What do students lose when they lose their TL?

16 02 2010

Under a current NSW pilot trialing devolution of staffing from the state to school level, Loftus PS has lost its teacher librarian (TL), even while a new BER library is being completed. The TL position has been traded for extra administrative staff and a lower paid teacher.

What do these students lose?

  • A trained professional who develops a targeted collection of print and digital resources to support teaching and learning
  • A teacher who can coordinate a whole school approach to developing student information literacy skills
  • A specialist in children’s literature who can excite and encourage the love of reading
  • An information specialist who can provide IT, literacy, information literacy, copyright and plagiarism PD to teachers
  • A specialist staff member who research has shown can make a difference to student literacy and learning

Previous to this, NSW has staffed every school with at least a part-time teacher librarian.  DET has even ensured that these teachers get training in a masters level teacher librarianship course by supporting them financially.

So what might be the educational rationale here?  It is hard to see any.

Julia Gillard waxes lyrical about principals being allowed to mold their staff mix to local school needs for the Quality Teachers National Partnership. This partnership agreement states:

“The Improving Teacher Quality National Partnership (NP) aims to deliver system-wide reforms targeting critical points in the teacher ‘lifecycle’ to attract, train, place, develop and retain quality teachers and leaders in our schools and classrooms. It also has a specific focus on professional development and support for principals.”

But one can’t help thinking the real bottom line is dollars.  It is the price of a teacher and the cost of a position which will surely determine the mix. No PD for principals has focused on supporting school libraries or the development of excellent TLs to improve student achievement. No federal program has examined staffing, training needs, or use of teacher librarians to improve student literacy and learning. No summary of the international and national research on best practice in school libraries has been made available to school leaders for decision-making.

When (if?) the MySchool website publishes data on the training, staffing and scheduling of teacher librarians, we will be able to see if school libraries make a difference. Look at correlations now with general school staffing and NAPLAN results.

This “devolution” in staffing has been a trend in all the other states and territories, and has resulted in a severe decline in the number of professionally qualified TLs in all state schools, even those getting the new BER libraries. Overall, nationally, 35% of school libraries do not have a qualified TL.

So write to the Minister of Education, Verity Firth, now:  office@firth.minister.nsw.gov.au

And the NSW Shadow Minister of Education, Adrian Picolli: murrumbidgee@parliament.nsw.gov.au

Get your parents to write.  Show them what their children and our students and teachers will lose when they lose their TL. Here is a sample letter you are free to use and adapt.  NSWPilotletter

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One response

17 02 2010
Sheryl Gwyther

These moves show how short-sighted Education departments around this country can be when it comes to the almighty dollar.
How strange to pour millions into testing for literacy and then take away the source of literacy support in the form of teacher librarians and libraries.
It almost has the sense of Monty Python about it!

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