Focus on DERA: Creating a trans inclusive environment in schools and colleges

The IOE Library has always collected documents published by government and other relevant bodies in the areas of education, training, children, and families. Today, the Official Publications Collection here at the Library is the largest of our special collections and is highly valued by our users.

In some ways official publications are no different to other areas of publishing and we have witnessed a rapid transition towards a “digital by default” approach. You may already have read our recent blog post about DERA – our online repository founded on the traditions of our printed Official Publications Collection, dedicated to preserving the digital output of government in relation to education – where we highlighted content on the subject of music education. This month, we are highlighting DERA resources that focus on transgender guidance for schools and colleges. The resources, produced by a mixture of unions, councils and charities, are designed for educational staff to support and assist trans pupils, students and colleagues.

*It is important to note that the guidance documents use the words ‘trans’ and ‘transgender’ as umbrella terms for those whose gender identity or expression differs in some way from the sex assigned to them at birth.

Written in 2012, Schools Transgender Guidance produced by The Intercom Trust and Devon & Cornwall Police, was the first transgender guidance of its kind to be incorporated into schools and colleges. Designed to inform educational staff how they can support, inform, protect and enable pupils and students questioning their gender, its chapters cover a broad range of subjects including, identity, discrimination and the school environment. The guidance also contains a small introduction to trans history and a useful booklist for children and teenagers, featuring titles that challenge gender stereotypes, introduce children to a range of family structures and are written from the perspective of trans teen characters.

Many of the suggested titles can be found in the Curriculum Resources section of the IOE Library:

Discussing different families: The Family Book by Todd Parr, Who’s in a Family? Robert Skutch, Picnic in the Park Joe Griffiths, Prince Cinders Babette Cole.

For children: The Sissy Duckling Harvey Fierstein, William’s Doll Charlotte Zolotow, My Princess Boy Cheryl Kilodavis, The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler Gene Kemp, Tutus Aren’t My Style Linda Skeers, The Boy in the Dress David Walliams

For teenagers: Luna by Julie Anne Peters, Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

Regularly updated, The Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit (Version 3.3) produced by Brighton & Hove City Council and the Allsorts Youth Project, was created in consultation with children, young people and their families and features case studies describing the experiences of trans students, plus parent and carer perspectives. In addition to providing information, the toolkit includes practical exercises for educators, such as a Guide to challenging homo / bi / transphobic language and gender stereotyping.

Supporting Trans and Gender Questioning Students, is a short document from The National Education Union, NEU, which discusses the first steps that teachers can take to support gender questioning students in the classroom and across the school. Trans Equality in Schools and Colleges for Teachers and Leaders, from The Teacher’s Union, NASUWT, primarily focuses on supporting trans teachers in the workplace but also discusses best practice guidance for assisting trans pupils and staff and students with family members who are transitioning.

Supporting Transgender Young People: Guidance for Schools in Scotland, produced by LGBT Youth Scotland and The Scottish Trans Alliance is a general guide designed to help primary and secondary education staff in Scotland  support transgender children and young people. Covering steps for good practice and providing practical support, it also contains information specific to Scottish Government policy and legislation. There is also a list of suggested book titles for primary and secondary pupils, some of which can be found here in the IOE Library, in Curriculum Resources:

Primary school pupils: Introducing Teddy: a story about being yourself by Jessica Walton, Are you a boy or are you a girl? by  Sarah Savage and Fox Fisher, Who are You? The Kid’s guide to gender identity  Brook Pessin-Whedbee.

Secondary school pupils: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, I am J by Cris Beam, If I was your girl by Meredith Russo

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Focus on DERA (Digital Education Research Archive): Music Education.

The IOE Library has always collected documents published by government and other relevant bodies in the areas of education, training, children, and families. Today, the Official Publications Collection here at the Library is the largest of our special collections and is highly valued by our users.

In some ways official publications are no different to other areas of publishing and we have witnessed a rapid transition towards a “digital by default” approach. You may already have read our recent blog post about DERA – our online repository founded on the traditions of our printed Official Publications Collection, dedicated to preserving the digital output of government in relation to education – where we highlighted content on the subject of school meals. This month, we are highlighting DERA resources focused on music education.

Music has a power of forming the character and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young (Aristotle): this is an idea which is still relevant today as evidenced by Susan Hallam’s 2015 book The power of music: a research synthesis of the impact of actively making music on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people.

