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Vince Ham and Nick Billowes


The gestation of CORE Education—known initially as Ultralab South—began back in 1998 with discussions between current CORE Directors Derek Wenmoth, Nick Billowes and Prof. Stephen Heppell of Ultralab in the UK.

Lofty visioning, momentum and a business plan

To transform education forever—it’s a lofty aim but one that the CORE whānau still adhere to. Ultralab UK shared this vision and in discussions began to collaborate and establish an Ultralab model in the Southern Hemisphere. Thoughts centred initially around the ‘visioning’ process that led to the establishment of The South Learning Centre in Christchurch. It was to be a place that could encapsulate a new teacher education paradigm, a community-focused learning environment, and a place supported by technology.

Dr Vince Ham, another visionary, joined these discussions. Work then began on sharing the vision and convincing authorities that this is the future path for education. Eventually, a business plan was developed with Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC), a heads of agreement with Christchurch City Council (CCC), and an MOU with Ultralab UK.

Ultralab South is born, and the work begins

Dr Vince Ham and Nick Billowes were the founding directors when Ultralab South become an incorporated company in March 2003, and the journey to change teaching practice forever began! Ultralab South sought, as CORE Education does now, to continually look for ways to ‘push the boundaries of educational possibility’.

Ultralab South worked on a variety of Ministry of Education contracts, significantly designing and delivering the MoE ICT PD (Information Communication Technology Professional Development) strategy over a 10 year period. Led by Nick Billowes, this hugely influential piece of strategic visioning, designing, and delivery was not the only piece of work by Ultralab South. eFellows, T4T4T (a tertiary PD pilot programme), and the HITLAB Magic Book were also developed and nurtured in that time. Many great events and projects came into being over 2003 and 2004.

The first Navcon 2k2 was held – later renamed ULearn. This conference has developed into New Zealand’s leading conference for learning and teaching. It continues today as the biggest education conference every year in New Zealand, a hot house of ideas and future thinking for teachers, by teachers. A must for many schools’ professional development and learning calendar. Not only that, soon after New Zealand’s Curriculum projects started for both English and Māori medium.

Change of name to CORE Education

In 2005 Ultralab South changed its name to CORE Education and a new board of Directors was established. The appointment of our first General Manager followed in 2005.

International connections and growth

International connections are always important and over the years CORE has worked in Australia, Thailand and Malaysia, participated in study visits and consultancy work in Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Singapore. In recent years CORE has developed Educator Tours (EdTours) to bring overseas educators to visit New Zealand exemplar schools. This is now being expnded to offer NZ educators the opportunity to visit overseas schools to gain insights into their education systems.

As well as successfully undertaking many MoE contracts, including the ‘Early Years’ ECE ICT PD contract, CORE has diversified into consultancy and evaluation for organisations outside the education sector, collaborations with world leading enterprises such as WETA Workshops, and developed enduring relationships with agencies such as NZ Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). The company has strengthened its organisational expertise by recruiting some of New Zealand’s top educators and continuing to develop outstanding programmes, tools and materials/resources for professional learning for the teachers and leaders of New Zealand education.