NSW next in line?

11 10 2011

Currently, a campaign is being run by the School Library Association of NSW and the Illawarra School Libraries Association to lobby local members about the deleterious effects of LSLD on teacher librarian staffing.

Three politicians have been visited, with Noreen Hay, Wollongong MP, the latest (16 May 2012).

While Keira MP, Ryan Park, asked questions on notice on our behalf, and Pru Goward made a submission on our behalf, Noreen Hay, Wollongong MP, will present Notice of Motions to provoke debate in the NSW Parliament  on the effect of Local Schools, Local Decisions on public school libraries and teacher librarians.

The NSW Liberal government has announced its policy of school autonomy, Local Schools, Local Decisions, with devolution of staffing, budgeting and support services.  While BER difficulties showed that schools probably need some leeway in using local contractors and guiding their own building projects, local staffing without protection of specialist positions, decentralization of support services and global budgeting have not been shown to improve student outcomes.


The elimination of earmarked state funds for the library has had drastic results. According to the 2008 Australian School Libraries Research Project, almost ten percent of NSW schools had budgets under $1000, with almost half of those under $500. This is for all school sectors, so can only be a guide for government schools. This decline directly relates to literacy NAPLAN results according to surveys conducted by Softlink.


As for local control of staffing, we already know what has been the result for other states and territories.

  • In Tasmania, as a direct result of “self-management” brought in in 1991, secondary school teacher librarians lost their separate staffing entitlement (primary school teachers suffered this fate some years earlier). 67% of schools in Tasmania now do not have qualified teacher librarians.
  • In Queensland,  support for school based management (SBM) continues to affect school staffing. 10-15% of  Queensland government schools do not have qualified teacher librarians. Now seven state high schools on the Gold Coast have no teacher librarians.
  • In Victoria, Schools of the Future (1993), Kennett’s version of SBM, has seen the loss of at least 35% of qualified teacher librarians,  87% in primary schools. Ever shrinking state budgets have meant that principals have had to cut here, cut there over the years.  Gradually, all non-face-to-face teaching positions have disappeared – careers teachers, teacher librarians, student welfare co-ordinators and so on.
  • In the ACT,  School Based Management began circa 1997. 50% of government primary schools in the ACT do not have qualified teacher librarians.
  • 90% of WA government primary schools have no teacher librarians. Under the current government’s Independent Government Schools scheme now secondary TLs are being lost. At the Perth Inquiry hearing, WA DET stated that 77 out of some 800 schools have qualified TLs.
  • Under their new teaching award which no longer guarantees separate staffing of specialist teachers, South Australia is now losing its qualified teacher librarians, even in high schools.

All this with no convincing evidence to justify school based management on the basis of improved educational outcomes (Lindgard, 2002). Indeed, there is plentiful research to show that well-staffed school libraries correlate to improved student literacy and academic achievement.

Support services 

Until devolution, all states and territories had central resource and library support services.  Six are gone. WA’s is in decline. Recently, NSW School Library and Information Literacy unit was threatened by restructuring, but, thankfully, still exists. Such services advise on policy, review print and digital learning materials, support professional learning, provide bibliographic, central cataloguing and publication services. In NSW, these include the excellent journal SCAN, the Handbook for School Libraries, OASIS Library support materials, copyright information, and  teaching support materials embedding ICT use, IWBs, information literacy, ethical use, cyberbullying, plagiarism and social networking to demonstrate good pedagogy.  These are not services which can come from the regional or school level.

Global budgeting is sold to the community as a way for principals and schools to determine their own needs.  In reality, they have become a means by which governments of all persuasions have been able to continually slash education budgets without having to wear the pain. “The school made that decision” is the constant refrain when a well loved program is axed.  Our situation is part of a much larger issue of declining education funding.  Over the past 20 years, education funding in Australia has declined, as funding in other OECD countries has increased.  We are now among the lowest funding countries in the developed world, 28th after Lithuania and Greece.

Local control of local schools is fine for local projects.  But without adequate funding and without transparency in decision-making and accountability, it will only send us further down the educational and economic ladder.

New government formed at last. Two more coming up soon:-)

8 09 2010

It has been an exciting fortnight with many  changes and programs negotiated by Independents and Greens to form a Labor government. It seems more real work got done than in all the campaign bru ha ha!  The central role of Rob Oakeshott, who was a member of our Inquiry committee, was especially exciting.  Let’s hope he will still bat for us whatever role he plays in the future. We wish him well.

Meanwhile we still wait for the votes to be finalized and seats to be declared. Then Parliament will resume and  the new House Committee on Education and Training can be officially formed.  This should happen in the next few weeks.  Hopefully the “new” committee will be charged with completing the report for our Inquiry.

In the meantime, two state elections are coming up.  Associations and lobby groups should be planning now in Victoria for November, and in NSW for next March.  What is it you want to tell your state senators and MPs?

Should we be working on making school libraries statutory as happened in Washington state, or is the object of the UK campaign.

Joyce Valenza’s  checklist for survival shows decision makers what you could be doing if they gave you the time!  Mark Moran in Forbes.com last March, advocated for needing TLs even more in these e-times.  Whatever way you decide is the way for you, the time has never been more right for getting the word out there!