Documents about music education in England that can be found in DERA include The Importance of Music. A National Plan for Music Education (2011) (NPME). The NPME was produced by The Department for Education and The Department for Culture, Media and Sport in response to the findings of Darren Henley’s Review of Music Education in England (2011) which is also in DERA.

Henley had found that

“…..many children in England benefit from excellent music teaching from excellent teachers. In some parts of the country, the opportunities for children to take part in musical activities are immense. However, some children in England do not currently receive an adequate, let alone good, Music Education.”

In the NPME the government states that

Our vision is to enable children from all backgrounds and every part of England to have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument; to make music with others; to learn to sing; and to have the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence.

The NPME covers what The Importance of Music means to schools; local authorities/local authority music services; national, regional and local music/arts organisations; private music teachers and other music educators. It acknowledges that schools, due to staffing and financial restrictions, could not be expected to cover all aspects of music education themselves. One of the major innovations implemented as a result of the NMEP was the formation of music education hubs from September 2012. The 120 Music Hubs would

‘….augment and support music teaching in schools so that more children experience a combination of classroom teaching, instrumental and vocal tuition and input from professional musicians’

The hubs would be able to draw on the expertise of a range of education and arts partners, such as local orchestras and choirs and charities.

The government was keen to encourage local innovation but did set core roles for the hubs to ensure national consistency and equality of purpose. The core roles included ensuring that every child aged 5-18 had a chance to learn a musical instrument (other than voice) through whole –class ensemble teaching; providing opportunities to play in ensembles and perform, ensure that clear progression routes were available and affordable for all and to develop a singing strategy .

The NPME initially allocated funding to cover the period April 2012 TO 31 March 2015. It was planned that this would help to remove the historical imbalance in funding between areas. The music education hubs continue to receive government funding and an annual review of their work is provided by Arts Council England.

The government’s continuing support for good quality and inclusive music education is emphasised in another document in DERA. It is a 2016 speech given by the then Schools Minister Nick Gibb entitled. Why good –quality music education matters. One innovation that is highlighted is the Classical 100 music app which was launched by the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal School of Music) in collaboration with Classic FM and Decca. This digital resource is freely available to all primary schools and includes recordings of 100 classic pieces of music composed over 10 centuries. The recordings are supplemented by digital teaching resources. Nick Gibb is also keen to refute the accusation that the status of arts in schools has been damaged by the government’s focus on the uptake of EBaac (English Baccalaureate) subjects at GCSE.

Recent reports The State of Play A Review of Music Education in England (2019) and Music Education: State of the Nation (2019) reflect the experiences and thoughts of members from organisations as diverse as the Musicians’ Union (MU) and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education. These include the instrument teachers, classroom teachers and music managers responsible for the delivery of the NPME in England. They believe strongly in the positive impact of music education on a child’s development both in terms of academic achievement and general well-being. As with many aspects of education recently there are worries about the availability of funds.

The professionals’ concerns are echoed in popular news articles such as the BBC’s Music lessons being stripped out of schools in England by Mark Savage (2019) and The Economist’s Total eclipse of the arts (2018). Also, earlier this year the BPI (British Performing Industry) published the results of a survey of 2,200 music teachers which reveal a growing disparity between the provision of music in state and independent schools. The BPI welcomed the DfE’s (Department for Education) proposed Model Music Curriculum

as an important step in addressing this inequality, but stresses the need for the Government to get its delivery right by ensuring that non-music teachers in primary schools are just as equipped to teach it successfully as those teachers with a greater depth of knowledge.

However in October 2019 the DfE announced that it had delayed publishing the Model Music Curriculum because of concerns over ‘quality’. When the DfE’s Model Music Curriculum is finally published it will be added to the other documents on music education that can be found in DERA.

It is to be hoped that improvements are made to the provision of music education in England because it is recognised that the music industry in the UK adds significantly to the economy and to the prestige of the country worldwide. Musicians are needed to form the orchestras that accompany opera, ballet or musical theatre, or play the organ in churches, or sing in choirs or make and perform popular music. Recent successful musicians such as Adele and Sheku Kanneh-Mason began their musical education whilst at school and it’s important that future generations are given the same opportunities to flourish in music.


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Off to work in bowler-hats and bonnets

The blurred black-and-white photograph showed a man in a bowler-hat with a walking-stick rushing up a multi-storey staircase to demonstrate how quickly he climbs up in his career in a certain bank. It caught my eye in the 1963 edition of the Careers encyclopedia : a work of reference upon 250 occupations.

