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


  1. Great work from the SLRC team! And good blog post.

  2. Thank you, it is well worth a visit, and ...breaking news...Angela has agreed to speak at the CILIP Cymru Wales Conference 15th-16th May 2014 :)