Tip of the iceberg hits the press in WA

15 11 2011

West Australian

Well done WASLA for this start to a much needed media campaign!  Parents and voters need to know.

Perth Hearing notes

16 07 2010

13 July 2010 These are personal notes. The transcript is now available.

Inquiry House Cttee members present: Sharon Bird, Dr. Dennis Jensen, Steve Irons

Session One
Witnesses: WASLA – Val Baird; Edith Cowan University – Barbara Combes; Ms. Anette Ainsworth

Anette explained in her opening statement how she had moved from the public to the private sector in order to continue working as a TL. She is concerned about the huge inequities in the sectors. Library services have decreased yet the need for these services has increased with increase of technology. The shortage of TLs and teachers training to be TLs is due to lack of incentive – no jobs at end – and now there are not enough TLs to fill advertised positions. TLs are usually part of middle management in the independent schools.

Databases are expensive and, even with consortia, most state schools have limited budgets. These students don’t have access as do their counterparts in private education. Some state schools are operating with a budget of $1000!
In short: State schools don’t’ have adequate staff, resources and funding.

There followed a discussion of Gen Y’s real lack of search and critical thinking skills (BC’s research). Need to be taught along with ethical use and copyright from primary level. Searching databases different from search engines. Need for skills in creating new meaning from information Teachers need the expertise of TLs.
Anette gave example of own school’s results of test of beginning students at their secondary school. Came from a variety of feeder schools- state and independent. Tested a number of facets. Most didn’t achieve above 35% for Inquiry Process. Those that did usually came from a school with a TL in the library. [GP: Anything published on this???]
Barbara: ECU is introducing a compulsory unit for all undergrads: Communications in an IT environment, to address skills gap in new students. Part of unit will cover ‘How to search for information’.
Again, Sharon Bird asks why the independent sector make their excellent libraries a selling point, while govt school principals try to eliminate TLs. [GP Where does such ignorance come from? Self-delusion? Direction from above? Some outside influence? This IS a question which requires answering.]

Anette: Librarians and library officers do not know the curriculum. WATLNET listserv has become in practice a forum for library officers seeking help. [GP: I’ve wondered this about OZTLnet also.]

Dr Dennis Jensen (DJ): Believes ‘flexibility’ (of staffing) is code for “TLs no longer required.’” Addressed question to Barbara regarding the inequities in TL course structures:
Edith Cowan University
Master of Education 8 units – 120 points – 2 semesters
Master of Information Services (Teacher Librarianship) 11 units – 3 semesters full time

Charles Sturt University
Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) 8 units – 2 semesters full time
Queensland University of Technology
Master of Learning Innovation (Teacher Librarianship) 8 units – 2 semesters full time
This is a disincentive to study TL’ship at ECU. Any discussion on this?

Barbara: Accepted differences. Course is research based – loathe to dumb it down. Some arguing to and fro ensued. [GP: Do we have published research as a result?]

SB: Problem that message in Grad Dip qual is a devaluing of TL’ship. Doesn’t drive reform in Teacher Ed courses. ECU cutting their nose to spite their face. Students will go elsewhere.

Barbara: Been trying to open conversation with Teacher Ed at ECU for years.

DJ: Vilification of Google can be counter-productive. Google scholar is good. Cost of databases?

Anette: 25% of her budget goes to databases. World Book alone is $1500. It has various levels of reading access. Cost of most databases on basis of ratio per head of student population. ERA or WA based consortia can get them a little cheaper.

Session 2
Children’s Book Council of Australia (WA Branch) – Jan Nichols and Lefki Kailis / writingWA – Alison Sutherland, Director of WA State Library

Lefki Kailis: Reading for pleasure encourages literacy and contributes to the mind and imagination. Impact it makes on learning and critical thinking is underestimated.

Alison: Described State Library Better Beginnings program which has been going for 3 years. By product – encouraging literacy skills in parents.

SB: Why do you think ed depts have not made the connection between research and testing results and school libraries?

Lefki: Principal is the key factor. If principals don’t see library and TL as crucial and speak in those terms to staff, then the library is marginalised. Key about TL training: it is holistic, across the curriculum, transferable skills. Literature component prepares TLs to address particular students and particular needs. TL focusses on both development of student and skills.

DJ: New teachers don’t now what TLs do or can offer. Would you comment on necessity of increasing the profile of the TL within the community? TL’ship a dying profession – a lot to do with Depts but there is an element in which the TL profession needs to take responsibility. What have their professional bodies done to promote the profession? Why are TL Uni courses not attracting students?

Lefki: WASLA – Does PD (Professional Devt) but failing in PR. With coming of technology, TLs were at the cusp. Because the embrace of technology has been so whole-hearted, technocrats are now replacing TLs. TL must have both skills – literature and technology.

Collaboration between public and school libraries discussed. Steve Irons asked about programs in schools that involve parents in reading which were then discussed.

Session Three
Western Australian Local Government Association – Michelle Poepjes

Michelle: Spoke very quickly but the gist was that she was not supporting school libraries as such but rather combined-use community libraries. 232 public libraries with wide variety of resources and services including online tutoring. Thought BER funding that has gone into school libraries would have been better spent in building stronger partnerships between public libraries and schools.