Books on careers and vocational education, 1900's to 1960's, on trolley.In a 1938 directory of Vocational schools some ladies with perfect perms creating perfect perms on other ladies struck my eye; so did the “Mayfair Secretarial College (For Gentlewomen)”.

In a guide to female occupations of 1935, an ad for a nursery training college listed “housewifery” besides needlework and cooking; I am not sure what it covered. “Full uniform outfit” was provided.

Woman looking after five toddlers. Black-and-white photo of ca. 1963.For most of the 20th century, there was certainly a strong tendency to restrict women to a few career paths and, preferably, to their duty as housewives and mothers. On the other hand, literature from the 1920s to 1960s opens your eyes for the many opportunities already open to them and the great encouragement to study, train, work, perhaps teach in turn, become a manager, or start a business.

Our guide to Careers and vocational training … for educated women and girls (1935) covers professional cooking, baking, or dress-making but also suggests practising as a veterinary doctor, designing and building ships, or going into diplomacy or politics!

Five men working in factory. Black-and-white photo of 1968.An outline of farming claims that agriculture is at the forefront of science and technology, therefore demanding application of body and mind. The writer ascribes any lack of opportunities to girls’ circumstances (preferably join a brother or fiancé in order to run a farm) and not their natural abilities.

The attitude to gender seemed to differ between the general guide to occupations and the one for women; perhaps you can find out more.

Ad from: Careers encylopedia (1963). Correspondence courses in draughtsmanship.

A chapter on engineering careers for girls contained the very interesting remark that in mathematical and experimental work, a woman might have equal chances to a man, but not so in administration (I suppose this refers to management): because they would have to exert “control of men”.

Seeing that the advertisements in such guidebooks and directories reveal so much about society in past times, I have added the note “commercial advertisements” to a catalogue record. Many publications even have an index of advertising companies and organisations.

Ads from: Careers encylopedia (1963). Courses at School of Slavonic Studies and London School of Economics.


In the first two books mentioned above, I noticed ads for au-pair positions and other opportunities overseas; a domestic science school at Lake Geneva; furnished flats in Parliament Hill; fully equipped offices in Victoria; correspondence courses to become a draughtsman (for men only); loans for professional development (for women only).

There were also references to or notices from some colleges which now are part of UCL, such as the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) and the Institute of Education (IOE).


In our older books on education, you will already find most of our current heated debates half a century ago and longer:

  • educational methods like group work, individualised instruction, peer teaching, experiential learning;
  • the value of manual skills, the balance of academic and practical subjects, the training of craftsmen and their teachers;
  • access to education, equal opportunity; poor living and working conditions; the plight of ignorance, unemployment, or addiction.

An essay on child labour revealed that during World War I, children toiled in munition factories from the age of 14… and often for over 60 hours per week. Boy work : exploitation or training (1919) laments exhausting dead-end jobs, with the situation only exacerbated by unemployment after the war. The author develops a plan of continuing education and career guidance.

A study of The day continuation school in England (1923) features examples from other countries. In Germany, young workers were usually apprentices, benefiting from lessons directly useful for their trade but also from physical education, civic education, and cultural education.

If you now want to know which Special Collection you need to consult: most of these treasures are languishing in our general Stores (Stacks) with other older books until you let them see the light of the library again.

Screenshot of UCL Explore, demonstrating request from stores.

Search for your subjects on the UCL catalogue, sign in, and click on “Request” above your title. If you may not borrow a book, we shall keep it behind the enquiry desk for as long as you need it. We are looking forward to your research into child labour and women’s employment, vocational education and career guidance of previous generations; the next screenshot gives you some search terms to start with.

Screenshot of UCL Explore, demonstrating subject search.

Historical photographs: 

Factory workers in Guben, Germany [GDR], 1968. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-G0925-0036-001 / Stöhr [CC BY-SA 3.0 de].

Nursery nurse in Binz on Rügen, Germany [GDR], ca. 1963. Deutsche Fotothek [CC BY-SA 3.0 de].

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Books that make bricks talk

Talking squirrels or lions or butterflies dart out of children’s books regularly, so you would barely be stirred by them while studying near the teachers’ collection at the Newsam Library.

QUOTE "THERE IS NO POINT IN BEING A SOCK ON YOUR OWN."On cataloguing some piles of picture books, however, I was startled by quite a few objects speaking to me out of the pages, amongst them a pair of socks, a sausage, and a brick.

