Vote for the full Gonski

3 09 2013

A vote for the full Gonski has the best chance of increased funding for government schools. Cash-strapped principals can retain specialist teachers, such as teacher librarians, and resource iCentres/libraries to support quality teaching and learning.

Check out the stance of Labor, Liberal and Greens at http://igiveagonski.com.au/ to see the difference in their support for education.  Make your vote count for our children and students.

Advertisements




To the federal candidates

26 08 2013

After 13 hearings in major Australian capital cities in 2010 and 2011, a bi-partisan House Committee of Inquiry published its Report School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia (March 2011).

Few of its 11 Recommendations have been implemented, and none which bears upon the essential problem of the demise of a profession and its impact on declining student literacy and learning.

Of the government’s response in November 2011, crucial concerns remain unaddressed:

Still no government staffing statistics.

Reporting on the number and training of specialist staff is still to be included in My School information. As yet, no hard data has been collected by the government on the number of schools without professionally qualified teacher librarians.  The closest related data, in the 2010 report on Staffing in Australia’s Schools includes principal reporting on unfilled positions. This is meaningless when most states do not require libraries to be staffed by qualified teacher librarians and budget-constrained principals are forced to view teacher librarians as a luxury.

The question remains, how many schools do not have at least one full-time equivalent teacher librarian?

The last survey to address this question, indicated that at least a third of government schools did not (and one third of Anglican schools have two or more librarians) (Australian School Libraries Research Project, 2008). Yet the government workforce data is skewed to show only 190 unfilled positions in 2010.

This brings us to the second crucial problem.

Insufficient training places.

The federal Labor government has worked a miracle in upgrading school infrastructure.  Almost one third of Australia’s schools now have new BER libraries, 3177out of 9427 schools.  This is wonderful!

But without qualified TLs, these are woefully underutilized facilities, too often closed or used as another classroom.

Better Schools money will mean that many of those budget-restricted principals will be able to professionally staff their libraries, AND be able to resource them with up-to-date digital book collections, databases, e-magazines, library apps for smart technology, resources which qualified teacher librarians can collaboratively integrate into teaching and learning encounters.

BUT, where will principals find these qualified teacher librarians? With only three tertiary teacher librarian courses, how many new TLs can be trained? Certainly not the thousands which seem to be needed. Unfortunately, universities are being stripped of funds to finance the Gonski reforms.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul will not help our TL shortage.

So we must ask federal candidates of all parties:

  1. What will you do to collect useful government data on teacher librarian staffing? 
  2. What will you do to increase tertiary education programs to ensure every school can have a qualified teacher librarian?

The government inquiry acknowledged the work of teacher librarians in respect to eLearning, literacy and leadership in their schools.  What will you do now to see that that role is filled to support quality teachers and support our students in reading and learning?

 

Further information for teachers, principals and teacher educators on the role of teacher librarians in learning can be found at my website connect2tls.info. For parents at My School Library. GP

 





If it happens there, will it happen here?

15 05 2013

As the US school year draws to a close, LM_NET (the listserv for US and international school librarians) is being increasingly peppered with stories such as this one Pasco superintendent proposes eliminating media specialists, literacy coaches.  (In fact, the decision has been made and all Media Specialist, Technology Specialist and Literacy Coach positions have been eliminated with a proposal to amalgamate the three roles into one super-job, expected to  provide the same services to the same number of clients as previously.)

The decisions are being made by administrators who may never have worked in a school but public-appeal politics has got them into a position of power.  The decisions are also being made despite the decision-makers being presented with all the research about the difference school libraries make; TLs , parents and students making presentations at board meetings,; the intervention of the state equivalents of ASLA and so on – the mighty dollar rules and it would seem no one seems to realise the implications of sinking schools, their students and their future below the bottom line.

Can it happen here?  Can we stop it?

