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Tucked away in rural Fernside, just a small sign on a gate points the way to The Learning Staircase. It’s from here that they supply over 900 New Zealand schools with their unique literacy and language programme, StepsWeb.
Ros Lugg started the business to create the kind of resources she felt were needed for learners with difficulties. Originally a language teacher, she retrained as a specialist teacher and assessor for students with learning difficulties as a result of her own sons being diagnosed as dyslexic. In 2008 she set up a teaching centre in Christchurch and offered assessments, tuition, intensive courses and training for teachers around literacy and learning difficulties.
However, the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 made the tuition centre unviable and forced a re-think of the business strategy. With commercial rents high in the city and space scarce, Ros and husband, Mike, decided to move the whole business out to their Fernside home and focus on developing and selling resources rather than tuition. They now operate from a purpose-built 140 square metre office space on their lifestyle block.
Building an office at home wasn’t entirely straightforward. However, they say that support from Enterprise North Canterbury and the Waimakariri District Council has been a big factor. “They’re a positive, ‘make it happen’ group”, says Mike.
A grant from Callaghan Innovation allowed them to start developing a web version of their original programme and has facilitated an innovative research project on visual perception with Auckland University. This led to the development of a world first test which will identify learners who are not using the right part of the brain for reading fluency. The company is now involved in an on-going research programme with partner schools across New Zealand.
The Learning Staircase, which won the Innovation and Technology Award and the Supreme Award in the 2014 North Canterbury Business Awards, now employs six full time staff, including Ros and Mike. Their catalogue of products includes games and resources, software and an online programme suitable for both children and adults. Their workbooks are available internationally on Amazon and their software or online programmes are used in Australia, the Pacific Islands, the UK, United States and even as far afield as Beijing in China.
From Fernside they are doing business with the world and the company is going from strength to strength.
For more information visit https://learningstaircase.co.nz/