Book cover looking like a wall of bright red bricks.I have already reported on The table that ran away and sought refuge in the forest and the tiny book looking like a brick wall, Mr Rouse builds a house, both by Stefan and Franciszka Themerson. Already in 1938, the authors envisaged screaming flats, growling buses, and sniggering chimneys.


COVER Brick by SteinNow I can recommend the story of just one Brick, who undertakes a journey to many distant castles and temples, cottages and housing estates, until she decides to form part of… a garden path, lying down with a big smile! The real monuments, all of brick, in London and New York, Uzbekistan and India are shown in an appendix.

PAGES Brick by Stein‘Brick who found herself in architecture’ by Joshua David Stein. Images: Phaidon Press.


You have naturally met caterpillars before in libraries, at least The very hungry caterpillar, which crawls around our shelves in many incarnations. Or perhaps you felt uneasy at the remark: “Oh look, there are lots of caterpillars walking on top of your green head!” when Mr Rouse’s balcony flowers were laughing at a tree…

COVER Caterpillar by Graham

Richard Graham’s Cranky caterpillar is special. It lives in a piano and cannot get out – it is stuck in the dark wooden box and must play the same sad tune over and over again… A little girl tries to cheer it up with the assistance of some goggle-eyed, bouncing, laughing, talking musical instruments, until clouds of colourful shapes rise and the piano keys literally dissolve into a meandering jubilant tune.

PAGES Caterpillar by Graham

‘The cranky caterpillar’ by Richard Graham.
Images used with kind permission of Thames & Hudson.


Only those of us from those three generations who, as young children, memorised Pluto as the ninth planet orbiting the sun, can empathise with the little planet who is cast out of the fold in A place for Pluto. In Stef Wade’s imagination, the cute wide-eyed creature argues (“But I am in all the schoolbooks!”), demonstrates (“#PlutoBelongs”), and travels through space with his little suitcase until he finds his new mates, the dwarf planets.

COVER Point line by Kandinsky at Dover

An emotional and sociable planet would have given mirth to Aristophanes, whose frogs and bees swarm into our playhouses to this day, and who would have been acquainted with personified celestial bodies. Yet talking triangles and dancing rectangles, I believe, would have left Pythagoras nonplussed.

A talking house seems quite probable to an imaginative mind; a talking brick is still a tangible thing; but a rectangle is just a concept. Abstract art like Kandinsky’s which inspired Richard Graham, with line and colour as protagonists, as it were, emerged only in the early 20th century.

COVER Pluto by WadeCover of square book showing a black square with big eyes.

Cover of square book showing a black triangle with big eyes.

COVER Circle by Barnett and Klassen

There are plenty of animated shapes popping out of many new children’s books. Some circles and squares passed through my previous article, together with wonky blobs and wiggly lines. With Circle rolls, a new squad has joined them, frolicking around to verse: “Whirl, twirl! Flip, flop!”… “Shapes glide… and collide!”

I wonder what the teachers amongst you will do with these books… and if you can have as much fun in other academic libraries!


COVER Circle by Kanninen and Bloch

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A New Home for the “Education in Literature Collection”

Until recently, the Education in Literature Collection was shelved at one end of the Library Teaching Room on Level 4. However, whilst it is still on the same level, the books and DVDs that comprise the collection have found a new home on the white metal shelves in the Social Area next to the stairwell.The collection’s more prominent position makes it much easier to locate a specific item or to browse the shelves for inspiration.20190719_112126

The Education in Literature contains novels which span a wide selection of genres from Classics (The Professor by Charlotte Bronte), Crime (Cat among the pigeons by Agatha Christie),  Humour (Teacher, Teacher by Jack Sheffield) to Science Fiction ( Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes).20190729_144732

There is also a selection of plays (including The History Boys by Alan Bennett), autobiographies  (including Educated by Tara Westover) and foreign novels in translation ( including  Such Fine Boys by Patrick Modiano). The items in the collection explore the educational experience at all levels and from the perspectives of both pupils and teachers in many countries.


Films or TV series with an educational setting, be it a school or university, give us an insight into the way education and educators are regarded in different places. As well as DVDs from the United Kingdom and the United States, there are films from France, Spain, Germany, India, China, Australia, and Canada. All foreign language films have English subtitles.


All books may be borrowed for 8 weeks and DVDs for 7 days .If an item is featured on a specific reading list, the loan period is 7 days in the case of a book and 1 day for a DVD.


The relocation of the Education Collection means it is now part of the Library’s Social Area and there are plenty of comfortable seats to make browsing and reading easy. Come and have a look for yourselves.



