School Journal publisher winding up

MUCH-LOVED: Famous Kiwi authors, including Margaret Mahy and Witi Ihimaera, wrote for the School Journal.
MUCH-LOVED: Famous Kiwi authors, including Margaret Mahy and Witi Ihimaera, wrote for the School Journal.

More than 100 jobs are under threat with the closure of the government-owned company that publishes the School Journal.

Learning Media has produced the reading tool - familiar to generations of Kiwis - and other education resources for the last 79 years. It employs 109 staff, including editors, designers, project managers and software programmers.

The Government is winding up the firm because annual revenue has fallen by a quarter.

Finance Minister Bill English and Education Minister Hekia Parata announced the decision this morning, saying it is not "financially viable".

A statement from Learning Media chair Jenn Bestwick confirmed the board has agreed with ministers that "the company does not have a viable on-going business".

English said the firm had tried to restructure and adapt "to the more competitive government contracting environment".

"We are disappointed that Learning Media has come to this situation," he said.

Parata said the Government will work with staff to "ensure their skills and capabilities remain available to the education sector".

"Decisions on what will happen to the company's current assets, including its educational resources, will be made as part of the wind down process," she said.

Bestwick blamed challenging market conditions.

"Declining revenues in traditional publishing have undermined the company's profitability and despite strategies to diversify into digital publishing and to develop products for other sectors and markets, the company has not been able to maintain a viable business," she said. 

The School Journal will still be available to schools.

Deputy Secretary for Education Andrew Hampton said schools will not be affected as they will still receive all publications and be able to access online resources.

The Ministry wanted the "critical expertise" of Learning Media staff to continue to be available to the education sector, he said.

"In particular, we want to make sure Maori Medium capability remains available, along with expertise in Pasifika culture and language."

The Green party says the Government's obsession with cost-cutting had killed off the company.

"This is a tragedy for New Zealand education. This is a tragedy for generations of Kiwis who have grown up reading the school journal," MP Catherine Delahunty said.

Learning Media was created in 1939, when the School Publications Branch in the Department of Education was formed. It became a Crown Company in 1993 and a State Owned Enterprise in 2005.

Many now-famous New Zealand authors, including Margaret Mahy and Witi Ihimaera, have contributed to the School Journal.

Fairfax Media