Telum Talks To: Jo Earp from Teacher Magazine
For International Day of Education on Wednesday 24th January, Telum Media caught up with Jo Earp, Editor of Teacher Magazine, about the importance of dedicating coverage to the education sector.
Tell us about your background in education writing.
I’ve been in journalism for more than 22 years, and have spent most of my career writing about K-12 education. I’ve been Editor of Teacher (teachermagazine.com) - a magazine for the education community published by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) - since it relaunched as an online-only publication in 2014. The aim is to help teachers and school leaders improve their own skills and practices, and ultimately lift student outcomes, by sharing the latest education research and evidence-informed approaches that they can use and adapt to their own context.
I lead an editorial and advertising team of four, and we publish new content each working day. Because we’re a small team, it means I still get to do a lot of writing and other content creation (infographics and podcasts), which is really enjoyable. When I was in the UK, I took a career break for a few years to retrain and work as a primary teacher. I’m completely in awe of classroom teachers everywhere, it’s such an important job, and it’s very demanding. When we moved to Australia, I was lucky enough to be able to combine both school education and journalism, which is the perfect combo for me!
What are your thoughts on this year's International Day of Education theme "learning for lasting peace"?
The latest IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study explored students’ attitudes towards important issues in society. The findings highlight the role of civic and citizenship education in fostering inclusive attitudes and contributing to social inclusion. For example, higher levels of civic knowledge were associated with stronger support for diversity, gender equality, and equal rights for immigrants and all ethnic groups in communities.
UNESCO has dedicated the 2024 International Day of Education to "the crucial role education and teachers play in countering hate speech, a phenomenon which has snowballed in recent years with the use of social media, damaging the fabric of our societies". It recognises that knowledge is the best defence against hate speech and discrimination, and The Recommendation on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Sustainable Development acknowledges that teachers can help empower their students - this includes equipping them with the skills to recognise and respond to incidents.
Why is it important to continue dedicating coverage to education stories?
ACER believes, as I do, that every child should have equal access to a quality education, regardless of their circumstances or background, and that learning needs to be supported across their lifespan. The United Nations talks of a learning crisis and the global challenge of addressing it. We know that more jobs will be created in STEM subjects than there are people studying to fill them. Teacher retention and student wellbeing have been ongoing concerns since the pandemic.
Without dedicated coverage of education stories, there is potential for these critical issues to be "out of sight, out of mind" and for the impetus for improvement in our learning systems to be reduced. We’ve seen that education stories that share research, examples of inspirational people and practices, and expert commentary, can prompt thoughtful debate on important issues. Continued dedication to education stories can also raise levels of awareness in the community, and that tends to raise the level of interest by policymakers. For real change to occur, that interest level has to be sustained to the point where quality education is not only seen as a high priority, but pursued as a high priority and committed to over time.
What have you enjoyed working on recently?
We launched the inaugural Teacher Awards last year to recognise outstanding approaches to teaching and leadership in Australian schools. It was a great way to celebrate and share the incredible work of teachers and school leaders in supporting student achievement and wellbeing, each other, and their communities. We had eight award categories, a very impressive judging panel, lots of amazing entries, and outstanding winners.
The one that really sticks in my mind for 2023 is the Special Contribution Award, which went to the entire Broadwater Public School community. Broadwater is a small town in New South Wales that was devastated by floods in February 2022. The school was a two-storey building, and the mud made it to the top of the steps of the top floor, so everything was destroyed. In the first weeks after the flood, the priority for staff was helping families with clothing and food, and then, over time, they slowly started to get back to something like normality for the students. They’ve been based at a "permanent-temporary" site until a new school can be built - the work they’ve done in relation to staff, student and community welfare, while continuing to support learning, has been outstanding. It was a privilege to be able to honour that.
What are you hoping to start or continue working towards this year?
Obviously, looking forward to the 2024 Teacher Awards! But this year we’re also celebrating 10 years of Teacher online, so we’ll be taking a look back through the archives and running some anniversary-themed content over the course of the year. Another exciting initiative is a project that’s still in its early stages, so I can’t say too much at the moment, involving some special editorial collaborations. We do an annual survey, and the feedback always informs our content and project planning for the next 12 months.
We know that readers love our infographics, so we’re working on developing more interactivity with those. We’ve also got a special podcast series in the pipeline with Professor Geoff Masters AO (ACER’s CEO) on world-class learning systems - the first episode of that one will be released mid-February. And we’ll continue to create content around not just student wellbeing, but staff wellbeing - we know this has always been a really important issue for the Teacher community. I’m looking forward to another productive and successful year for the Teacher team!