Sunday, September 8, 2013

Perhaps not the right reward for excellence....

Last week was a shocker. The New Zealand Children's literature community was rocked by the news that the Government is closing Learning Media, the organisation that has produced the School Journal and other educational literacy material for use in schools. This award winning material is provided free to schools and forms the backbone of learning to read and extends many other courses of study within the classroom. The School Journal and other materials have an international reputation for excellence and are the envy of many other countries. Concerns were raised earlier this year when we were alerted to the fact that the production of these materials was being put out to tender. Learning Media were required to compete for the business that it had previously held sole responsibility for. And now they are to close. We wonder what might happen next to these wonderful educational publications.

Paul Little had this to say in the Sunday Herald - The state-owned enterprise that publishes the School Journal is to close, largely because it lost a Government publishing contact.
Don't expect the Journal itself to last much longer. The decision not to bail out Learning Media and ensure continuity of this beloved resource shows, as if we needed reminding, that we value money ahead of reading, imagination, creativity, tradition, inspiration, history, art, stimulation, fun, language, writing, communication, children, dedication, variety, the music of words, open minds, canons, culture and memories.

And here is a good explanation of what happened and why we should care about what happens next, written by NZ illustrator Adele Jackson - "There is a company that wasn't managing to return a profit and perform well under the government's new procurement processes, certainly. The reasons for this are many but essentially, Learning Media were forced to compete for their work, where once they had a monopoly. The company produces literacy resources for the Ministry of Education and all kinds of other wonderful educational materials like 'Ready to Read' books used by most if not all schools, and science magazines of a quality not seen anywhere in the world, te reo resources and pacifica resources. They also produce the School Journal which contains plays, fiction, nonfiction, poetry and craft activities. Now that the company is being wound up, the School Journal will be tendered out to other publishing companies for production. These companies are on a panel of providers. There is nothing to stop overseas companies from applying to be on the panel of providers and content for the Journals could be sourced from overseas in future. In all probability it will eventually stop being published altogether if the new tendering process fails to reach the levels of economies required by the Ministry. Before that happens we may see it being sold to schools ... and this will be a huge expense for lower decile schools. 

So looking at the effects now:
The the demise of the school journal *will* affect literacy levels undoubtedly - Journals are primary schools' main resource for teaching reading, social studies, science, history, english and culture... (and they are free to all schools I might add). The School Journals have uniquely New Zealand content which is written and illustrated by New Zealand authors and illustrators. They are graded to match literacy standards imposed by the Ministry of Ed as a child progresses through school, and they're matched against the New Zealand Curriculum with extensive teachers notes. All journals are indexed so back issues can be used to support classroom planning and the curriculum at any time. Picture books like The Gruffalo (not a NZ book) aren't core learning materials. The School Journal reflects New Zealand culture and arts as well as New Zealand history and the achievements of New Zealanders.

So you see... there really is a lot to lose and they are a hell of a lot more than a sentimental memory for those of us that grew up with them. They are a priceless treasure house that shape our kids learning through school."

 If you are concerned about what is happening please write to your MP and the Minister for Education and let them know 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Melinda. That this has been allowed to happen is shocking.