Supporting children in our communities into school

We work very hard with the community, our supporters and donors to reduce the impact of financial strain on families living in material hardship, to ensure it is not a barrier to a child’s education.

A child’s 5th birthday and the beginning of school is often one of the first major steps for a child in their life. It is one of their first steps towards education and independence. It is also the first step a child takes towards becoming a person, and making their way in the world.

“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

Our purpose and beginnings

We began the charity in 2014, since then, nearly a decade later, we have seen poverty numbers increase and now with the cost of living crisis more children are experiencing major impacts on their self-esteem, their experience of school and their ability to focus.

Our School Starter Pack alleviates inequality for a child starting school. School Start First Impression embodies the Te Whariki’s broad principles and upholds the five learning strands; Mana Atua – wellbeing, Mana Tangata – contribution, Mana Whenua – belonging, Mana Reo – communication, and Mana Aoturoa – exploration.

By providing the opportunity for Tamariki to start school on an equal footing with their peers, give them confidence to embrace the challenges of school and focus on learning, all with a strong sense of Mana Whenua.

Our team

We are a registered charity (CC51707) governed by three trustees, Jane Thomas, Graeme Thomas and Rae Blackwood.

We are all very involved in the running of our charity. We can confidently say that all the funding and donations that we receive is directly spent on equipping our children to start school.

Jane Thomas


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

Graeme co-founded Milford Asset Management in 2004 and has 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”.

Graeme Thomas


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 Blackwood


Jessica Timmins

General Manager

“I am privileged to hold the role of General Manager at School Start First Impressions. With nearly 10 years’ experience in the social service sector, I am pleased to be able to bring my skills to SSFI in order to grow the service and support the growing number Tamariki to start school positively with everything they need. My leadership style is optimistic, aspirational and with a great passion for our community

It’s a genuine honour to support School Start First Impressions. I’m excited by the tangible difference we’re making to our awesome Tamariki.”

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.

Lucy started volunteering for SSFI in October 2016.

Lucy is our greatest social capital contributor – all her hours are volunteered. Lucy manages our accounts, 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!”

Lucy Thomas

Accounts Manager