At the Heart of the School: celebrate National Libraries Day

Image for school libraries Blog PostQuestion: What do you have in school that can:

Improve literacy

Foster reading for pleasure

Raise academic achievement

Develop positive attitudes towards learning

Deliver information literacy skills

Create a community

And more…

Answer: A School Library

National Libraries Day will be celebrated on Saturday (6 February) and it seems fitting that here at the UCL Institute of Education Library we use the occasion to consider the role of the School Library.

So what can school libraries do? Professor Dorothy Williams and colleagues, in their 2013 review of research into school libraries, looked at the impact the library can have on learning. They summarize this impact as:

Improved test scores

Accomplishment of learning outcomes

Positive attitudinal learning.

In 2014, in the introduction to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Libraries report The Beating Heart of the School Lord Graham Tope said:

Every child growing up in the UK should have the chance to learn and develop through a good school library. Poor literacy skills stand in the way of children and young people achieving their potential. In an increasingly digital world, we need to teach young people how to evaluate and understand unprecedented amounts of information.

The ability of businesses to recruit people with the right skills and the success of our economy are underpinned by literate and knowledgeable people. Good school libraries build these skills.

Practising school librarians, who were asked to describe how their libraries contribute to their school, add further detail to the picture:

School libraries help show students how to question, search and reflect, becoming independent learners and thinkers. The school library provides a safe haven where students can retreat and recharge. TM

I… tell [the students] about a curated set of links which I have embedded into our Virtual Learning Environment… to enable them to go quickly to good quality digital information. I use World Book Day to promote reading and literature across the curriculum, using an overall theme to involve as many departments as possible. [Last year’s theme was ‘Gothic’] and included talks on the science behind vampires and Frankenstein’s monster… and the Goth subculture in Politics. TF

The library is at the heart of the school, pupils have an infectious enthusiasm for books and literacy. The library instils a real love of literature and knowledge and enhances the wider experiences of the pupils through learning. JS

It is clear these librarians see a role for the library in every aspect of the school, from pastoral to academic, from providing resources to inspiring students to use them, from achievement in exams to preparation for life-long learning. And this highlights one noteworthy feature of school libraries: their unique position in bridging age groups, subjects, abilities, even the staff/students divide.

It seems common sense that a school library should be a good thing, but that’s not enough to justify the allocation of precious school budgets. Evidence is required, and fortunately there seems to be a growing body of it. Impact of School Libraries on Learning: Critical review of published evidence to inform the Scottish education community, mentioned previously, produced in 2013 by Dorothy Williams, Caroline Wavell and Katie Morrison of Robert Gordon University, brings together world-wide evidence and examines it in the context of the Scottish education environment. School Libraries Work!: A compendium of research supporting the effectiveness of school libraries reports on and reviews recent evidence for the impact of school libraries in the US. The Beating Heart of the School makes recommendations about how evidence could be gathered for the UK.

Some of the research covered in these publications draws attention to the role of specific aspects of library provision, in particular the librarian. Libraries Work! identifies two key trends from US research: ‘when school librarian staffing is reduced, achievement in ELA [English Language Arts Standards] suffers’ and ‘Librarians play an integral role in teaching and supporting 21st-century learners’. The IFLA School Library Guidelines (2015) state: ‘Research has shown that the most critical condition for an effective school library program is access to a qualified school library professional’ (IFLA, 2015, p. 18). Williams, Wavell and Morrison’s report presents this most effective sort of school librarian as ‘a qualified, full-time librarian, who is proactive and has managerial status’. In 2011 the School Library Group of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) described this librarian as having, amongst other things:

… extensive knowledge, enthusiasm and experience to advise, encourage and inspire wider reading and reading for pleasure to ensure fair provision for all.

A skilled library practitioner with responsibility and time to help children and young people develop the skills needed to manage today’s information overload, to become lifelong learners and to meet the future job market’s need for problem solvers and independent thinkers.

