporting reluctant readers, ESOL and boys.  Students are surveyed annually about attitudes to reading (as well as what and how much they read) and the percentage of students reading for pleasure is tracking up.

Some students don’t transition well to high school, particularly with low reading ability play. A new initiative is identifying about 300 10-11 year olds who are significantly below reading standard during their last year of primary school. They will be offered support through the end of their school year, through the summer and into the second term of their first year at high school.  Interventions include synthetics phonics coaching, an inspirational day out and being matched with a older buddy from their new high school.

Given our own statistics – 24% of students leaving primary school below the NZ reading standard – and our summer reading slump, a focused programme of support across that all important summer of transition is worth exploring.


The Learning Auckland Leadership Table met for the second time on February 26. The Table endorsed continuing membership in Strive Together, the network of 53 cities in the USA working to create effective ‘cradle to career’ education and skills pathways for all young people.  Membership of Strive enables Learning Auckland to draw on experienced collective impact initiatives focused on education change.

Table members reported back on ‘100 conversations in 100 days’, conversations each of them had with families, young people, educators and community leaders about what people believed to be the urgent issues for Auckland to address.

There were some powerful conversations that showed the lack of coherence in parts of system, and the enthusiasm and passion many people have for ensuring all young people succeed.  Over the next few months, we will use those conversations as the springboard for action.

On the basis of these conversations, plus the data and their own knowledge and experience, the Leadership Table identified early oral language (oracy) and school readiness as their first focus area for action towards Learning Auckland’s wider goals.

Early oral language underpins success in literacy – and oral communication is a fundamental life skill.  A focus on oracy and school readiness brings together families, early learning, health, child development, family-facing services and parent education.

Over the next few months we will be bringing together a cross-sector action group to plan and drive a systems response to support early oral language development for Auckland’s children and their families.

To learn more about Learning Auckland or the oracy work, please contact Alison Sutton Alison.Sutton@cometauckland.org.nz

For the full March 2015 newsletter, please click here.


Family Learning
Family learning

The key Learning Auckland initiative for this year is the Parent Engagement Project, which aims to increase parental attendance and involvement with parent-teacher interviews at schools.

We are focused on supporting schools to report and engage with parents so that everyone can get the best outcomes for our youth.

Here are a few ways you can get involved in the Parent Engagement Project: 

Employers: Support your staff through giving them paid time off to attend their children’s parent-teacher meetings, and take an active interest in your staff’s families, and their own continued education and development

Schools and ECEs: Listen to your parents about reporting methods that work best for them, and consider using one of the models that have been found to increase parent engagement (e.g. learning stories in ECE, three-way conferencing in primary, or academic counselling in secondary). If you schedule parent-teacher meetings for a day time slot, send a letter home with children for parents to give to their employers asking for time off to attend.

Community organisations: Encourage parents to attend their parent-teacher meetings, and to make best use of the time by planning questions in advance. Let us know if you are willing to distribute leaflets to your members – these will be ready around April next year.

We will be holding a meeting in early 2014 and would like to hear from schools who have effective models in place already for increasing parent engagement with parent-teacher meetings. Please email susan.warren@cometauckland.org.nz if you are interested in attending this meeting, or if you have an effective model of parent engagement that you’d like to share with others.

If your school, company or community organisation would like to be part of this project, contact COMET Auckland at admin@cometauckland.org.nz. If you’d like to find out more about the project, sign up to Learning Auckland or share your Learning Auckland-related actions, you can do all this and more on the new Learning Auckland website.

Keep an eye out for an upcoming article about the importance of engaging businesses and employers with parent-teacher meetings in the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Employers and Manufacturers Association newsletters.