SB: Situation in WA re shared libraries? Issues? Location of shared libraries is often an issue. Time lost from teaching if not on school grounds so teachers opt not to take students to library. TLs employed under Teachers’ Award; librarians under Local Government Award.

Michelle: Yes, this can cause friction and has. Positive outcomes are personality based.

Discussion of staff qualifications, problems with the Better Beginnings program, ECU research on same, the need for public librarians to assist the public in navigating the websites, including government ones, and the potential value of nationally purchased databases.

Session Four
Catholic Primary Principals’ Association (W.A.) – David Barns and Tim Emery

David: We represent 130 principals across the State in schools ranging from 10 students to 700. Conducted a survey on TLs and 72 principals responded. General consensus that:
• For the future, TLs very important but flexibility in staffing should remain
• Role of TL needs to evolve
• There are limited training opportunities
• Support from govt is necessary
• BER highlighted lack of appropriate staff in primary school libraries.

Sharon asked why only independent school principals seemed to value TLs. Replies included fact that TL role includes DOTT (RFF) so role constrained, lack of supply.

Tim stated that teachers can teach IL and research skills.
SB replied “I don’t believe that!” When asked what he knows about the research, David replied he was unaware of it.

A discussion followed of difficulties of staffing country schools, TLs’ wish for part-time, lack of scholarships from CEO (as in Brisbane) to train TLs. Unable to give figures on number of qualified TLs in Catholic schools, no requirement to staff a TL, no role description, teacher lack of understanding, existence of ASLA standards.

SB stated that systems have lost leadership.

Session Five
Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia Libraries Inc. – Penny Worthington and Robin Wake

The uniqueness of the TL role was discussed, cross-curricular and flexible – great potential. Most teachers let kids cut and paste. No time or knowledge of teaching guided inquiry and critical questioning. Teachers who collaborate develop innovative programs. Benefits of prac students being brought to the library.

Penny and Robyn spoke about their own experience with supportive principals and networks and lack of support in DETs. SB said it was sad when any system relies on volunteers for its quality.

AISWAL was unable to get details about qualified staffing in their canvassing of schools. Both TLs had Head of Dept status, one had a role statement.

WA Department of Education – Andrew Thompson (Acting Director of School Support Programs). Accompanied by Sue Lapham (Director of Services, Dept of Training and Workforce Development) and Jean Anning (Acting Coordinator, CMIS, WestOne Services, Dept of Training and Workforce Development

Generally an unsatisfactory session in that no stats were provided on qualifications of the 70 TLs said to be employed, no awareness of research just reiteration of the principal’s right to flexible staffing. Principals dependent on online curriculum support and resource information bank in their decision-making. Nothing to contribute regarding the TL’s role in literacy programs. Stated IL embedded in WA Curriculum Framework, with some measurement of outcomes in Years 11 and 12 through WACE courses. No evidence of continuum of skills being taught. SB reiterated that students are entering uni without the necessary information skills.

DJ Your Dept expresses support for TLs but it doesn’t seem to be real. 1 TL for every 10 schools would indicate the Dept doesn’t believe in TLs.

AT refuted this. Decisions are being made by principals but there are supply and demand issues. He didn’t know if there was a role statement or if TLs could register through WACOT.

DJ stated that these decisions are being made without adequate knowledge of research and role and without any strategies from DET to promote the use of TLs in schools.

AT That is possible. Anything to increase awareness would be a good thing.

There was a to and fro between SB and AT about funding and advice for literacy and numeracy and implementation of programs within individual schools.
AT argued that principals do this…
SB rejoindered that a principal doesn’t have time to implement programs. Further discussion of who teaches information literacy and how it is not assessed.

Questions were left with DET to forward responses as time ran out.

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?

Not a good news week

25 08 2008

It hasn’t been good news for school libraries around Australia in the last week.  First we hear of South Australia’s Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) enterprise bargaining which threatens to implement full time face-to-face teaching loads for teacher librarians.  Then we read this story in The West Australian in which teacher librarians are set to be moved from their “non teaching” role to classroom positions. (what do TLs have to say about being described as “non-teaching”?)

Now we realise there’s a teacher shortage, so something has to change, but I have a different solution.  Let’s get rid of history.  Then all the history teachers can be used to make up the shortfall.  It’s not a very useful subject, and the only students who find it helpful are those who want to be history teachers, so it’s a win-win situation.

I could be wrong, but should this decision ever be made in an Australian state, I predict it would attract significant media attention, with criticism from all sides. Yet the redistribution of TLs is on the cards with barely a (media) whimper, despite the best efforts of the associations and unions.

One hubber makes the astute observation that the largest number of non-teaching teachers in schools may well be the principals and their deputies.  Perhaps that’s the answer?

This week we read of Victorian education minister Bronywn Pike’s plan to improve performance in low performing schools.  Send in relatively unqualified novices!  Genius or madness?  I suggest it fails to recognise many of the qualities that great teachers possess.  It’s fashioned on two overseas models, but I don’t know if there’s much evidence that it actually works. Meanwhile, the overwhelming evidence that libraries make a difference continues to be ignored. Victorians might like to pen a letter to Ms Pike this week, as I will be. In the meantime, I managed to get a few words in today’s Age newspaper.