english-many-languagesLanguages not only equip us with a means to communicate with one another, they also enrich us socially, culturally, spiritually and economically.

The Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Languages Strategy aims to establish a shared agenda for a multilingual Auckland, aligning policy and practice to support, promote and foster all the city’s diverse languages and cultures.

The strategy has been developed by multiple language-related organisations, including Asia NZ Foundation, English Language Partners, NZ Association of Language Teachers, Multicultural NZ, University of Auckland, AUT, Victoria University, Community Languages Association of NZ and Auckland Council.

The Auckland Languages Strategy working group will be hosting a conference, in partnership with the Office of Ethnic Communities, to launch the strategy on the 27th November. The conference will include several exciting keynote speakers, workshops to hear about current practice, a chance to engage with the newly-published strategy, and hands-on sessions to contribute to planning for action to support languages in Auckland.

Date: Friday November 27th (save the date)

Venue: Owen Glenn Building, University of Auckland, Grafton Road

Registrations will open in October, and at that stage we will send out official invitations and circulate the programme. If you would like to be kept informed of when registrations open, please email If you would like to endorse the Auckland Languages Strategy, or would like more information about it, please



20150805_111706Papatoetoe High School student Sirila Alao aspires to be a chef in the Navy, so he was thrown straight in the deep end with work experience at SKYCITY Hotel’s 24/7 Staff Restaurant and Room Service kitchen.

Sirila is one of 100 young people working towards a Youth Employability Passport (YEP), an innovative new pilot programme that aims to equip young people with the soft skills employers have identified as being critical to securing and retaining employment.

“With a bit more training, I feel like I could even get a job as an apprentice chef,” said Sirila. “Through the YEP, now I know how to write a CV and how to act properly at a job interview.”

The YEP is currently being trialled in three schools and a youth training organisation this year. COMET Auckland plans to increase the number of students and sites involved in a wider trial next year.

Our Skills Manager, Shirley Johnson, recently spoke with HRM Online about how the objectives of YEP, click here. For more information on the Youth Employability Passport, please contact Shirley at


mould for newsletterSouthSci, the south Auckland pilot of the MBIE-funded  Science in Society: Participatory Science Platform project, is proceeding at a steady clip with an excellent level of interest and enthusiasm from the community and science sector alike. Two projects have successfully secured funding in our first intake, with results from the second intake due in the next few weeks.

The first project to kick off is led by Nick Pattison at Rongomai Primary, in partnership with Manurewa High School Health Academy, looking at mould in houses. In preparation for their own research, students from the Health Academy looked at different types of cultured mould under the microscope. Nick showed them how swabs could be taken from walls and windowsills in the homes.

The second project to receive funding is based at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate, led by Shauna Eldridge in partnership with Armagan Sabetian from AUT. The project will investigate water quality in the Otara Creek which runs along the boundary of the school grounds.

SouthSci was featured in a story by the Manukau Courier, so if you’re interested in finding out click here here and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

If you have an idea for a project, or would like to hear more about the projects mentioned above, please email our SouthSci project manager, Dr Sarah Morgan at


We are pleased to announce the COMET Auckland annual report for 2014/2015 is now available online. We invite you to browse through our recent work and achievements, and to learn how we are working with partners and stakeholders across the city to drive better educations outcomes for all Aucklanders.
The report summarises our actions and outcomes for 2014/15 and gives an overview of our strategic directions for the year ahead, contributing towards systems change to make education and skills in Auckland more effective and equitable.

We hope you find our annual report a useful tool to better understand the work we are doing and how your organisation can collaborate with us in your part of the education and skills system.

You can access the annual report here.

Why Fathers should encourage their kids to read

books_blue_photography_pink_abstract_hd-wallpaper-1879901COMET Auckland manager for literacy and family learning Alison Sutton spoke to about the gender gap in literacy and oracy, and how we can help combat it this Father’s Day and Tuesday’s International Literacy Day.

In Auckland primary schools, 81% girls are reading at or above the standard level for their age, compared to 72.6% of boys who are reading at the same level.

These figures are significantly lower down in South Auckland areas captured by Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative programme, with only 58.9% of boys reading at or above the standard for their age.

“Those figures are really worrying, because the gaps in literacy between girls and boys widen as young people go through their education journey,” said Alison.

As these boys grow into adulthood, this can result in a lack of the basic literacy skills needed for adults to do their jobs, said Alison, and can have a negative impact on their children’s reading.

“We need to build the literacy levels of parents and caregivers so that our young people can get the best start in school, and adults can thrive in their work,” she said.

There’s a call for an increased focus on literacy for boys and men across the country, so in keeping with the Father’s Day and International Literacy Day theme, COMET Auckland is encouraging fathers and father-figures to spend more time talking, reading and singing with their kids.

If you’re interested in reading the full article click here, or if you want to know more about oracy programme Talking Matters, click here.

Help promote Talking Matters this International Literacy Day

Talking MattersSupporting parents to help their kids learn is the key to getting more children reading successfully and getting the best start in education.

Oral language is the foundation for literacy, so we’re using International Literacy Day – Tuesday 8 September – to promote the importance of talking, singing, storytelling and reading to children.

Before we can read and write, we have to speak, listen and understand, so children need to be exposed to an abundance of language in their everyday lives.

A great way to grow children’s brains is through conversational turns – where the conversation goes back and forth between the adult and child at least five times (this is more than asking them questions).

