DEEWR interrogated by House Cttee

16 06 2010

Witnesses in today’s Canberra hearing were Dr. Evan Arthur and Margaret Banks from the federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Committee of Inquiry members included chair Sharon Bird (NSW), Dr. Sharman Stone (Vic), Mike Symon (Vic), Yvette D’Ath (Qld), Tony Zappia (SA) and Sid Sidebottom (Tasmania).

I really felt that the two groups were not quite on the same wavelength. Sharon had to keep calling them back to the issues of teacher librarianship and libraries. The witnesses talked, instead, about the government’s agendas in BER, DER, NPA and Nat’l Curriculum in broadly political terms.

Sharon Bird really tried hard, as did Sharman Stone, to highlight the lack of NP literacy programs related to libraries, the need for specific standards in teaching related to TLs, the need for IL (Sharon didn’t call it that specifically) as well as ICT pre-service training of teachers, and the need for leadership PD to incorporate role of the TL. Sharon Bird indicated it is an opportune time to see that leaders get training in the role of TLs, as part of the School Leadership Standards being developed. Margaret Banks agreed.

Stone tried to discover if any consideration was given to staffing the new BER libraries but got no real answer, other than that economic stimulus was paramount. Mike Symon’s question on value for $$ with these libraries was taken on notice.

As a new survey is currently being done on school staffing supply and demand, some sense was sought of whether the staffing of school libraries was being examined. The answer wasn’t clear to me. In the survey four years ago, principals had indicated a shortage of some 400 teacher librarians [but what does that really mean? ASLA is saying we need about 3000 TLs!) [Australian Secondary Principals certainly see a reduced supply of TLs.] It would be good if the qualifications of library staffing were included in the survey. Arthur seemed to think MySchool couldn’t do this, a school’s own web site should do this. Sharon reiterated that this is information which parents would want to know along with other MySchool data.

Arthur seemed to think there was evidence to support locally based decision making over centralized decision making (in relation to non-appt of TLs in many schools). I haven’t seen anything convincing myself – one study. He certainly hadn’t considered the evidence placing TLs strongly in improving student achievement.

Standards of excellence for teachers are still being developed and submissions being collated to go to the Australian Institute for Teacher and School Leadership. These rewritten standards will go to MCEECDYA by the end of October and will inform PD, teacher registration, pre-service courses and accreditation processes.

ASLA and ALIA are helping with exemplars for TL practice, but the fact that we already have our professional standards wasn’t mentioned nor was inclusion of IL knowledge, skills and practice in teaching standards. Issues of quality assurance in libraries was skirted around by Margaret. The actual accreditation process for teachers is being developed within jurisdictions, not by the federal govt. The idea of inspectors came up.

Bird tried to ask about cooperative database subscription through NLA, but Aruthur didn’t seem to understand. He talked instead about copyright (a committee he has chaired) and “federated identity management” so teachers could access databases such as TaLe even though in another state.

The problem of getting teachers to remote and low SES schools was explained rather extensively by Banks. Bird had to call the discussion back to the terms of reference.

Dr. Stone wanted to know if teacher librarians are driving literacy initiatives. Banks suggested that a recent literacy forum and the building of an evidence base might help answer this. Sharon Bird asked for this evidence.

I think it was Sharon Bird who said knowledge of IL and school libraries needs to be in the teacher accreditation standards [or was it just my own scribble???].

Lastly pathways into teacher librarianship studies were discussed. One avenue might be through ICT and information subjects which could be applied to graduate teacher librarian courses.

All in all, I felt the committee and DEEWR need to extend their communication, and so did Sharon Bird, as she suggested they might be called back at the end of the hearings.

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2 responses

18 06 2010
Catherine Hainstock

I think it’s interesting to see the numbers that are tossed about when it comes to TLs needed and the idea of shortages. There is only a shortage of TLs if schools will actually have TLs in their libraries. Most schools aren’t even looking to fill TL positions; they opt for untrained teachers, techs, librarians etc. or no one in the library.

I’m over in Canada at the moment on a holiday to my home province (Saskatchewan). In a small fit of nostalgia I went to my old high school (2000+) and met with the principal who is a slight acquaintance from the old days. I asked if I could have a look at the library and maybe talk to the TL as I was just finishing up my TL studies and she waved her hand and blithely said, “By all means, but we don’t have Teacher Librarians anymore. We got rid of them because they didn’t serve our purposes, we now use technicians and Learning Leaders, who are much better”. So a bit of an eye-opener for me that they are opting to neatly side-step TLs with yet another option that I’d never even heard of (I’m searching online to find out more about Learning Leaders today). I was interested to see when I went into the library that it looked identical to when I attended school there 30+ years ago – perhaps the library is being neatly side-stepped too, though I did see students studying (couldn’t spot any techs or LL’s). I think this antiquated stereotype of TLs and school libraries and the ignorance in the rest of the teaching profession to what we do (as also evidenced in the responses from DEEWR during the above inquiry hearing) is causing real damage to our profession worldwide. I am really keeping my fingers crossed that something positive comes out of all the hard work being put into this inquiry and that Australia could possibly be world leaders in turning the tide.

Thanks so much Georgia and all at the Hub for continuing to support us so well. I know I have a stronger voice because of your good guidance.

18 06 2010
hubinfo

There is so much to do, isn’t there Catherine, in re-imaging TLs, as the committee now calls it. We need a strong media campaign from the union and professional associations. The cttee may be talking to the president of the Canadian School Library Assoc and to Ken Haycock next week. Could be interesting. Georgia

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