Despite the looming federal election and the almost universal belief that there will be a change of government in Canberra, education does remain a priority and the activity of recent weeks in relation to getting Gonski’s recommendations implemented show that even ‘hostile’ state governments are committed in some way.  So, while there’s focus and money, what should we be doing to get some of it?  If we didn’t get what we wanted through the Federal Inquiry because the key issues were ‘matters for state governments to decide and the Federal Government doesn’t interfere in states’ business’ , what should we be doing to raise our profile at state level?

  • Who are the people with the power to decide, implement and sustain change?
  • What is the situation in your state?
  • What ideas does your state association have that others might emulate?
  • Do you have a strategy that has worked that should be shared?
  • What can The Hub do to support your actions and activities?

We are here, prepared to be your voice but you need to tell us what you want us to say and to whom. Make your voice heard so that what may be the whisper of one becomes the shout of many.





Target: September 14

31 01 2013

The date of this year’s federal election has been set as September 14.

So that gives TLs a little over seven months to target the two key groups who have the most influence over our futures – parents and politicians.

Parents can be your strongest allies and your greatest critics. But they have the power and the voice at the ballot box so it is essential that they understand what it is the TL really does. Starting on the common ground of wanting to provide the best education for their child, it is critical to involve them in what is happening in the library by keeping them informed if not actually in there.

  • Have a prominent presence through your newsletter, website or social networking media and keep them regularly informed of what each class is undertaking while in your care; events; new releases of books or movies, whatever you think they need to know. Make yourself or your presence their go-to place for information. Regular communication makes the library the hub of the school.
  • Provide homework support with links to curriculum-related websites, safe game sites for each age group; and other interesting sites that will engage them and support their learning and leisure activities
  • Provide a parent information lounge both on your website and in your library with information about the school, child development, supporting their child’s literacy and numeracy development, cybersafety, local services and entertainment for children (collect brochures or link to sites), help lines such as the Poisons Information Centre or Lifeline, even lists of appropriate authors, titles or series for each age group for birthday or Christmas lists.
  • Collaborate with other teachers to host parent participation programs in which the parents learn how to listen to their child reading; help with homework without actually doing it; search without Google (or tips and techniques about using it effectively); understand information literacy; anything that they feel that they might need. Be the pivot on which the relationship between the home and school balances.
  • Support parents reading with their child, particular those who have just started their education journey, by having grab bags of seven selected titles, that parents borrow like a resource box. There are enough appropriate books for a new title every night, are easily available and borrowed in one transaction. (Enlist some mums or dads who sew to make you some distinctive bags, each one a little different so it’s easy to remember which has been borrowed. Put the barcode on a keytag and attach it to the handle.)
  • Create links with your pre-school, even having regular storytime sessions with them if that is practical. The younger the child, the more involved the parent so educate them early.
  • Speak at P&C meetings about what you do so the word spreads that the school library is a very different place from that which they might remember.
  • Politicians are the puppet-masters who hold the purse-strings – they are the people who direct educational authorities to implement the big-picture changes like National Partnerships, teacher accreditation, Local Schools, Local Decisions and so forth.

    They are driven by power, economics and votes. Most have high ideals and are busy. The role of the teacher librarian is not at the forefront of their responsibilities and many have perceptions based on what they remember of their experiences, however long ago that was.

    Despite the National Inquiry raising the awareness of the role of the teacher librarian amongst some federal politicians we are yet to see any meaningful change from their recommendations, so it is time to apply the pressure again. Even though the federal government continues to say that staffing is a state government decision, nevertheless with the Prime Minister’s stated focus on education in the election campaign, we now have another opportunity to get our voices heard.

    If local politicians, actual and would-be, are kept informed of what it is the teacher librarian adds to the education experience of their constituents and they can see there is the likelihood of votes from parents then they can be powerful allies.

    Politicians love to be seen as being ‘in on the action’ which is attracting their constituents. They love an opportunity to be seen and talk and getting them on your side is imperative. Be apolitical and put your preferences aside. Don’t limit yourself to the sitting member – wannabes need to get their names into the community so people recognise it on that election sheet, and those in Opposition love to be informed enough to ask Questions in the House. Build up a positive relationship so when the candidates need a school for a photo opportunity, a launch, a place to place funds, it’s your name and face that come to mind.

