School Start First Impressions works to reduce the impact of financial strain from education to families living in material hardship.

We acknowledge that a child’s 5th birthday and the beginning of school as the first major step for a child. The first steps towards education and independence and the first steps the child takes towards becoming a person, making their way in the world.

The cost of equipping a child for school can be extortionate. And added financial pressure on families in poverty can have major impacts on a child’s self-esteem, experience of school and their ability to focus on learning.

The provision of our School Starter Pack is designed to alleviate inequity for that child who is starting their school journey. Our children have the opportunity to start school on an equal footing with their peers, giving them confidence to embrace the challenges of school, focus on learning and a sense of belonging.

“Te Whāriki is underpinned by a vision for children who are competent and confident learners and communicators healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society”.
– Ministry of Education


School Start First Impressions is a registered charity (CC51707) governed by three trustees, Jane Thomas, Graeme Thomas and Rae Blackwood, who are all very involved in the running of the charity. Our charity information, purpose, structure, officers details, trust deed, annual returns, and other documentation reside on the Charities NZ website.

We can confidently say that all the funding and donations that we receive is directly spent on equipping our children to start school.

SSFI was the first initiative of Addenbrooke Foundation. In September of 2019 Addenbrooke Foundation was renamed to School Start First Impressions.

Jane Thomas, Co-Founder of School Start First Impressions

Jane along with Graeme founded School Start First Impressions.

Jane comes from a background of volunteering and studying Theology with Child Poverty as her main topic. From these experiences the concept of assisting children turning 5 to start school with everything they need to feel they belong, and to set a great first impression on their first day, was designed.

“I love that SSFI is child centric, putting the child in the centre, honouring and valuing their importance in our community. In my opinion we are doing our best to prepare our young ones to embrace learning. All children deserve the chance to start school on an equal footing”

Graeme Thomas, Co-Founder of School Start First Impressions

Graeme is a co-founder of SSFI, having previously been involved in financial services until his retirement in 2014.

Graeme was a co-founder of Milford Asset Management in 2004 and had previously worked in the funds management and banking sectors.

Along with Jane he has had a long term interest in philanthropy and the opportunity to assist in the formation of SSFI was embraced.

“SSFI is a wonderfully rewarding charity to be a part of”.

Rae Blackwood, Trustee

Rae was invited to be a trustee from the outset of the School Start First Impressions initiative. Rae’s skill set includes experience in the social development sector and business acumen.

Rae has a passion for children’s welfare.

Rae’s love and concern for the children is expressed in her creative birthday cakes that each of our School Start First Impressions children receive.

Nikki de la Rosa, General Manager

It is with great pleasure that I have arrived at School Start First Impression to lead the organisation in its intended expansion and to support the kaupapa of the learning journey for tamariki who live in Aotearoa in a state of inequity.

I am deeply committed to enhancing education for children and their families who have not necessarily had positive lived experiences in the education system. It is my firm belief that transformational change for children can be achieved through robust investment from day one of school.

Our gift is one of aroha and it is intentional!

Lucy Thomas, Administration Manager

Lucy started volunteering for SSFI in October 2016.

Lucy plays an integral part of delivering the new inventory system to create efficiencies for SSFI and is currently undertaking our web redevelopment project.

Lucy is our greatest social capital contributor – all her hours are volunteered.

Lucy also manages our accounts and website and assists with marketing campaigns and operations.

“The work I do for SSFI is rewarding and satisfying. I love the fact we can help so many deserving children whilst being humble in our approach. The ‘feel good’ factor is addictive!”

Jana Thomas, Administration Manager

It is with great honour that I have returned to School Start First Impressions, to assist our deserving, hard to reach tamariki.

I will be assisting the team where I can, to provide more children with the opportunity to have a great start at school. I believe starting school is a right of passage that should be celebrated