We are excited to announce that the 2015 Local Board Snapshots are now available online. We want these unique education and skills snapshots that provide local data to help decision making in these communities. For the first time, we have also produced an Auckland-wide and Southern Initiative snapshot to act as a useful companion for the local board data snapshots.

Each snapshot has information collected from a variety of reports, statistics, and the latest census data. Each snapshot brings together information about key characteristics of local board areas, early childhood education enrolments, and how students are achieving at school.

For access to your region’s Local Board Snapshot please click here. For the best results, please print these snapshots double sided, in colour on A3 paper. Please share these snapshots with your friends and colleagues and start a discussion with your family and communities about this data.

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.


Key Learnings from the Winston Churchill Fellowship

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.

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 a 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: Across England and the USA, improving children’s literacy by the time they start high school is being seen as an economic imperative as well as important for wellbeing throughout life.

Save the Children UK  has just launched Read On. Get On in England, a national campaign to improve the number of eleven year olds reading well.  New research on How Reading can help children out of poverty investigated the likely trajectory of children who don’t read well when starting high school shows the future is bleak and the economic cost high for working class white boys and poor Anglo-Caribbean boys with low reading ability

A similar analysis has been done by the Annie Casey Foundation in the USA, which has led to the national Grade Level Reading Campaign.

  • Raising literacy takes more than schools: all the initiatives I saw included some focus on improving teacher quality and education leadership, some of which was government funded. In towns like Leicester, Baltimore and Austin, communities were playing a big role in getting children to school ready to learn and keeping them there.

In Leicester there was a major focus on building reading for pleasure and supported city-wide reading and story-telling festivals. They also had ‘Pens Down’ days where the focus was on oral language and talking.

Many programmes sought to get an intentional focus on literacy into after school & holiday programme. Others put on fun summer reading clinics.  There were many variations of in-school reading support from volunteers. Leicester was also about to experiment with a targeted programme for 300 low literacy boys over the summer when they moved to high school, linking them with high-school mentors, providing summer enrichment and family visits as well as providing specific specialised reading help. Most cities were encouraging family-facing social services to promote the importance of early oral language and literacy-rich environments in families and in community settings.

  • Health is a major driver for improving literacy: people need literacy to receive and understand public health messages, people need literacy. And they need oral language and literacy to manage personal and family health issues and be active and consumers of health services.    The public health net was cast wide across some of these cities and programmes.

The Grade Level Reading Campaign is backing Growing Healthy Readers – linking pre-natal care to get normal birthweight babies, asthma management, warm houses and pre-school screening.

Austin was supporting community public health messages about asthma and keeping sick children away from school – while also publicising data on the link between regular attendance and achievement.

In Baltimore, public health specialists were at the table with educators, bringing antenatal and early parenting programmes into early learning centres, where the mobile library also called in.

Taking a different approach, Middlesbrough was about to trial providing books and messages about talking, storytelling and reading to the parents of premature babies, to promote family bonding

Action in Auckland

I came back more convinced than ever of the need to join up across Auckland if we are serious about making a difference to literacy across generations.  What do we need to do?

  • Grow a broader understanding of the importance of literacy across the lifespan- so more people get that reading matters
  • Get family and health services and early learning to share expertise and promote common messages to families
  • Promote and scale some of the great community learning initiatives we already have here
  • Strengthen the pathways between programmes
  • Connect up adult literacy, English language and intergenerational family learning programmes to create more coherent pathways for our families.

 My thanks to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship for providing me with this opportunity.    Applications are now open for Fellowships in 2016.   

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


Those of you who follow this newsletter may remember that our Strategic Analyst, Alison Sutton, was awarded the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship last year, recognising her skill and passion for literacy and education.

Alison spent a whirlwind month traveling in the USA and England on her Fellowship tour, observing working processes across digital, gender, and action hub literacy strategies, as well as strategies to support cohesive and dynamic cross-sector literacy collaborations.

In a series of insightful blog posts on the  COMET Auckland WordPress blog, Alison details her efforts to find more ways to link education, community and business to raise literacy for children and adults. With oracy becoming an increasingly important issue in work environments across Auckland, Alison’s observations focused on ways to develop oral communication skills and decrease the number of youth not in education, employment or training (NEET).

This was an opportunity for Alison to gain new insights on issues of importance to Auckland’s social and economic wellbeing.   Over the next few weeks, Alison will be reflecting on her findings and identifying implications to feed into the way we plan and deliver our work.  She will also be presenting to various relevant groups and forums so others can benefit from her experiences.

Keep an eye out in our May newsletter for a longer article detailing Alison’s experience as a Winston Churchill Fellow, once she has had time to reflect. If you’re a Twitter user, you can keep up with her at @AlisonJSutton, or contact her at

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


We have seen some fantastic results from our Tāmaki Makaurau Education Forum last month. Facilitated by the COMET Auckland Maori Education Manager, Hau Rawiri, the emphasis for this hui was Te Reo revitalisation, and involved focused discussion around government and community engagement strategies, language resilience and how policy can support Māori education.

A particular focus was around the history of Te Reo, and how different factors affected its decline. Studies have shown a dramatic decline in Te Reo Māori in the 1950s, which reflected trends in urban migration and Māori families moving out of iwi environments.

