The School Journal - Demise of an Icon?

The School Journal is the flagship publication of Learning Media and for most teachers is an essential resource for teaching and learning in the classroom. The School Journal began its life in 1907 when it was often the only reading material available in many schools. While the length of publication is probably highly unique, the content of the Journals are of a quality that is the envy of many countries.

Contributors to the Journal have included New Zealand's most highly regarded writers, poets, playwrights, artists and scientists. Primary School children have enjoyed poems by James K Baxter, plays by Roger Hall and illustrations by many of our most recognised artists such as Dick Frizzell. The School Journal has been able to celebrate the cultural diversity within New Zealand so that most children can read a story that will reflect their own experiences and also allow them to understand the lives of others. The School Journal has also supported all the learning areas including science, technology and the arts with well presented articles accessible to a range of age levels.

Learning Media has an international reputation as a publisher of quality educational material with a catalogue that extends beyond the journal. It has also provided professional development support for educators and consultancy services.

Quality always comes with a cost and Learning Media has struggled to be profitable. In justifying the closure of the 79 year old state owned company the Government has suggested that the incomes of the six senior managers were excessive ($160,000 to $270,000) and travel and accommodation costs for staff were an issue. Considering what the Government is prepared to pay private consultants in other areas it is likely that they just do not see publishing educational resources as a priority. I guess we could also compare the value Learning Media has provided to education to that of ex Secretary of Education, Lesley Longstone, who received $425,000 in severance pay (which was the equivalent of an extra $1,640 for each day she was in the job).

It may indeed be cheaper buy resources from other New Zealand Publishers and import material from overseas but it concerns me that the reason for disestablishing the  company is purely economic and there has been no evaluation of the quality of their material and services. Despite vague assurances that the School Journal will continue under another publisher, I wonder if the same level of expertise will be applied and the same quality achieved. We appear to be losing more and more of what made our education system unique and also what made it great.


PM of NZ said…
Doesn't matter how good your product is perceived to be, how long its lineage is, if nobody is willing to pay the asking price, in my view your product is nothing but a total failure. And one the taxpayer should not support.
bsprout said…
In this case, PM, it is not a normal market or a normal product. All schools receive the School Journals and they are highly valued. Learning Media have been forced to operate on a commercial basis when much that they provide could be seen as not strictly commercial. On what basis do you call the School Journal "a total failure"?

I also have difficulty understanding the Government's priorities when they are prepared to spend $3.9 million to bail out a struggling private school of 400 students but not are not prepared spend the same to support an institution that provides value for 800,000 thousand students.

PM of NZ said…
By your own admission, a product in a closed market that was not financially supported by its potential customers.

In these heady days of user pays, a total failure. Long may it continue.
gruffys gal said…
PM - School do support it. The point bsprout is making is that it is a resource sent to all schools free therefore no money changes hands. And before you say - schools should pay for it - the whole reason it is free to all schools is to ensure that very school has access to quality resources no matter their size or decile. Which was the whole point when they started and needs haven't changed. Each school gets sent a a set number of new journals which is based on their school roll size. If they don't set up another publisher or schools now have to pay for it - where is the extra money going to come from - cos they wont give the schools the extra money to pay for it, they never do. Many schools rely heavily on Learning Media for School Journals and Ready to Read resources and buy others to supplement what they have. But reading resources are highly expensive and usually you can only afford 1 set of 6 of a book which have high attrition rates. With Learning Media you get sent a reasonable number & you are able to request new ones years down the track to replace the old ones.

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