Lift Education CEO Alex Collins

Lift Education CEO Alex Collins

Over the past 18 months, Wellington-based publisher South Pacific Press with its two imprints, Lift Education and CSI Literacy, has more than doubled in size. The company has grown from eight staff to twenty and this has meant a move to a larger office.

At the same time, co-founder and major shareholder Neale Pitches has stepped into a new role as executive chair of the company, a move that is intended to allow him to mentor the company rather than manage it and strengthen the governance, along with co-director and shareholder Meryl-Lynn Pluck, of Rainbow Reading fame. Neale will continue to work on projects, and be involved with during strategic planning activity.

Lift Education is the company’s contracting division and its growth has come through two distinct streams of work. The first of these is contracting to the Ministry of Education for development of the School Journal and other New Zealand-focused educational materials for schools in both English and Pasifika languages. The project manager, editors, and designers who work on these materials include ex-Learning Media staff and the team has built new fonts and intellectual property arrangements for the Ministry as publisher, while continuing to develop high quality, rich New Zealand content for New Zealand students and their teachers. Lift’s schools team also has clients as diverse as the New Zealand Olympic Committee and the Commonwealth Education Trust.

Alex Collins, who was publishing manager of the Ministry team, is now chief executive. Alex will continue to oversee the Ministry contract as he succeeds Neale in leading the entire business. Before becoming a publisher, Alex worked in theatre and film, and was a primary school teacher.

“What motivates me the most is hearing from teachers about how our work has supported their students to become engaged readers and critical thinkers,” says Alex, “I’m passionate about education for all and providing teachers and students with the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to succeed.”

Lift Education Publishing Manager Paul Babbage.

Lift Education Publishing Manager Paul Babbage.

Publishing manager Paul Babbage, who has been with Lift for eight years, heads Lift’s second work stream – workplace training and literacy for adults. This area is expanding too and includes contract work for a variety of clients, including New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, New Zealand Fire Service, Careerforce, and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

Matt Comeskey started as an intern at South Pacific Press nine years ago. Matt’s great eye for engaging literature for youngsters saw him thrown into the mammoth CSI Literacy project, the company’s third stream of work. CSI Literacy broke new ground with more than 260 texts on a specially developed digital interface for explicit teaching and learning, as well as 240 audio texts to support struggling readers.

Data from New Zealand schools shows quite remarkable growth in reading achievement and self awareness by students who learn to read in much the same way a CSI tackles a crime scene – thinking critically, learning through teacher and peer interaction, and using evidence-based reading and writing strategies along the way.

Lift Education's Matt Comeskey

Lift Education’s Matt Comeskey

In 2015 CSI Literacy resources combine interactive digital and audio content, chapter books, ebooks, iPad apps, iBooks and HTML5 online resources. The series is exported to the US, UK, Australia, and parts of Asia and the Middle East. It was shortlisted for the American-based Association of Educational Publishers awards in 2009, and won Best Educational Resource or Programme for Export at both the 2012 and 2013 CLNZ Educational Awards.

Matt is looking forward to showcasing CSI Literacy’s most ambitious and exciting digital project yet at Frankfurt later this year.

“This is an exciting time for us as a company,” says Alex. “While we are in a consolidation phase, we are also very focused on growing the business and see strong potential for us, both nationally and internationally.

“To support our growth, we are looking at further developing strategic partnerships in certain areas. There will be many challenges for educational publishing in the years to come – especially in the integration of digital technologies and supporting learners’ development of digital literacies – but we’re up for the challenge.”