‘To ensure fair provision for all’ introduces another important point about school libraries: the matter of social justice in consistent provision of good school libraries. One of Williams, Wavell and Morrison’s findings is: ‘There is also evidence that the school library is a powerful resource in lowering the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students’ and while not all children have home arrangements that will provide access to public libraries they could have access to school libraries. However in spite of these clear and proven advantages school libraries are not necessarily thriving. In England there is no statutory requirement for a school to have a library at all, and the report of the School Library Commission School Libraries: a plan for improvement found ‘in many schools the school library is a wasted resource, poorly embedded in the infrastructure of the school’. Scotland, where school library provision has traditionally been more supported, is now witnessing a petition in Parliament to save its school libraries in response to reports that several local authorities are cutting their provision.

So, in honour of National Libraries Day, if you are connected with a school in any capacity, why not find out about your school library and give it your support? The benefits will be mutual. As it prepares to celebrate its 80th birthday, here is what the School Library Association, in the words of Director Tricia Adams, has to say when asked to comment on the potential role of school libraries:

The School Library Association is 80 next year – and throughout those years we have campaigned and promoted, supported and advocated for the many benefits school libraries can provide; from supporting reading to finding information, being a safe space, a base for inspiration and creativity in the school, their impact is unique – school libraries are needed in every school!

With thanks to School Librarians Terri McCargar, Latymer Upper School; Tamsin Farthing, Royal Grammar School Guildford and Jane Spall, Aith Junior High School (SLA Honour List Librarian 2015)

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Education around the world.


Attending school, college or university or being a teacher at an educational establishment is an experience shared by many people in countries from around the world. The UCL IOE student and teaching body is composed of people from over 100 countries. Although many will have similar experiences there will also be interesting differences.

Reading about the experiences of pupils and teachers at schools, colleges and universities can tell us a lot about how the educational experience and educators are regarded in a particular place and time. Films and television series add to our understanding of these themes.

Whilst the majority of books in the ‘Education in Literature Collection’ are in English, many of the films are in a foreign language with English subtitles. A selection of books and DVDs are currently on display with a map showing their country of origin.

It is strikingly obvious that the collection needs to include more items from Australasia and from the countries of South America. Please tell a member of library staff if you can think of any books or films which show the educational experience at any level and from the point of view of either pupils or staff.

There is not enough room on the display shelves for all the books and DVDs shown on the world map. If you would like one of the other items, please look below on the other shelves. Paper slips with the heading ‘Education around the world’ will make these items stand out.

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More than just a number: bringing the content of Circulars to the surface

circI would fully understand if you thought that it’s nigh-on impossible to be enthusiastic about Departmental Circulars; however I’m hoping that that by the end of this post you might share some of the excitement that I feel following the completion of a project carried out by the Collection Development and Technical Services teams here in the Library.

The problem

Departmental Circulars play a key role in the legislative process, providing guidelines on new legislation and clarifying existing legislation through the provision of codes of practice. One thing for certain is that Circulars can be surprising. A Circular might just be a couple of paragraphs printed on a single page or it might be a bound publication running to several chapters. The content varies enormously too, ranging from a clarification of legislation to some real surprises such as the discussion of the ‘serious inconveniences that arise from the want of a common and fixed system of pronouncing Latin in schools’ (Board of Education, Circular 707, 1909.)

For me, Circulars contain some really interesting and important insights into how education policy has been implemented over the years, yet it has been difficult to ensure that our users are aware of the richness of this resource. Part of the issue is related to how our holdings have appeared on the Library Catalogue:

circular cat record

Whilst a few titles were listed, most of our holdings were referred to by number and year alone. You couldn’t browse the full extent of our holdings or search by a relevant keyword, so as a consequence Circulars were rarely called up from the stores.

The solution


However, things have now changed! My colleague Bernard Scaife has described in his blog how we have been scanning some of our old Card Catalogues records and turning the digital images into usable metadata. Well, on one of my frequent journeys down to the Library stores, I found that two drawers of catalogue cards contained the individual titles of the Circulars produced by both the Board of Education and the Ministry of Education. The cards have now been scanned and the metadata transferred to our electronic catalogue. This now means that researchers don’t need to know the number and year of printing for a Circular; they can search by title, or they can simply browse to see if there were any circulars produced that are relevant to their area of research.

