Illawarra Media Coverage for TLs

3 03 2010

The Illawarra Mercury has responded to our media release concerning the NSW pilot trial of no teacher librarian at Loftus Public School.  Their reporter, Emma Shaw, has interviewed two Hubbers, a TL and principal, a parent and the president of our local school librarians’ association. We thank them all for their contributions and enthusiastic support.

We’d like to know your reaction to the coverage, so we can improve future releases.  Please comment below.

Illawarra Mercury 2 March 2010 Illawarra Mercury 2 March 2010 page 2

Illawarra Mercury 2 March 2010

Reply to Piccoli from The Hub

26 02 2010

[hubbers] A. Piccoli, MP: NSW pilot and TL staffing

Date: 26 February 2010

Thank you, Mr. Piccoli, for your prompt reply.

One good thing about the league tables is that they do uncover the huge discrepancy between government and non-government schools when it comes to staff numbers.  You won’t see independent schools trading in teacher librarians (TLs). They understand how TLs help to deliver curricula, collaborate in teaching information skills, directly improve literacy through building and promoting exciting print collections and tailor print and digital resources to the needs of staff and students.

Teacher librarians, indeed, are not “less essential.”  Familiar with the whole school curriculum and trained to teach critical thinking and knowledge building, as well as contribute to literacy outcomes, classrooms could easily morph into libraries for the delivery of learning outcomes:-)

At Loftus there was no trading for more “front line” teachers.  The principal was trading a more costly, experienced teacher for a less costly one, plus extra admin staff, at the same time freeing up an AP from teaching….not “front line” and not teaching.

We must ask what training has the federal government given to  “these more autonomous” principals so that they are knowledgeable about the modern role of professional TLs? I state again:

o     no PD for principals has focused on supporting school libraries or the development of excellent TLs who improve student achievement;

o     no federal program has examined staffing, training needs, or use of teacher librarians to improve student literacy and learning;

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

You are quite correct about underfunding in government schools. 75% of Australian government school libraries have annual budgets of under $20,000, With half of these under $5000, and one in six under $1000 per year for books, maganizes and digital resources to support teaching and learning. (Combes, B. 2008. Australian School Libraries Research Project: A snapshot of Australian school libraries, ASLA, ALIA & ECU.)

Meanwhile, 3/4s of Anglican school libraries have budgets over $20,000 (10% over $100,000!). 65% of Christian schools have budgets over $20,000. Almost 50% of Catholic schools have budgets over $20,000 (10% over $50,000).

At least in NSW we have had teacher librarians, many part time, in all schools. The staffing formula which supported this must be preserved. We also, do not opposed the National Partnership agreements which are bringing much needed funds into the most needy schools. The conditions of the NPA on Quality Teaching, however, must be changed to ensure that specialist teachers staffed outside of the establishment cannot be lost. Failing this, the NSW Government must make its own provisions to ensure that this cannot occur.

Every school deserves a qualified teacher librarian to improve literacy and academic achievement.

Thank you again for your time and consideration,

Georgia Phillips

co-founder of

The Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia

Reply from NSW Shadow Ed Minister

26 02 2010
NSW pilot and TL staffing
Date: 26 February 2010 4:58:29 PM
Dear Georgia
Thanks for your email about the trial of new flexible staffing arrangements.
It seems the Commonwealth are hell bent on imposing market based reforms that have proved to be a failure in other parts of the world.
I have taken a firm stance against league tables and have been critical of many of the other measures that Julia Gillard has imposed on schools.
I agree that the trial is probably more about covering problems of under funding of schools by allowing Principals to cannibalise what they might see as less essential staff and replacing them with what they might see as more important front line, teaching staff. What this covers up is a lack of funding to keep positions like teacher librarians while also being able to employ additional teaching staff.
I support more autonomy for Principals to make decisions about their schools and how they use their budgets but it is very dangerous territory when the government is pressuring Principals to get high NAPLAN results for the MySchool website if they fear they will be measured by those results. This can badly distort what happens at schools when the focus becomes entirely about NAPLAN results.
I am in regular contact with the Teachers Federation as well as the Principals groups in NSW and this is an area we have discussed at length. I will continue to consult with them and other groups, such as yourself as this trial continues.
Thank you again for your email and please stay in touch.

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:

And the NSW Shadow Minister of Education, Adrian Picolli:

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

Devil-ution trade offs now hit NSW

12 02 2010

47 pilot schools in NSW are now trialing the flexible staffing arrangements already in place in the ACT, Tasmania and Victoria. This devolution of staffing and budgets to schools has seen cuts and trade offs which have worsened school library staffing.

“Loftus Public School in Sydney’s southern suburbs is a pilot school. When its teacher-librarian position became vacant last year, the principal decided not to fill it. As described to Federation, this ‘change to the staffing mix’ involves employment of a part-time school administration officer and a temporary teacher who is paid at the lower end of the incremental salaries scale.

On January 28, Federation wrote to the Department of Education (DET) to oppose what can only be regarded as an experiment to show that schools no longer need teacher-librarian positions. Federation argued that ‘this decision undermines the provision of Teacher Librarians to NSW public schools and denies the right of all students to be taught by suitably qualified specialist teachers. In this 21st century age of ever advancing knowledge, information and technology, it is unacceptable that the Department would allow a specialist teacher position such as Teacher Librarian to be unfilled. This has clear ramifications for every Teacher Librarian in NSW public schools.’

DET’s reply of February 3 confirmed that pilot school principals are being allowed to dispense with positions determined by state-wide formulae: ‘In accordance with the guidelines for Determining the Staffing Mix for the pilot…the principal reviewed the school’s structure in accordance with the School Plan and developed the staffing variation.’

Read the rest of Gary Zadkovich’s article in the NSW Teachers Federation online journal, Education. DET has yet to state what educational improvements are expected to result.  On the contrary, we know research tells us that qualified teacher librarians help improve student literacy and achievement.  In NSW this has been acknowledged with DET sponsorship of TL training and staffing of school libraries outside of the established classroom staffing. NSW has been a model in this regard internationally. Support NSW teachers in fighting deregulation of staffing and resourcing in public schools. Write to your local MP now.

Here is the related article from Sunday Telegraph, 14 Feb 2010

Principals begin axing their own teachers

SCHOOL principals have begun axing teacher positions under sweeping powers given to them by the federal Government.

A Sydney primary school has abolished its teacher librarian position, as part of a pilot scheme designed to give principals more control over school-based decisions.

This landmark case has raised fears that hundreds of other staff will lose their jobs.

Loftus Public School principal Martin Sinclair opted not to replace his retiring teacher librarian last year. Instead, he employed a part-time clerical assistant and a temporary, entry-level teacher.

The school is one of 47 participating in the program, which lets principals make more decisions on issues such as recruitment, staffing mix and budget. The two-year trial is part of the national partnership agreement on improving teacher quality.

The Loftus case is the first example to emerge of a school abolishing a teaching role, but teacher unions fear the move could set a dangerous precedent and lead governments to absolve themselves of responsibility.

NSW Teachers Federation deputy president Gary Zadkovich said it had ramifications for every teacher librarian in the State.

He warned that it could lead to school counsellors and careers advisers losing jobs.