Job losses as Learning Media closes

  • 04/09/2013

Around 100 jobs are expected to be lost following the Government's announcement of the closure of Learning Media today.

But Finance Minister Bill English and Education Minister Hekia Parata say the production of educational resources, including School Journal, will still continue during the "wind down of operations" of the government-owned company.

Learning Media made the decision to close because it is not financially viable.

A number of well-known New Zealand writers contributed to the School Journal during its history, including James K. Baxter, Joy Cowley, Margaret Mahy and Witi Ihimaera.

Mr English says the company's annual revenue has fallen about 25 percent since it lost an exclusive contract to supply educational resources to the Ministry of Education.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the decision to close is "extremely concerning".

"The minister knows she can intervene and do something about it if she chooses and she ought to.

"These are resources that schools need and they need it for meeting her [Ms Parata's] own objectives around literacy and numeracy and yet she's allowing this failure to occur under her watch."

Ms Turei says despite assurances the resources will still be published. It will still mean a "significant reduction in not only number but quality, and there's going to be job losses as a result."

Mr English says it will be a "very difficult" time for the staff, but the Government will pay out all entitlements due.

"There's nothing we can do today that will make the staff feel a whole lot better. As time goes on though, it'll become apparent the ministry has publishing requirements and others in the industry will be looking for skilled staff."

Ms Parata says her ministry will work with staff to "provide transition pathways where possible to ensure their skills and capabilities remain available to the education sector".

The needs of the education industry are fluid, which means it is necessary to assess whether resources are meeting educational needs, she says.

"The journal has been able to do that through quite a long period of time and I expect it will in the future, but we review everything." 

The Public Service Association says the Government should have stepped, but instead stood by and watched the company fail.

National Secretary Brenda Pilott says it is "no secret Learning Media has been struggling in a difficult publishing environment".

But the imposition of a market-driven competitive model on the company was a mistake, she says.

"It tilted the focus away from producing quality educational material, including the iconic School Journal, towards a business strategy of trying to win and compete for contracts. It’s something our members have been raising concerns about for some time."

The School Journal was first published in 1907 and was the only New Zealand school publication until 1939 when the Department of Education started the School Publications Branch.

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