Here are seven things you can do to support literacy and oracy on International Literacy Day:

  • Dedicate the day to storytelling – invite a couple of parents to tell stories about their lives, or to tell the legends of their families and cultures
  • Read aloud – read to your own kids or have them read to you or each other. Have every class read at the same time
  • Create a random act of reading – grab a pile of books and take your children to read in the public such as the park, a café, or even on the footpath
  • Spread the word – tell parents a couple of simple, free and easy ways to help grow their children’s brain by talking, singing and reading to them. One great idea is to make a collaborative digital book with your children
  • Have a book swap next week – bring in books from home, ask other parents to do the same, and have a book swap
  • With Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, ask all the Dads or father-figures you know to read to their children, and post a photo of it on social media
  • Spread the word to your staff at work by having a short training session about the importance of oral language and consider how as an employer you might help improve literacy for your own staff

Keep up with us online

We will be posting facts, stats and updates about International Literacy Day and Talking Matters on Twitter – you can follow us here.

If you’re on Twitter, use #TalkingMatters in your tweets to help get our message across.

If you want to know more information about Talking Matters click here, or check out the links below for some recent interviews and articles on oracy and literacy:


A key part of our role is advocating on issues, opportunities and challenges for education and skills in Auckland. We often engage with the local media to advocate for these issues, as do our many project partners and stakeholders.

Shirley Johnson, COMET Auckland’s Skills Manager, talked to Radio Waatea about the Science in Society contract, which will be a great opportunity to engage communities with science.

COMET Auckland’s Chief Executive, Susan Warren, discussed the impacts that New Zealand’s increasing economic disparities, as revealed in recent school decile data, will have on education – where some children don’t have room to relax, learn and study, and how insecure housing causes disruptions in a child’s learning. Susan also discussed our Auckland Languages Strategy, and how this policy will support language diversity in Auckland.

As the programme owner for Whānau Ara Mua, we were delighted to work with Sunday News, which did a great feature on Ariana Timu, a recent graduate of the family learning course. In the article, Ariana explains how developing her literacy and math skills has improved her confidence in the home, fostering stronger relationships with her children.

Please check out the links below for some of the interviews and articles on important education and skills topics:

To access this article, or to read about more of the projects we are involved in, please click here to check out the full May 2015 Newsletter.


This network is already leading to a more intentional focus on talking in programmes, increased professional development and improved connections between some services.COMET Auckland is sponsoring a Talking Matters collaboration. Representatives from teacher education, health, early learning, family services, child development researchers, parenting programmes, family literacy and government met in November last year and April this year, forming the Talking Matters network. The network includes more than 30 organisations who have sat together to talk about talking and its importance for kids.

Being such a natural part of life, it’s hard to imagine that some children start school without enough oral language to get a great start.

Local research and international evidence is growing around the challenge we face. About a third of our children may not have the language skills they need to make a great start on reading. Talking isn’t just important for education, but feedback from employers highlight that young people are often not able to talk on the job.

Two more network meetings are planned for 2015, a work programme is being developed and we are applying for funding to support this collaboration.

To link up to the Talking Matters network, contact

To access this article, or to read about more of the projects we are involved in, please click here to check out the full May 2015 Newsletter.


About 21,500 bright eyed, excitedly nervous five year olds head off each year for their first day at Auckland schools. Healthy, confident ones with support from home and with strong oral language skills and a few pre-literacy skills will do well. Our Strategic Analyst, Alison Sutton, embarked on a cross-continent trip to learn more about oracy and what’s working overseas. Here is an excerpt of her thought-provoking blog post on her travels, lessons, and what we can do here in Aotearoa to improve oracy for kids:

But for many, starting school is hard. Some don’t have the language skills they need because there wasn’t much talking or much reading at home. Others may be new to learning English. Children whose parents have low literacy are much more likely to struggle to learn to read – and it’s learning to read easily and early that is the key to education success later.

With this on-going intergenerational literacy challenge in mind, I embarked on my month-long Winston Churchill Fellowship. I visited towns where early learning, schools, community groups, employers and local councils are coming together to raise literacy levels. I was lucky enough to visit nine different organisations and programmes in eight towns and cities. 

Three key themes stood out for me:

  • Improving reading is being positioned as an important way out of poverty
  • Raising literacy takes more than schools
  • Health is a major driver for improving literacy

To read Alison’s full article on her reflections and recommendations on oracy, head to the COMET Auckland WordPress blog

If you would like to know more about literacy across Auckland or want to be part of a new collaboration contact Alison or tweet her via @AlisonJSutton

To access this article, or to read about more of the projects we are involved in, please click here to check out the full May 2015 Newsletter.


The Alliance is one of three groups around New Zealand to be awarded the MBIE ‘Science in Society’ contract. Providers in Otago and Taranaki will also roll out the initiative.COMET Auckland, on behalf of the STEM Alliance, is over the moon after being awarded the ‘Science in Society’ contract by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The project aims to inspire South Auckland young people and communities to engage with science, by supporting local organisations to develop and implement research projects that enable young people and community members to work with scientists on community-based problems and issues.

We will be putting out information on how to participate in this exciting project later this year.

For more information on this initiative, please contact Shirley Johnson, COMET Auckland Skills Manager at

To access this article, or to read more of the projects we are involved in, please click here to check out the full May 2015 Newsletter.