South Australian Graduate Women speak out against school library closure

30 03 2011

With permission, here is part of a recent submission to the current Federal Review of School Funding from a member of  Graduate Women – SA.  Submissions close today 31 March in Australia and can be submitted from

http://www.deewr.gov.au/Schooling/ReviewofFunding/Pages/Submissions.aspx or from

[The final report on the Review of Funding for Schooling (Dec 2011) otherwise known as the Gonski Report]

Further submission to the Review of School Funding – March 30th 2011

Graduate Women-SA

Dear Panel,

The Graduate Women-SA, affiliated with the Australian Federation of Graduate Women with concern for the education of girls and for social justice, and affiliated with the IFUW with consultative status with UNESCO, has been made aware of the capacity of Principals in South Australia to decide which staff they need to have to fulfill their estimation of a school’s staffing needs.

However, student counsellors and teacher librarians are no longer considered essential members of staff. That means that Principals may replace student counsellors by what were once chaplains but now are Christian Pastoral Officers or workers with all the possible intrusion of sectarian influence that such a position creates. Public schools are secular in order to recognise and value the wide range of family-held positions and to free students from any form of pressure from different religious organisations….[section on school counsellors]…..

The second issue is the decision not to include teacher librarians as essential members of staff. Teacher librarians have been at the forefront of helping schools to meet the wide range of changes in resources and ‘tools’ available for learning since 1975. They have helped teachers broaden their knowledge, helped individual students explore areas of interest outside the specific subjects they are studying, provided support for students and their parents with particular needs, been there before school, during lunch times and after school to answer questions or meet all kinds of needs – intellectual, emotional and psychological. Teacher librarians, working across subjects, have helped staff and students to make links with other subjects. That interdisciplinary capacity has helped to broaden the horizons of students, staff and families. Today, because they are not tied to subject specific requirements for My School results, they are even more valuable in that their support for students’ literacy is non-judgmental and is not tied to passing or failing.

Some Principals in public secondary schools, convinced that they need to be at the forefront of the ‘digital education revolution’, have decided they do not need teacher librarians and, indeed, that they do not need libraries. In one metropolitan South Australian school the Principal has decided that the library will be redundant in another two years, believing that leasing e-books will be an appropriate alternative. While e-books may be the answer for subject-based texts, there will be a new level of costs to be factored in by schools as the loan is for a limited time.

Dispersing the non-fiction held in a library to subject areas defeats the purpose of a library where students and staff have the opportunity to explore across a range of disciplines and find unexpected connections. In the 21st century, we are becoming aware of the interconnectedness of so much that we saw as separate in the past. Graduate Women-SA urges the panel not to lose sight of the fact that face-to-face connection is important for the development of interpersonal skills and human relationships, the quality of which lie at the heart of learning.

What will be missing, if more Principals follow this approach, is the broader vision. Students do need to explore beyond the boundaries set in place by this or that subject-based curriculum. Do we want Australian children and young people to have those narrower options? Do we want them to continue to have the narrow outlook of the 20th century when one was considered either ‘academic’ or ‘non-academic’? Do we want citizens unable to recognise the connections between human and natural events? Do we want to perpetuate the past?

All resources, including books, need to be fostered in schools. Decisions to get rid of books are decisions to narrow options for students. Teacher librarians, as non-subject specific members of staff, are in the position of helping to enrich the intellectual and emotional lives of students. They contribute to improving the literacy level of students. Browsing is different from surfing. Time is secondary. A book cannot be removed from the computer once the time allocated for the loan is reached as an e-book can. The leased e-book just disappears when the time is up. What does this mean for the person for whom such time pressure undermines his or her capacity to learn?

School Principals, who have the broader visions for the future, should not be penalised because some schools decide that academic study via the computer is the way to go. Graduate Women- SA requests that the Independent Panel take into account the impact on public schools of these recent decisions by Principals who have sought to save their salaries and replace teacher librarians with subject teachers.

Graduate Women-SA asks, in this submission to the Independent panel, that it recognise the integral roles of student counsellors and teacher librarians as part of the human infrastructure of public schools. Where decisions to undermine these positions are already taking place, we request that the panel takes it into account and quarantines funds allocated to schools to counteract the impact of such short-sighted approaches to the salaries for student counsellors and teacher librarians. Not all Principals, given the Local Empowerment Policy, will be driven by this narrower technological focus. Funding for schools should not force future Principals, and their communities, down this narrower pathway.

What will be missing, if more Principals follow this approach, is the broader vision. Students do need to explore beyond the boundaries set in place by this or that subject-based curriculum. Do we want Australian children and young people to have those narrower options? Do we want them to continue to have the narrow outlook of the 20th century when one was considered either ‘academic’ or ‘non-academic’? Do we want citizens unable to recognise the connections between human and natural events? Do we want to perpetuate the past?

All resources, including books, need to be fostered in schools. Decisions to get rid of books are decisions to narrow options for students. Teacher librarians, as non-subject specific members of staff, are in the position of helping to enrich the intellectual and emotional lives of students. They contribute to improving the literacy level of students. Browsing is different from surfing. Time is secondary. A book cannot be removed from the computer once the time allocated for the loan is reached as an e-book can. The leased e-book just disappears when the time is up. What does this mean for the person for whom such time pressure undermines his or her capacity to learn?

School Principals, who have the broader visions for the future, should not be penalised because some schools decide that academic study via the computer is the way to go. Graduate Women- SA requests that the Independent Panel take into account the impact on public schools of these recent decisions by Principals who have sought to save their salaries and replace teacher librarians with library officers or school support staff.

Graduate Women-SA asks, in this submission to the Independent panel, that it recognise the integral roles of student counsellors and teacher librarians as part of the human infrastructure of public schools. Where decisions to undermine these positions are already taking place, we request that the panel takes it into account and quarantines funds allocated to schools to counteract the impact of such short-sighted approaches to the salaries for student counsellors and teacher librarians. Not all Principals, given the Local Empowerment Policy, will be driven by this narrower technological focus. Funding for schools should not force future Principals, and their communities, down this narrower pathway.

A copy of The Hub’s submission to the review can be found here.

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One response

30 03 2011
Elli Klajn

I do hope parents, the public and the government will take note of this post! Why should students in the public system be so severely disadvantaged by not having school libraries or teacher librarians or counsellors?

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