  • Invite them to any library-based function you have but look for unusual celebrations – the Unique Selling Point that will make your event stand out – such as a student-organised Literary Luncheon, a poetry reading by a local poet, a book launch by a new author or illustrator – anything that is also likely to attract the media so they can have a photo opportunity
  • Invite them to be guest readers, bloggers, speakers, artists or presenters, especially celebrating students achievements based on library challenges. Do a lot of the legwork for them such as

       booking well ahead, including information about the importance of the event with the invitation, sending a reminder with a background brief and an indication of what they are expected to do – it’s about getting them to value the library not necessarily save them work. They will come again if you are PROFESSIONAL.
       selecting the book and getting it to them in advance to practice
       suggesting the focus of the blog post such as their opinion of any proposed educational legislation
       have them be a focal point of your citizenship studies so they talk about what they do
       if you know they have a passion for poetry, drawing, music or whatever invite them to perform as part of a school-based event. It doesn’t matter if it’s not library-related, it’s about reinforcing the connection.
    • Email, write or phone them to let them know how decisions affecting the employment and deployment of teacher librarians affects the teaching and learning in the schools in their electorates – let them know that the parents are the voters who will keep them or not.
    • If there is something such as the NSW Local Schools, Local Decisions policy that is really going to impact on the teaching and learning at the school, make an appointment and visit them. Be prepared and demonstrate how the issue will affect the families in the electorate rather than your employment. Keep in mind that votes talk and there are more parents than teacher librarians.
    • Start planning your campaign NOW – and share your ideas through the Comments.





  • BER libraries not value for money without qualified TEACHER librarians

    19 10 2010

    Media Release from The Hub

    20 October 2010 (Please forward to your local, regional newspapers, if you are in Victoria)

    246 new government school primary libraries are being built with BER funding in Victoria. Most cost $2,000,000 or more. This infrastructure is long overdue, but without qualified staff, these schools will not be getting value for money, according to Georgia Phillips, co-founder of The Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia.

    Says Mrs. Phillips, “Recent research has shown that only 13% of Victorian primary schools are staffed with qualified teacher librarians. This is a decline from 55% in 1983. Many schools employ library technicians and librarians (not certified as teachers) to run school libraries. 12% of these are managed by someone with no formal qualifications of any kind, including volunteer parents.”

    “In NSW we haven’t seen volunteers running school libraries since before the 1970 Commonwealth grants,” says Phillips. “In NSW all schools are officially staffed with teachers who are also trained as librarians.”

    “Since the early 1990s there has been no government requirement in Victoria regarding school library staffing. With declining budgets, schools are often forced to go for cheaper options, even when they know that teacher librarians make a difference to student learning.”

    Award winning children’s author, Phil Kettle, knows teacher librarians make a difference.  Yet in his travels to schools, he too has seen their numbers diminish. “Teacher librarians are essential in ensuring children are provided with diverse reading opportunities. They encourage the wide reading which increases literacy levels.”

    Nathan Godfrey, of Softlink International, a leading developer of library systems, confirms this. Softlink has undertaken a study of NAPLAN results and school library resourcing and found a strong relationship between the two. These findings were included in the Softlink submission to the recent federal Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in Australian Schools.  Mr Godfrey said “These results are of interest to the whole education community.  There was a significant positive correlation between a school’s library budget and NAPLAN Reading Literacy scores. Importantly, there was also a significant positive correlation between the number of school librarians employed in the school and literacy scores.  As a result of this research, Softlink’s own product development is focused on using the school library system to provide additional guidance to teachers on student literacy levels.”

    The Federal Inquiry took evidence of over 60 studies internationally confirming this. Dual qualified teacher librarians make a difference to student literacy and learning. Reading scores rise. Students read more.  Their writing and spelling and vocabulary improve. Academic results improve regardless of socio-economic considerations.

