Lighting the spark of success: KPMG's Matt Prichard on his commitment to NZ schools

For KPMG, everything has to come back to their purpose – fuelling New Zealand’s prosperity. And few are better placed to speak to how working with Springboard Trust helps them do that than incoming Executive Chairman, Matthew Prichard.  Since 2016, Matthew has been an integral part of our Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme, travelling to Tairāwhiti once a month to facilitate a cohort of principals and volunteers.   It’s an experience he is not slow to recommend – and, as he explains, one that enriches the day-to-day work of KPMG to a massive degree.   Help where it’s needed most   It all began, according to Matthew, with a twist of the arm.   “It must have been 2015 – I knew of Springboard Trust and the work you were doing, but it properly began with Lorraine (Mentz, former CEO) approaching me and asking me to get involved.”  “I started as a Capacity Partner for the Auckland secondary schools’ cohort, but working with a Whangārei-based principal. That was an amazing year, the relationship was so easy and warm. We got KPMG quite involved with the school, which ended up happening for the following 2-3 years. We have our graduate inductions at a marae in that area, and did a lot of painting, planting and building projects at the school that our team helped on.”  Matt enjoyed the Capacity Partner relationship.  Lorraine, however, had another twist up her sleeve.   “She twisted my arm and asked me to facilitate in Tairāwhiti instead – and I immediately said yes.  I knew I’d be supporting principals in need, many of them operating rurally and dealing with some significant challenges. I want to help where it’s needed most, so the shift in location was a great fit.” Disruption at the structural level  Part of Matt’s commitment to supporting school leaders in poorer or more remote communities is seeing first-hand the myriad issues that principals contend with on a daily basis.   “The school is the centre of the community in so many of these areas. It coordinates with iwi, health, justice, welfare agencies, and so much more. The principals are running Civil Defence responses, painting lines on the rugby field, mowing the lawns, and often teaching when staff aren’t on hand.”   “It’s been illuminating how structural issues, like housing, have a huge impact too. I’ve heard so many times about schools struggling to attract new teachers because there just wasn’t the housing to support them. There’s a real argument that you could improve education with regional building programmes for these kinds of places to attract and support the local teacher/nurse/policeman/social worker – not just in Tairāwhiti , but all over rural New Zealand.”  “These inequities – none of us want to see them, but they’re so very real. Some of KPMG’s community work in Auckland is with schools where nobody in the entire school community owns a home, and where COVID is having a significant impact on the education outcomes and financial wellbeing of so many families.”  “I do believe the private sector has a big role to play in helping change this social inequity. Partnerships like the one between Springboard and KPMG, expanding those to include community, private sector, philanthropy and government – it can all come together to make a difference.”  An energetic environment   Having facilitated in Tairāwhiti  for three years now, Matt is energised every single time he visits.   “I’ve been doing a tour around the country at the moment as Chairman for KPMG, talking to people across all our offices. A big part of that has been talking about the work so many KPMG people do with Springboard.”  “Our purpose is to fuel New Zealand’s prosperity. We can’t do that by working only in major centres or with large corporates, in both our paid and pro bono work. We can’t pretend that poverty and racism don’t exist – by engaging with Springboard and supporting communities in need across New Zealand, we’re living our purpose.”  Of course, purpose and support are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Matt enjoys about his work.   “Tairāwhiti  is just an amazing region. The rich culture, the beauty in the communities and settings – it's so much better for the soul than the urban, commercial setting I spend the rest of my time in. That becomes a gift in itself.”  “Many of my workshops in the last few years were up the coast.  Working a day north of Gisborne on a marae or coastal school up there is beautiful – most people would be lucky to get out there once in their life. I got to go every month, every time in a beautiful new community and location!”  “It’s easy to be busy being busy, but finding time to do this work with school leaders gives me so much energy. I come back with so much learning and so much new energy to put towards my family, myself and my work.”   Lighting the spark of leadership   That spark, that energy doesn’t just come from getting out and about. Above everything, Matt is energised by the school leaders he works with.   “They’re heroes – there is no other logic to ending up in the position they are in. It’s emotionally draining, physically exhausting, underpaid, anybody in that role is there out of pure vocation. They are called to do it, they passionately believe in their kids and the impact they can have on them.”   “That's why I’m so happy to support these principals. We’re contributing 1% that lights a spark under these heroes, and I learn so much about leadership from them. It makes me aspire to be a better leader, and give to those around me in the same way that they do.” 

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