We also identified four focus areas which were:

  • Empowering communities – supporting community initiatives around Māori education.
  • Speaking Te Reo – encourage Māori to be comfortable in participating and speaking Te Reo in immersion environments.
  • Best Learning – identify broad strategies that foster effective iwi cohesion.
  • Te Ataarangi – maintaining Te Reo proficiency outside of immersion environments.

You can access the minutes and slides from this meeting at the specially designed  Mātauranga Māori hub on the COMET Auckland website.

For more information on the work COMET Auckland is doing in Te Reo revitalisation, or to be involved in the next Tāmaki Makaurau Education Forum, please contact our Māori Education Manager, Hau Rawiri at

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

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?



The Solomon Group, COMET Auckland’s delivery partner for family learning and literacy, wrapped MoneyMinded into Whānau Ara Mua (a family learning programme where second-chance learners complete a Level 2 Certificate in Family Learning and Child Development). This enabled the parents on the course to improve their literacy and maths while also learning skills with money. After the course, 82% of the participants said they had started to put money aside for family emergencies. The impact report shows that greater financial literacy increases personal confidence and reduces stress. A carefully crafted financial literacy programme can have a really positive difference, as illustrated by the recent impact report on the ANZ’s MoneyMinded programme

One of MoneyMinded’s strengths has been that it is designed for use by adults with low reading and maths skills, something that is not always recognised in financial literacy programmes.

For more information on MoneyMinded, you can access the ANZ Impact Report here

To access the full version of our April 2015 Newsletter and read more of the projects we are involved in, please click here to check it out and subscribe.


We value the feedback we received earlier this year on our draft Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Languages Strategy. These comments and suggestions have been absorbed by the Auckland Languages Strategy Working Group, and are being used as a basis for the final draft of the Strategy. The Working Group are now looking for endorsements from organisations and individuals for further development and adoption by the Auckland Council.

The strategy aims to establish a shared Auckland-wide agenda for multiculturalism, aligning policy and practice to support, promote and foster all the city’s diverse languages and cultures. The strategy is based on three core pillars:

  • Value and maintain all the languages spoken in Tamaki Makaurau
  • Learn our own and each other’s languages
  • Use our many languages to promote the social, cultural, spiritual and economic wellbeing of our communities, across a wide range of social domains.

Susan had the opportunity to present on the strategy late last month, alongside Joris de Bres from Multicultural NZ, at the Office of Ethnic Community’s  Lining Up Languages: Navigating Policy and Programmesforum in Wellington. They received a lot of positive feedback from conference attendees.

We have shared Susan’s insights at the COMET Auckland WordPress blog, please click here to check it out. For access to the draft Auckland Languages Strategy, please click here. If you or your organisation would like to endorse this valuable and much-needed strategy, please email

To access the full version of our April 2015 Newsletter and read more of the projects we are involved in, please click here to check it out and subscribe.


COMET Auckland is very excited to announce the trial of our employability passport began on April 20. It’s taken a long time to get this point, and we would like to recognise the support our partners and sponsors, who include:

  • Auckland Council
  • Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED)
  • Careers New Zealand
  • Employers and Manufacturers Association
  • Employers Association Trust
  • Pathways to Employment Trust
  • Tindall Foundation
  • Work and Income
  • Workchoice

This trial process will involve placing the passport in three Auckland schools and youth organisations. In all, 100 young people will receive training in employability skills through classroom work and on the job experience, recording their developing skills in the passport. The trial will be carefully evaluated to establish which components have worked well and what changes need to be made to improve the workability of the passport. This will involve monthly reviews, with the process being revised as we go.

A special thank you to Work and Income, Auckland Council and The Passport to Employment Trust who have made it possible for us to bring on a programme and logistics coordinator, Caroline Schwerin, to organise young people’s work placements, handle logistics and liaise with young people, schools and employers. The Passport to Employment Trust works to ensure that students are aware of their career options in trades and technology and are committed to providing successful education and industry partnerships that connect youth with vocational opportunities within the region.

Please contact Caroline at if you are able to offer work placements to support this project.

For more information on the Youth Employability Passport, please contact Shirley Johnson, COMET Auckland Skills Manager at

To access the full version of our April 2015 Newsletter and read more of the projects we are involved in, please click here to check it out and subscribe.


COMET Auckland is looking for new board members to join our strong, diverse and collegial board to help shape our direction and contribute to systems change across education in Auckland. This position is a three year commitment, with eight meetings per year.

For more information on this positon, and how to apply, please click  here

Applications close Monday 4 May 2015

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


This is an opportunity to provide input to our Statement of Intent for 2015/16. There will also be an opportunity to network over a glass of wine at the end of the formal meeting.We are holding our annual consultation meeting in May and we welcome stakeholders, educators and community leaders to attend the meeting and to help us to shape our work for the next year.

When: From 3.30pm to 5:00pm, Monday 18 May
Where: Room AJ100, AUT North Campus, Akoranga Drive, Northcote

If you would like to attend the public consultation meeting, please RSVP by Tuesday May 12th to Danielle Meredith on (09) 307 2101 or email

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