Ms Julia Gillard
Dear Ms Gillard,
Throughout the media frenzy that has accompanied the launch of the My school website, your message has been, “We need to identify underperforming schools and seek ways to improve their performance”.
In recent years, a particular primary school won the National Literacy and Numeracy Week Award for $10 000 in recognition of the quality of its literacy program. Now, just a few years later, according to the My school website, it is scarcely meeting the national average for literacy benchmarks, and in several categories, it is statistically below the average.
What might explain the change? Could it be that then the school had a fully qualified teacher librarian, a full-time ESL teacher and a Reading Recovery teacher? Now, under a different leadership, it does not.
Research study after research study, here and overseas, has shown that one of the most important indicators of academic performance is the quality of a school’s library, particularly if it has a qualified teacher librarian and an integrated information literacy program. Please refer to http://www.asla.org.au/research/ for links to this research.
If your government is truly committed to identifying underperforming schools and putting measures in place to improve that performance, when is it going to take notice of the research and mandate that every student has the right to access a qualified teacher librarian and quarantine that position within the school?
It is frequently stated that “staffing is a state issue” but clearly, given the decline in the number of teacher librarians in primary schools in particular, the state and territories are not committed to best practice for its students. Despite the billions invested in buildings and resources, too many state and territory governments believe that unqualified part-time administrative staff have the skills to provide students with what is required to be information literate and to work collaboratively in teaching.
If the current interest in improving outcomes for students is more than a vote-catcher, given that its target audience is the largest voting demographic, when is the federal government going to show real leadership and follow up its national review of the role and responsibilities of the teacher librarian, and mandate that there be at least one qualified teacher librarian in every school and give today’s students access to the quality education they deserve?
Looking forward to your response,