For example a researcher might want to know what Circulars were produced related to rationing: and a search on IOE Library Search will now produce something like this:

IOE Library Search

Thanks to the data taken from the old card catalogues, researchers will be presented with a much richer set of results

Moving forward

Improving access to official information is one of the key reasons I find my role so interesting: so hopefully you can understand why I’ve been so excited about this latest development. The next steps are to make our holdings of Departmental Administrative Memoranda searchable by title too – if you thought Circulars were exciting….







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Personal and sensitive research data and the law

dataMuch research data about people—even sensitive data—can be shared ethically and legally if researchers employ strategies of informed consent, anonymisation and controlling access to data.  However, researchers obtaining data from people are expected to maintain high ethical standards and comply with relevant legislation and duties.  This guidance is generally provided by professional bodies, host institutions and funding organisations. The laws that govern the use of data, in addition to the duties of confidentiality, include the following Acts:

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Featured Web Resource: love My books

Love my books banner image jpegIt is not often that we recommend websites but we have decided to feature an exceptional one,  Lovemybooks, as it has a link with Early Years and KS1.  The site’s patrons are also some of the best-known children’s authors including Michael Rosen, David Almond, SF Said, Mini Grey and freelance writer and researcher on education, Myra Barrs.

Lovemybooks was created by Sue Ellis and Sue McGonigle, tutors at the UCL Institute of Education, and Olivia O’Sullivan. All three were all  formerly the senior education team at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE). Lovemybooks is full of ideas for creative story play, activities and resources linked to carefully selected picturebooks. The site is aimed at both parents and Early Years and KS1 Teachers.

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A review of @IOELibrary’s blog ‘Newsam News’

Every year, the software platform for this blog,  provides an annual report of our reach online in terms of the number of  clicks.  Apart from the comments on individual blog posts, the figures are simply figures … but they make interesting reading. Like all statistics of this sort, the report does not tell us how whether the information we post has been useful or whether the information has helped us to promote our collections.

According to the annual report, our blog has had almost 8,000 clicks – that’s 5,300 more click than in 2014 despite having only three more posts.

2014 blog stats       2015 blog stats

Additionally, the number of visits have increased by a whopping 3,412!  However, the views per visitor have gone down for not all posts attract a large audience. Our posts are read far and wide to an  international audience that is based in 95 countries – the English-speaking countries, UK, US and Australia, have by far the largest number of clicks.  This more or less represents the student profile at the UCL Institute of Education for we have students from in over one hundred countries, many of whom are distant learners.  Most users click through to the blog from the Library’s website though Twitter via @IOELibrary is also a popular way in.

The busiest day of the year was October 23rd with 106 views. The most popular post that day was EndNote, Mendeley or Zotero? That is the question. Some of the other most-read posts have been on our historical collections. This is not surprising given that we have the largest collection of materials on the history of education. The most commented on post in 2015 was Focus on Special Collections: Jerome Bruner’s MACOS Curriculum Project.   Our  Special Collections Advent Calendar did well too – with almost 300 hits.  The full report is at but here’s an excerpt from the report itself:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,000 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

With an archive of over 400 posts, it’s clear it has been a busy year for us – and we hope to remain as active on Newsam News in 2016.  Wishing you all a peaceful, joyful and and successful New Year from all of us at the Newsam Library and Archives, UCL Institute of Education.



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Children’s Rights in the History of Education Collection, UCL Institute of Education

Thursday 10th December is International Human Rights Day. In readiness for this Sally Perry and I have put together a display of materials from the Curriculum Resources and the Special Collections. The materials from the Special Collections are from the History of Education Collection and focus on Children’s Rights. The following highlight some of the materials that are exhibited in the Library.

