NZI 2019 Staff BRIAR LIPSON 03

Briar Lipson

Research Fellow

Briar is a Research Fellow specialising in education. Before joining the Initiative she was a Maths teacher and Assistant Principal in London, where she also co-founded the Floreat family of primary schools. Briar has worked for International Education consultancy CfBT, and the Westminster think tank Policy Exchange. She holds a Masters Degree in Economics from the University of Edinburgh. 

Latest reports:
Research Note: Ignorance is not bliss: Why knowledge matters (and why we may not have enough of it) (2019)
Spoiled by Choice: How NCEA hampers education, and what it needs to succeed (2018)

Phone: +64 4 494 9101


Recent Work

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Knowledge is the answer

During a visit to a new London charter school in 2015, then-Mayor Boris Johnson sparred with a 12-year-old over the year the Roman Empire converted to Christianity (313 AD). Johnson was wrong (by a year) and dumbstruck by the knowledge of the inner-city children. As the future prime minister put it, the Michaela Community School showed “the way forward for our city and our country.” Read more

Briar Lipson
The National Business Review
6 September, 2019
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The misshapen horse of NCEA

The saying goes that a camel is like a horse designed by a committee. Of course, the analogy does not actually work to denigrate the work of committees – camels are highly adapted to desert life – but, still, the image of a misshapen horse holds meaning, and relevance to NCEA. Read more

Briar Lipson
Education Central
31 May, 2019

NCEA changes a welcome start

This week, we were happy to see the changes to NCEA announced by Education Minister Chris Hipkins. It is encouraging that the Minister’s NCEA Change Package mirrors so many of the recommendations in our 2018 report, Spoiled by Choice: How NCEA hampers education, and what it needs to succeed. For example, the announced package includes: Read more

Briar Lipson
Insights Newsletter
17 May, 2019
Tomorrows Schools

Hubs raise unanswered questions

The question of how to help schools face challenging circumstances was a key focus of Monday’s Tomorrow’s Schools review discussion held jointly by the Initiative and Victoria University’s Faculty of Education. The Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce is clear, and the Initiative agrees, that there is a serious and stubborn problem of underachievement among students from certain ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. According to the taskforce, one of the key causes of this inequity in outcomes is the way we organise our education... Read more

Briar Lipson
Insights Newsletter
5 April, 2019
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Freedom, hubs and the curriculum

New Zealand schools enjoy relative freedom. Some teach 21st century skills, others a knowledge-rich curriculum. In some classrooms devices are integral, in others they are banned. Some treated last week’s Climate Change March as part of the curriculum, others labelled it truancy. Generally, freedom works. But the Tomorrow’s Schools independent taskforce wants to change the balance between freedom and control. It wants to create new regional education hubs responsible for everything from employing teachers to advising on curriculum and pedagogy. Read more

Briar Lipson
Insights Newsletter
22 March, 2019
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Raging at researchED

Last year Prince Harry interviewed Obama. The former president told the Prince that to improve things you have to find common ground between people. And that this requires them to encounter each other – not just online but in person. I know that debate in education can be polarising. Perhaps because of this, and because Kiwis are so polite and friendly, there has been limited debate about educational ideas in New Zealand for some years – regardless the flavour of government. Read more

Briar Lipson
Insights Newsletter
8 June, 2018

A festival of education

As recently as in the 1920s, cyclists in the Tour de France would take ‘smoking breaks’, assisting team-mates to light-up while still cycling. Since then, scientific research and evidence has well and truly debunked the myth that smoking is good for athletic performance. In some ways, education today is like medicine was before science. It is vulnerable to emotions, ideologies and our individual beliefs: the prisms through which we view the world. Read more

Briar Lipson
Insights Newsletter
20 April, 2018

21st century hogwash

Perhaps it is a product of New Zealand’s geographic isolation, which creates concern not to be left behind. But since moving here from England my education hogwash-o-meter has been reading unusually high. While the 21st century skills craze hit England, and fairly rapidly shuffled-on like a Furby in a Pokemon-hunt, in New Zealand there remains much excitement and unhelpful teacher-bashing in the name of educating for the future. The argument goes something like this. The future is highly uncertain. Read more

Briar Lipson
Insights Newsletter
23 March, 2018

Report: NCEA failing too many students

Kathryn Ryan speaks with Briar Lipson about her new education report, Spoiled by Choice. The report is calling for a reform of NCEA because it is failing too many students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Too many young people are taking an easy path through qualifications, leaving school without the necessary skills. The report outlines that since the early 2000s, the country's 15-year-olds' reading and maths skills have declined, while NCEA pass rates have risen dramatically. Read more

Briar Lipson
Nine To Noon - Radio New Zealand
5 March, 2018

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