Hearings end: Will our profession be allowed to die?

13 07 2010

Media Release
The Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia
14 July 2010, Australia

The last of 12 hearings for the federal House Education Committee Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians ended 13 July, in Perth. Dr. Dennis Jensen, deputy chair of the Inquiry, has stated, “There almost seems to be a systemic and deliberate policy of running down the teacher librarian profession. It is staggering that of the places we have been, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are the two that are the most rundown.” Later, Dr. Jensen reiterated, “The interesting thing is that some of the anecdotal evidence that we have been getting, particularly in some states, is that this is a profession that is being allowed to die. Whether it is passive or active is another question.” (See Brisbane transcript)

“Unless parents and the federal government can intervene, it’s possible that teacher librarians will disappear in Queensland by 2013,” said Georgia Phillips, co-founder of The Hub, Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia, and one initiator of the federal inquiry. “NAPLAN test results have shown Queensland schools are well behind the other states in tests of reading, writing, spelling and grammar. If the government is looking to improving these results, there is a specialist available to every school who can help – the teacher librarian.”

Over 60 studies have shown a direct improvement in student academic achievement when school libraries were staffed by qualified teacher librarians

The Inquiry heard in Brisbane of preliminary findings from Softlink, provider of library managment systems (sub255), demonstrating a correlation between higher NAPLAN literacy scores and school library staffing and budgeting. Yet state departments of education, with the exception of NSW, no longer require the staffing of their school libraries with qualified teacher librarians, nor are any ensuring that budgets continue to match even 1970 levels.

Departments of education witnesses appearing at each state hearing (except for Victoria, which refused to appear) admitted their lack of knowledge of the evidence. What would these studies tell them?

In regard to literacy alone, studies replicated in 19 US states and one Canadian province show that test scores rise with the development of well-funded school library programs headed by certified teacher librarians. The relationship between library program development and test scores is not explained away by other school or community conditions at the primary level. (Summarized in School Libraries Work! Scholastic,2008)

What are principals, who in almost all states now determine their school staffing, told of such studies? Despite the federal government’s Quality Teacher reforms,
o no PD for principals has focused on supporting school libraries or the development of excellent TLs to improve student academic achievement;
o no federal program has examined staffing, training needs, or use of teacher librarians to improve student learning and literacy;
o no summary of the international and national research on best practice in school libraries has been made available to school leaders for decision-making
What do students lose when they have no teacher librarian?

With no professionally qualified TL, what do students lose?
They lose:
o A trained professional who develops a targeted collection of print and digital resources to support teaching and learning
o A teacher who can coordinate a whole school approach to developing student information literacy skills
o A specialist in children’s literature who can excite and encourage the love of reading
o An information specialist who can provide IT, literacy, information literacy, copyright and plagiarism PD to teachers
o A specialist staff member who research has shown can make a difference to student literacy and learning

“You must wonder if state education is really about improving student learning. Or is it strictly about money? Private Anglican schools, for example, often have two teacher librarians, along with numbers of other support staff, and at least twice the budgets of state schools. Where is the equity?” says Mrs. Phillips.

The hope is that the report from this inquiry will provide some answers.

Georgia Phillips
co-founder
The Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia
https://hubinfo.wordpress.com/
0242942966
0419423570

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