Children’s rights are a relatively new concept unlike human rights which were first discussed in the 17th century. Philosophers such as Grotius, Hobbs and Locke wrote about ‘natural’ rights and ‘the rights of man’ but it was not until after the publication of  Rousseau’s Emile ou, De l’éducation (1762) that the notion of childhood was established.  And, it was not until the 19th century that the rights of children were discussed.

Report on the Employment of Children in the UK by constance smithIn the 1909, Constance Smith, previously a Senior HM Lady Inspector  of Factories and a member of the British Association for Labour Legislation, published the Report on the Employment of Children in the United Kingdom. In the preface to the report, Smith who was also the Secretary of the Committee on Wage-Earning Children, highlights the discrepancies of age in the definition of the child: “Since the definition of a ‘child’ is not constant and uniform in the industrial codes of different nations, but extends in some countries to workers who under the Factory and Workshop Acts of the United Kingdom would be classed as young person… readers of this Report are requested to take note that, wherever the expression ‘child’ is used in the following pages, it means a person under the age of fourteen years.”[1]

The law relating to child-saving and reformatory effortsThe 1909 publication The law relating to child-saving and reformatory efforts: being extracts from Acts of Parliament and other information (4th ed) compiled by Arthur J. S. Maddison, the secretary of the London Reformatory and Refuge Union (HC2505) lists the General Acts, the Poor Law Acts and the Local Acts, Regulations and Bye-Laws that protected the young from 1851 to 1909. The Reformatory and Refuge Union was responsible for providing safe houses to the destitute young, especially “young women who have fallen from virtue, and are anxious to make an earnest endeavour to enter on an honourable and useful life.”[2]


Eglantyne Jebb (1876-1928)

After the Great War in 1919, a British teacher Eglantyne Jebb, together with her sister Dorothy, founded an emergency relief fund for starving children of Europe. The International Save the Children Alliance was created as a response to Jebb’s own experience with child victims of war.  A posthumous essay, Save the Child!,  published on the first anniversary of her death, is held in the History of Education Collection (HC429)

“We cannot leave defenceless children everywhere exposed to ruin – moral or physical. We cannot run the risk that they should weep, starve, despair and die, with never a hand stretched out to help them” – Eglantyne Jebb, 1919

At the same time, the newly formed League of Nations (later the United Nations), established a Committee on Child Welfare in 1919. The League of Nations was instrumental in protecting basic human rights and in 1924 adopted Jebb’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child – the first international treaty concerning children’s rights. In five chapters, it gives specific rights to the children and responsibilities to the adults. The chapters read as follows:

THE CHILD must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.

THE CHILD that is hungry must be fed; the child that is sick must be nursed; the child that is backward must be helped; the delinquent child must be reclaimed; and the orphan and waif must be sheltered and succoured.

THE CHILD must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.

THE CHILD must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.

THE CHILD must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow-men.

Save the Child 2

Eglantyne Jebb’s posthumous essay published in 1929 on the first anniversary of her death.

However, it was not until 1959, that the United Nations (previously the League of Nations) adopted the declaration of the Child. Eleven years earlier, after the Second World War, the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It took another twenty years before the International Year of the Child was established in 1979.  In 1989 the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) defined a child as “a human under the age of eighteen”.  Prior to this, the rights of children tended to be focused on protection rights such as the Employment of Children Act (1903), the Prevention of the Cruelty to Children Act (1904) and the Children Act of 1908.

The UCL Institute of Education’s Archives hold the papers of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE). CRAE was founded in 1991 after the UK’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to monitor the UK Government’s commitment to upholding the document. In 2000, the United Nations introduced the optional protocols specifically on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, the sale of children, childhood prostitution and child pornography.

For more information on the History of Education Collection, see:


[1] Smith, Constance (1909). Report on the employment of children in the United Kingdom (2nd ed). London: British Association for Labour Legislation. (History of Education Collection Hub SMI)

[2] From: Archer, Thomas. (1870) The Terrible Sights of London. London: S. Rivers.

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