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About the Awards

The Prime Minister's Education Excellence Awards recognise and celebrate outstanding achievements in early childhood education, primary and secondary schooling.

Current awards status
Meet the winners

The Awards focus on the work of groups, teams and partnerships in English, Māori, or Pasifika-medium. They highlight the combined effort needed to achieve improvement, equity and planned innovation.

The Awards will culminate in a national ceremony that profiles finalists and recognises their achievements.

Categories for the Awards are engaging, leading, teaching and learning, and governing. Our world-renowned Best Evidence Synthesis has shown that these are critical to the quality of education in any country.

An additional prize will recognise an area of particular education focus, and will change each year.

For the 2018 awards the Focus Prize celebrates outstanding inclusive practices that enable all children and young people with additional learning needs to succeed. 

Focus prizes for previous years were:

  • 2017: the focus was on the design of responsive local curriculum, delivered through the innovative use of digital technologies that meets the aspirations of students, their whānau and communities, and achieves improved outcomes for children and young people.
  • 2016: the focus was collaboration along the whole education pathway to improve health, wellbeing, and learning success for every child and young person.
  • 2015: the focus was collaboration that creates Learner-led Pathways from early childhood to schooling.
  • 2014: the focus was Learner-led Pathways through collaboration amongst secondary schools, tertiary providers and employers.


ABOUT awards picture

The Matariki Story

Matariki is a time to reflect on the past and plan for a new year. It's a time to learn and share, and a time for celebration. It's a watershed moment that looks back on what's been achieved and those who were held dear, and looks ahead to new horizons, yet to be explored.

Just as the sun crests the horizon and dawn makes its way towards daylight, so too does every learner embark on a journey towards knowledge and enlightenment.

This is the journey we trace with the Prime Minister's Education Excellence Awards, recognising the following four categories and Takatū prize, that mark the rising of the Matariki dawn, with a sixth award – the Supreme Award.

Atahāpara  dawn

Excellence in Engaging

At this first glimpse of the dawn, we recognise Engagement  people who have worked with communities and agencies to transform relationships and involvement in learning.

Atakura  the red glow on the ocean just before sunrise

Excellence in Leading

With this moment of spectacular glow, we recognise Leadership  people whose leadership and influence have strengthened teaching capability and created a change in conditions, leading to improved and sustained outcomes for all children and young people.

Atatū  the moment just after sunrise

Excellence in Teaching and Learning

As the sun begins to shine, we recognise Teaching and Learning  people who have transformed the learning for all children and young people to improve and sustain outcomes for them all.

Awatea  daybreak

Excellence in Governing

At this moment of connection, we award Governing  people whose governance and management have created the conditions for leading and teaching to improve and sustain outcomes for all children and young people.

Takatū  prepare, get ready

Education Focus Prize

As we ready ourselves for the new day, we award the 2018 Education Focus Prize – to a group who celebrates outstanding inclusive practices that enable all children and young people with additional learning needs to succeed.

Takiri ko te ata  the sun's rays touching the skin

Prime Minister's Supreme Award

At the moment we experience the first warmth of the sun, we award the Prime Minister's Supreme Award  people whose work has achieved the greatest improvement and impact on education outcomes.


The Awards focus on the work of groups, teams and partnerships in English, Māori, or Pasifika-medium.

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About the artist

Te Rongo Kirkwood is an award winning artist and her specialty is kiln formed cold-worked glass. Through focusing on this applied art process and medium, Te Rongo has been able to creatively explore inspirational concepts, with influences coming from both her Māori and Scottish heritage. In her glasswork she expresses her love of pattern and form through the use of negative spaces and the combining of opalescent and transparent glasses.

‘The inspiration for the design of these awards has been drawn from the light, the Matariki rising sun at dawn and the corresponding symbolism of the learning journey towards wisdom and enlightenment. Glass made from sand is the perfect medium to transmit the story of light and enlightenment. Its ability to resonate the full spectrum of colour that our eye perceives never fails to thrill me and I love to frame that light with the blackness of obsidian glass. There is a balance between the volcanic black from the creative fire deep in the earth and the life giving light from our sun.’

‘It was also important to me to ground this work in the natural world. I engaged Master Craftsman Mark Lester, Ngati Te Ata, an expert in New Zealand native timbers. The wood for the base of each sculpture has been personally selected by Mark for its beauty, grain and colour, hand-crafted and finished.’
ABOUT artist picture

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