Ofsted ing a school library

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Now I’ve had this debate numerous times with numerous people and have seen completely different reactions each time.

From those hell bent on believing this is the only way for school librarians to be noticed in school, to those that think Ofsted visiting a library is plain stupid.

The arguments for a library being part of an inspection is that 1. it will raise the profile of a library. 2. It will force head teachers to invest in the resources that a good library needs and 3. ultimately it will give recognition to the school librarian and their role in school.

These are the points that are argued to me when I raise my opinions on the matter.

Now, don’t get me wrong. School librarianship is my profession and I want librarians in all schools that are at a level that is fully integrated into the fabric of teaching and learning, that are seen as a necessity rather than a luxury but for us to achieve this I believe it’s ourselves we need to look at rather than Ofsted.

1. Raise to profile if a school library. Some school librarians seem, almost to the point of madness, that the reason school libraries aren’t valued in school is because of everything else and everyone else. It’s either a lack of support from head teachers, teachers themselves not using or valuing the service given, the government not putting enough focus on school libraries or because Ofsted don’t value it, no one else will.

To me this is one of the biggest issues. Why, instead of blaming everything and everyone one else do we not look a little closer to home? Is it not that in a school where the Headteacher values the library and that the librarian has a higher position in school that it is down to the work that that librarian has done in school that has earned that value. Instead of it being a preconceived ideal of the Headteacher, that a school library is great, that actually the school librarian has shown their value and impact that has resulted in the school valuing the library? The world of school librarians is littered with a wide range of abilities with some amazing and some extremely poor but instead of focussing on things we can’t change why can’t we focus on the things we can and spend the time on making what we do in school valued?

2. I can honestly say that I don’t think anything has been a success if the people judging that success have been forced into that position. By scaring head teachers into having a library because Ofsted are including it in their inspection is only going to achieve head teachers valuing a library a lot less and viewing it as something forced upon them, dictated to them. A sure fire way to make anyone loathe something.

3. What is it with this never ending need for recognition? Yes I get it that school librarians feel like no one cares and are undervalued but surely we should be focussing on having the biggest impact we can rather than having recognition lead our roles. If everything we do is to get ourselves recognised then we’re doing all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons.

I don’t believe Ofsted should need to come anywhere near a library to be able to judge its value. 80% of an inspection is taken up in classrooms talking to students and analysing teaching etc. if these are the things we’re supposed to be influencing and impacting on then it will be seen and heard. If you feel your role is creating a reading culture in a school, improving teaching and learning and giving students the skills to be able to access learning this is only ever going to be seen in the classroom. If it’s not then you’re not doing it. Harsh, but a simple truth.
An inspector should be encouraged to come and speak to a librarian, yes, but instead of having meaningless reports and data shoved in their faces a discussion on the ways you have impacted on the classroom is much more valuable. What will the inspectors see in a lesson/around the school that meets your objectives that you have made happen? That is much more worthwhile than demanding a change to protocol that will most likely never happen.

If you are doing a good job it will be seen, if you’re not included in any report it’s not the end of the world. Don’t let this lead you. Do something about the things you can change not those you can’t.

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