Relationships First

Students in class

Cognition Education’s Relationships First programme is a culturally responsive practice that focuses on accelerating and sustaining the achievement outcomes of indigenous and marginalised students, to maximise the achievement of all learners.

Since 2012, in New Zealand | Aotearoa we have worked with 16 Kahui Ako, 175 schools and 3,850 teachers – impacting approximately 42,000 students.

What is Relationships First?

Developed in collaboration with Emeritus Professor Russell Bishop, Relationships First is an evidence informed wrap-around framework that works to increase equity through transforming classroom, leadership and system practices, creating a culturally responsive context for learning.

Relationships First supports educators to build relationships with students, with a specific emphasis on marginalised students. Cognition Education’s programme is based on over a decade’s worth of research into what works best for indigenous and minoritized students, looking at the factors necessary to transform their schooling experience from one of failure, to one of success. This research is considered to be one of the most powerful contributions to educational research and practice in the past 50 years. 

Cognition guides schools through iterative cycles of development and change, with an ultimate focus on building capability.

Our team helps your team to grow Relationships-based Leaders of Learning; leaders who know how to build a culture of success and promote effective learning. Ultimately, leaders engaged in Relationships First walk away from the programme with the pedagogy and skills to create unprecedented change for marginalised learners.

“Our focus on the Relationships First Programme and the observation experience has been positive for teachers, and for many it has shed a new light on a different way of teaching”


Explore the evidence of impact


Nayland College

Relationships rule at Homai School_200312


Homai School

Changing Voices with Relationships First


Tai Tokerau cluster


Stanbeth House, Level 1
28 Customs Street East
Auckland Central
New Zealand