    “Yet, the Victorian government seems unaware of the research.  They refused to appear at the hearings,” says Mrs. Phillips. “While we still await the federal inquiry report, interrupted by the election, the Victorian government must take the initiative. If they truly care about literacy and student achievement, they must require and support the staffing of their school libraries with qualified teacher librarians.”

    Contact: Georgia Phillips, The Hub, 0419423570, https://hubinfo.wordpress.com

    Contact: Phil Kettle   0417663396

    Contact: Nathan Godfrey, Softlink Chief Operating Officer  07 3124 6111





    Teacher Librarian Inquiry Report must be published. Write TODAY.

    5 09 2010
    As you are no doubt aware, the election interrupted finalization of the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians.  Although all hearings were held, the final Report has yet to be published.

    There is no guarantee that the same committee composition will exist after the government forms.

    There is no guarantee that a different government would want the committee’s work finished.

    This may be your last day to ask the Independents for their support. Here is the short note you could send right now.

    Sent to Bob Katter  robert.katter.MP@aph.gov.au,

    Tony Windsor tony.Windsor.MP@aph.gov.au,

    Rob Oakeshott robert.Oakeshott.MP@aph.gov.au,

    Andrew Wilkie  wilkie.andrew@bigpond.com :

    I know you have plenty on your plate, but please don’t forget the House Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians.  The report, interrupted by the election, MUST be published.
    Reading and knowing how to find and use information empowers us all. School libraries with credentialed TEACHER librarians make a vast difference to student learning and literacy.
    All the hearings were held.  Whoever forms government MUST ensure the Report is published and tabled to the House and acted upon. It is small thing to ask for, but it could have a huge impact on schools and learning in Australia.
    Thank you for your time, and, hopefully, your support.
    Name

    Address





    Results of our letter writing

    19 08 2010

    Some 30 messages were received back from the couple of hundred or so emails sent by the Hub to major party candidates, and forwarded to me by others.

    Here is a break down:

    Coalition: 10 replies

    • Form letters: 6, including Tony Abbott
    • Shadow Ed Minister, Chris Pyne, 2 sentences, including “I will certainly give the report close consideration when it is released by the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Training.”
    • Will give more flexibility to principals in staffing: 1 Nationals Federal Secretariat
    • “It’s a state responsibility” letter: 1

    And this well considered one from Malcolm Cole, LNP Moreton Qld

    “I am a little shocked to learn of the disparities across the nation in this area….I can give you my commitment that as a Member of Parliament I would take up these causes inside the Parliament and inside the Government should the Coalition be elected on August 21. Further, I would always be a passionate advocate for literacy. As a person who enjoyed the benefits of excellent librarians and teacher librarians, I do not need convincing of the importance of these roles.”

    Labor: 14 replies

    • Early form letters: 5
    • Later form letter acknowledging value of TL, stating state responsibility but looking forward to Inquiry report: 5
    • Happy to raise this matter and pursue: 3, including 1 asking for more on the research
    • One complete support as was on Cttee.

    Greens

    “the Greens unequivocally support the continuation of the House of Representatives Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in Australian Schools after the election. We will monitor the outcomes with interest and support recommendations that we consider are well targeted to improving educational outcomes, especially literacy. Until all evidence to the inquiry has been assessed and the inquiry has reported, it would be premature to make any more specific commitments. “

    1 Independent: “I am supportive of there being qualified teacher librarians in all schools.”

    Democrats National Campaign Director

    “We … indicate support for your campaign.”

    Family First 1 (NSW Senate candidate)

    “You can be assured that  if elected I will place pressure on the government to complete the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in Australian Schools and to act on the recommendations.”

    Others

    3 individual and mostly well considered responses.

    The entire letters are available at the Hub Campaign wiki site.

    While these letters indicate quite a range of interest, we do learn who will be our supporters. And it is unlikely to be an Abbott government.