While we wait for the Inquiry report, NSW burns

26 08 2010

Media Release

27 August 2010

The Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia/

Illawarra School Libraries Association

NSW government to cut teacher services to save money

In yet another attempt to bring its financial house in order, the NSW government has ordered a review of services, including those to schools and school libraries.  The proposed restructuring to save on duplication will instead eliminate some vital services entirely.

In the past, NSW School Library Services had 10 education officers, 4 librarians and 8 support staff. Both Liberal and Labor governments terminated many such central support services, including regional consultancies. The School Libraries and Information Literacy Unit which remained has had a manager and review coordinator, journal editor, 3 librarians and 2 technicians. Its journal, SCAN, remains the only state teacher curriculum support journal. Its contribution to the national schools cataloguing database is the largest, along with Western Australia.

“In an attempt to save some 7% in costs, half of these positions will be lost,” says Georgia Phillips, co-founder of the Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia. “Not of ‘duplicate services,’ for there is no other body providing advisory services to schools concerning their libraries or reviewing teaching resources.  No other body runs professional development targeting teacher librarians and school libraries. No other body advises the NSW DET on library and resource policy.”

“The recent DET exercise in envisioning the future of 21st C school libraries,” says Mrs. Phillips, “was a lengthy collegiate online forum led by overseas and Australian academics. It now seems a wasted effort, its recommendations ignored. Once again money comes before teaching and learning.”

Margaret Cooper, President of the Illawarra School Libraries Association says, “I have been a teacher librarian for 20 years and I am horrified to think that DET will be withdrawing specific support for school libraries under the proposed restructure.”

“Teacher librarians,” says Mrs. Cooper, “are unique members of school staffs. We are virtually on our own and without the support of the School Libraries team, teacher librarians will struggle to provide many learning opportunities.”

“The Unit provides website development support and promotes new digital learning tools to enable students to make sense of the vast amounts of information available on the internet. Having attended one of their courses this year, even my experienced eyes were opened and I have started using new digital tools that I had not had time to research on my own. Yet their training role has been eliminated.”

“Many teacher librarians,” says Mrs. Cooper, “have very limited administration time and without the training and support of the School Libraries Unit, teacher librarians will not be providing the services that 21st century schools need, which is, ironically the aim of the restructure. Why would anyone consider removing the very leadership that will ensure that teachers adopt and use the digital learning tools that our students deserve to encounter in our schools today?”

Jane McKenzie, teacher librarian and assistant principal at the small country school of Quirindi, also expressed her concern. “The Department’s own submission to the federal Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians now looks a sham. It affirmed the vital role of school libraries in learning and the need to ‘ensure equity and capacity for libraries as dynamic, high-tech 21C learning centres’ yet now it proposes to undermine these.”

“The unit gives statewide policy and procedural support to school leaders, holds purpose built workshops and generates teaching and learning support materials statewide for teachers,” says Jane.

And Jane asks, “Aren’t all public schools, even remote ones, entitled to quality digital and book resources, advice and support on 21st century resource and information services, the best in terms of literature and non-fiction books (e-books and databases) that support authentic, enquiry based learning?”

“Is the name of the game” says Mrs. Phillips, “really about improving learning and literacy, quality teaching and school leadership, or is this only another cost cutting exercise to save a government on its last breath?”


Georgia Phillips, The Hub 0419423570, 42942966

Margaret Cooper President ISLA, 4295 1334, 043-837-7391

Jane McKenzie, Quirindi PS (02)6746 5748,  0429074443

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:  office@firth.minister.nsw.gov.au

And the NSW Shadow Minister of Education, Adrian Picolli: murrumbidgee@parliament.nsw.gov.au

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.

Is there a future for school libraries in Australia?

2 11 2008

Posted by G. Phillips

The six states and two territories of Australia all have developed different staffing formulas which affect the way teacher librarians are placed in schools.

Victoria has put staffing directly into the hands of school principals. Principals are given a staffing budget and determine ultimately who will be hired. The school determines its own staffing priorities within that budget. Many schools in Victoria are without qualified teacher librarians.

SA has a staffing allocation at the moment in place since 1999. It places up to one full time TL in schools up to 500 students; 1.5 in schools to 650, and 2 TLs in schools over 650 students.

In South Australia, the state government wants to change the current teaching agreement which will dramatically affect teacher librarians. It wants to change the staffing formula allocation to the schools being funded “per student”. Schools would make local decisions about the numbers of teachers, executive positions and other staff in a school based on the ‘budget’ available for the school, placing staffing in the hands of principals.

NSW primary schools base TL staffing on number of students up to 170 (up to .4 TL), then the formula is based on the number of teachers, up to one full time TL in schools up to 18 teachers. Secondary schools have one full time TL for up to 1200 students, with increased staffing as enrollment increases.

According to the NSW Teachers Federation, the NSW government also wishes to put staffing in the hands of school principals.

With severe teacher shortages, the previous Western Australian government asked schools to identify all work currently performed by teachers which could be performed by public servants. As a consequence, teacher librarians would be at risk of being replaced by librarians without teacher qualifications and presumably paid at a cheaper rate.

Fortunately, the recent change of government in WA has seemed to put this off the agenda at the moment.

So, is there a future for teacher librarians?

Only if there is a demand for teacher librarians from parents, from unions, and from principals, because they know that teacher librarians can make a difference to student literacy and academic achievement.

Who will tell them?