Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Schools Literacy and Resource Centre, Monmouthshire and Torfaen.

The SLRC van and staff member Annie
Last week (Wednesday 16th October) I had the pleasure of visiting the Schools Literacy and Resource Centre, Monmouthshire and Torfaen.
The SLRC works across the two local authorities to provide a loans and advisory service to schools and nurseries; it is funded by the education services of both authorities.

I was greeted by Angela Noble in the light and open office at the front of three units of a busy business park in Pontypool.

A view from the top of SLRC
The centre needed to move accommodation in 2012 with the closure of County Hall. Angela explained that the specialised needs of the service meant finding a home could have been tricky but when three units at the business park became available, they were perfectly laid out for the service which needs a reception area to meet with teachers, shelving for the book collections and storage space for other resources such as story sacks and project boxes. The SLRC also hosts a meeting area with WiFi that can be used by agile workers from both authorities.

Angela, who has over 30 years experience of working within education and libraries, leads a small team of talented staff ,3 full time and 1 part time, who provide resources, training and advice to 11 secondary schools, including one Welsh medium and 62 primary schools.

The SLRC provides a wide variety of support to school staff including:

  • Project loans, 20 professionally selected books and other resources that support the National Curriculum and Curriculum Cymru. Teachers can request up to 3 project loans on any topic at one time
  • Fiction exchange, a selection of quality fiction books loaned to schools for 12 months.
  • Photograph packs, A5 photographs are used to enhance the project loans and compliment the book collections.
  • Big Books, the SLRC has a large selection of Big Books suitable for Key Stage 1.
  • Story sacks, these colourful sacks contain books, games, puppets and toys to be used by teachers in nursery classes to enhance story times. 
  • Religious and historical artefacts, a selection of artefacts from all major religions and from periods of Roman and Victorian history.
  • All of these resources are delivered using the SLRC van.

Designing Libraries

Angela and her team also design school libraries and their expertise has been in high demand.
The SLRC team help teachers reorganise a school library to enable it to function effectively. They remove (and recycle) unsuitable, out of date material, classify the remaining stock and give professional advice on how to set up a cataloguing and issue system. The team also provide a written review of the library and give recommendations on how to select resources. Details of each school library either designed by, or reorganised by the team are kept on file to be reviewed and updated, ensuring the library is kept up to date and relevant to the needs of the school.
Many teachers have written to the team to express their appreciation, one teacher writes

 “The library is brilliant! Staff are really pleased and seeing all the effort you have put in has helped me gain PTA funding to buy new library furniture!”

Angela Noble at the SLRC

The SLRC team also support the shadowing of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards in primary and secondary schools.
Angela visits secondary school students to present them with multiple copies of the Kate Greenaway short list, produced by the Youth Libraries Group. Students look at and discuss the books with each other and vote for their favourites.
Primary school students take the Kate Greenaway short listed books home to share with younger siblings and feedback on their reactions to the books.
This often sparks off other creative input from the students; with many classes creating art work and producing dramatic pieces based on the short list.
Angela has noticed how these sessions have helped develop the debating skills of the children involved.

“The enthusiasm and passion shown by the students in these discussions demonstrates an understanding and ability to debate that astonishes any of their teachers present.  In some schools the same students have reappeared each year, so keen are they to take part”
Angela Noble, Schools Literacy and Resource Centre, Monmouthshire and Torfaen.

Only a few days before my visit, author Neil Gaiman talked about the “'the power of fiction to transform our understanding of the world and turn us into citizens” at his Reading Agency lecture.

 "The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books and letting them read them."

Angela and her team, in using their professional knowledge and experience to support teachers and pupils are doing exactly what Neil describes and I left feeling amazed at how one small team can achieve so much.

You can contact the Schools Literacy and Resource Centre
Unit 1b, Torfaen business park, Panteg Way, New Inn, Pontypool, NP4 0LS
01633 644 560 / 644 565

Mandy Powell
CILIP Policy Officer, Wales

Thursday, 10 October 2013

CILIP New Professionals Day workshop

Last week (4th October) I ran a workshop at the CILIP New Professionals Day in London.
Although I have facilitated workshops before, and have a professional certificate in training , this was the first time I had planned and run my own workshop...and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I had 34 people in my session and received some useful feedback.

The theme of the session was 'developing professional skills' and my aim was to help delegates explore ways of developing professional skills using examples from outside of their day jobs. As the title of the event explains, the audience were new professionals , so I was aware that some may not actually be in posts and I wanted to help them find other ways of getting the experience they need in order to apply for jobs.

To prepare for the workshop I looked up a number of library and information job vacancies in the UK and chose the 6 skills most regularly asked for by employers.

On the day the room was set up theatre style and I wanted the 34 people to work with each other, so after a quick introduction from me, I asked them all to put themselves into small groups.

Monty Python breaks the ice.

I followed this with an ice breaker: I asked everyone to explain to each other which of the Monty Python team they were most like* This immediately lead to groans, laughter and lots of noise, which is of course exactly what I wanted...everyone talking and getting to know each other

I then asked each group to look at one of the 6 skills, and chat about ways they could develop examples.
I had slides ready with my suggestions, but I was very pleased to find that all the groups worked well together and came up with lots of ideas.

After each group had fed back to the whole room, I then asked the same groups to look at 6 activities or actions (blogging, networking etc) and asked them to answer three questions:

  1. What skills will it help you develop?
  2. How would you start?
  3. How would you improve?
Again, I had slides ready with suggestions, but they were just for back up in case there were any awkward silences..., but there were none.

I received some very pleasing feedback.

32 people took part in the workshop, 25 filled in feedback forms.

  • 19 rated the speaker's knowledge as Excellent, 6 as Good.
  • 23 rated the speaker's communication skills as Excellent, 2 as Good.
  • 8 rated the slides as Excellent, 14 as Good and 3 as OK.
  • 15 rated the handouts as Excellent and 10 as Good.
  • All 25 said yes they had enjoyed the session.
  • All 25 agreed the workshop helped them identify ways to develop professional skills.
  • 24 out of 25 said they had enough time to discus topics with their group.


“Really useful collaborative session”

“Great speaker!”

“Many thanks, it was useful”

“Good interactive workshop, thank you”

“Handouts are great, relaxed and fun workshop, thanks”

“Really fun session, well done”

It was a useful and interesting day, very well organised by Matthew Wheeler at CILIP. The best part was of course, getting to know more new professionals, whose enthusiasm was uplifting.
You can read more about the day and the other sessions here.

Matthew will also be speaking at the CILIP Cymru Wales FREE Information day and AGM , booking is open now.

Mandy Powell, CILIP Policy Officer, Wales

* For the record, I think I am most like Terry Jones.