Friday, 22 March 2013

Policy and planning for the school library

Great to see Alan Gibbons’ Guardian article on school libraries. Good school libraries are the product of good policy and planning, and I was delighted to give training on this for Hillingdon Schools Library Service this week. There were excellent discussions about the aims of school libraries, and how to make sure they’re met through effective policy, planning and practice.

We explored the impact on library policy of Ofsted’s priorities, as set out in the Framework for Inspection, the School Inspection Handbook and Moving English Forward, particularly the emphasis on reading for enjoyment and literacy across the curriculum.

I’m always concerned when schools have no library policy or development plan. A policy document clarifies the role and aims of the library, helping the whole school community understand how it supports teaching and learning and aids attainment, while a plan identifies the actions required to accomplish the aims. The School Library Association has useful publications on policy and planning, one for primary schools, and one for secondary.

We talked on the course about what constitutes evidence of effectiveness. Quantitative measures (e.g. issue and usage figures) are needed, and qualitative ones too (e.g. the library’s contribution to promoting wider reading and developing students’ independent learning). Examples of work done by students using library resources are good evidence. Photographs and videos are very powerful.

Michael Rosen tells us the school library should be an ‘unmissable, unavoidable place’. In Gillian Cross’s view: ‘Anyone who has grasped the implications of independent learning will understand that the library is at the heart of the school.’ Ofsted says in Reading, Writing and Communication (Literacy): ‘Around the school, an attractive and well-stocked library is often an indicator of effective support for pupils’ wider reading and information retrieval skills.’ Yes to all of these. And yes to that inspirational educational thinker Stephen Heppell who believes that school libraries are more important now than ever, as ‘places where everyone can come together and learn’. The photo shows that happening in a great library lesson at Mayflower High School, where I enjoyed giving inset recently.