One year ago we launched EducationCentral.co.nz. And what a year it’s been.

We spotted a need for a responsive site that gave people a place to voice their views as well as keep them updated with all that’s happening in the education world with feature and news items. We decided to supplement strong original articles with opinion pieces and carefully selected education content selected from the Herald, Newstalk ZB, Education Review and other NZME publications. And it’s proved a winning formula.

We’ve added various bells and whistles as the year has progressed – each in response to reader demand. Our ‘Join the Conversation’ polls, ‘Off the Record’ opinion slots, and more recently our in-depth feature series are all examples.

Education Central has run alongside an extremely busy 12 months in education. We’ve seen an election, a change of government and the start of major education reforms. We’ve seen major debates around charter schools, 21st century learning, curriculum and assessment rock the sector. At every step of the way, we’ve had teachers, principals, tertiary educators, students, parents, policy-makers and researchers collectively building and refining the arguments and discussions around each important issue.

Here are our biggest topics based on the number of hits and reader engagement.

21st Century Learning

Student William Reynolds captivated readers with his open letter to educators, lamenting the way schools fail to effectively equip young people for the “real world”.

“Without being exposed to these possibilities or technologies in high-school, students risk being blindsided coming out of the education system into a dramatically changing world.” – William Reynolds

But just as readers were enthralled with Reynolds’ views and those of MindLab’s Frances Valintine, they were equally intrigued – and incensed in some cases – by the recent visit from UK principal Katharine Birbalsingh whose views were at the opposite end of the debate.

Discussions around the importance of knowledge versus skills have increasingly made their way onto Education Central pages. Student Filip Vachuda’s brave article about how all subjects should not enjoy the same academic status was memorable for the flurry of opinion it created.

Modern learning environments have captured readers’ attention as well, with researcher Graham McPhail’s article and parent Kia King’s views creating quite a stir.

“More than 500 million has been spent on building open-plan classrooms without the adequate research to support their success. Yes, the collaboration between teachers in these spaces can be beneficial to both teachers and children. Some teachers are being lured in by finally receiving classrooms with the adequate heating and furniture they have been asking for. But in my opinion, the negatives far outway the positives. Great architecture, ventilation, acoustics, flexibility, innovation, adequate heating and bean bags can be achieved in a single classroom. And single classrooms are still to this day being successfully used for some outstanding education.” – Kia King.

Culturally inclusive practice

Dr Ann Milne’s confronting pieces on racism in our schools – like this one – never failed to generate discussion. 

“Understanding the pervasive Whiteness in our schools and classrooms is crucial if we want to make change for our Māori and Pasifika learners, but the fact is that in 2017 in New Zealand 73% of all teachers are Pākehā; 80% of school management and leadership positions are held by Pākehā; and 73% of all teachers are female. Yet the groups our education system fails most consistently are Māori and Pasifika boys, followed by Māori and Pasifika girls.  This means there is a huge gap in the understanding of the lived realities of the children we need to make the biggest changes for, and this gap is the real space our professional development needs to target—not how to get better literacy and numeracy outcomes!” – Dr Ann Milne

 Socioeconomics

Another hugely confronting article was Sam Oldham’s account of life at New Zealand’s largest decile one high school. This generated huge reader interest. 

“As I mark, I get memos about students who have been stood down for various infractions: physical assault, swearing at teachers, possession of drugs, weapons. I notice the name of one of my junior students. A few weeks ago he produced a piece of writing on homelessness. He was one of three students in that class who could talk personally about what it is like to be homeless.” – Sam Oldham

Teacher workforce

Dr Michael Harvey’s reflection on what it would take for him to return to teaching in New Zealand and John Laing’s article titled ‘Why I left teaching’ were both hugely popular with Education Central readers, indicating some unrest around teacher workforce issues.

“It appeared to me that every time a report came out highlighting some failure in NZ society, a new programme was developed to be taught in schools, a further responsibility placed upon teachers.” – John Laing

Policy

Unsurprisingly, articles discussing aspects of education policy have also caught readers’ attention as phrases like “fees-free” enters our vocabulary and “national standards” exits. Interviews with then and now Education Ministers Nikki Kaye and Chris Hipkins were also popular as we neared last year’s election.

No doubt these discussions will continue, and new topics will emerge. We look forward to seeing Education Central continuing to grow and evolve as it enters its second year.

To our readers: thank you. A site like Education Central would not amount to anything without its supporters. We have appreciated your engagement, your opinion pieces, your article ideas, and your feedback.

But for now, please excuse us: we have a candle on our birthday cake to blow out.

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