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Praising the IOE Library

After twenty years working at the IOE Library, I’d like to sing the praises of an extraordinary institution: the UCL Institute of Education Library.  Bear with me on this religious imagery as I’ve always seen libraries as ‘temples of learning’ (spires  in a 2012 blog). For many years in the library, I’ve watched users searching for truth, reverently studying, and sometimes, praying for deliverance.

5th floor

During these past two decades, I’ve also seen a myriad of changes in library leadership, infrastructure, technology, buildings, staff and students. But what has remained the same is the devotion to learning and the support of learning. In fact, although I was a teacher before coming to the IOE, I’ve always considered myself more of a preacher here. My sermons over the years have included miracles (IOE LibGuides), sacred resources (databases) and commandments for searching.

I confess that I can be evangelical about the rich and varied resources we have at the IOE because I have always been able to depend on the most valuable, often hidden resource here: IOE library staff. These library staff catalogue, order, digitise and provide reference, membership, collection development and information literacy services steadfastly, reliably and professionally. The work they do is not always visible, but it is vital.

Christina Egan

Without these diligent staff, I would not have been able to do what I’ve done for the  past twenty years — preach about the library in inductions, workshops and specialised sessions. Because library staff have been devoted to their jobs, I’ve been able to do mine. They’re always ready to do that little extra to support students and staff and we’ve even created our own little ‘Garden of Eden’ in the library.

IOE garden

As I leave the IOE Library, I would like to shout ‘Hallelujah for IOE Library staff!’.  It’s been a joy working with you all.  Amen.

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Spotlight on the NUT donation: “Homework. A Memorandum issued by the National Union of Teachers on Educational Pamphlet No. 110 of the Board of Education”

As you may already be aware, in late 2016 we received a wonderful donation from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) which included 380 pamphlet boxes containing material published by the NUT itself and many other organisations operating in the areas of education, children and families.

We have checked and sorted these publications, discovering many interesting items during the process. In February 2018 we created a LibGuide and also published a series of blog posts looking in more detail at a selection of these NUT resources.  The focus of this blog is several documents from the collection concerned with the perennially thorny subject of ‘Homework’.

A Memorandum issued by The National Union of Teachers on Educational Pamphlet No. 110 of the Board of Education was issued in October 1937. The aforementioned pamphlet was a Report published in May 1937 after three years of investigation into the subject of ‘Homework’. The job of gathering evidence was given to inspectors in England and Wales as an adjunct to their usual regular visits to schools. The report covered elementary, secondary and vocational schools.

Of particular interest to the modern reader is perhaps the foremost point made in relation to elementary or junior schools that

“The setting of lessons to be done at home has at no time been regarded as part of compulsory education”

The hours of schooling had been set to take into consideration the claims of children’s home lives. Also the curriculum did not make homework necessary. Why then was homework, at the instigation of staff or in answer to demands by parents, being set at all? As stated in the Memorandum the answer most commonly given was “a desire to assist the pupil to pass the Entrance Examination to the Secondary School at the age of 11+.    

Why this examination has assumed such importance can be partly understood by the fact that “the standing and reputation of a school is, in some areas, dependent upon the success of its pupils in the Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination”. A school’s successes and failures are often all too apparent because the local press still publish the examination results giving the names of schools and pupils. The general public and even Local Education Authorities can use these results to judge the merits of the education offered by different schools. It is the opinion of the NUT that in reality there may be many factors, including differences in the ability and intelligence of pupils in different schools, which influence the success or failure of candidates. Teachers can therefore feel under pressure to take action, including setting homework, to ensure that their pupils pass the examination. It is also understandable that parents are eager for their children to have access to University and many of the professions which require a good secondary education. Homework can then come to be seen as a way of preparing for the important 11+ exam.

The NUT agreed with the recommendation given in the Report that “no homework should be set in children under twelve”. Furthermore, the Union wanted an alternative to the 11+ exam to be found. It also felt that lists of successful candidates should not be published as they could lead to schools working only towards success in the exam.

A second document from the NUT in 1955, Statement by the Executive of the Union on Homework in the Primary School, makes it clear that despite the passing of the Education Act of 1944 there continued to be demands made on primary school age children to undertake homework. Although the number of grammar school places had increased it was not at a uniform rate throughout the country. Parents were therefore still demanding that schools set homework in the belief that it would increase their children’s chances of success.20190712_094625

Once again the Union made it clear that they still did not regard “the setting of lessons to be done at home” as part of the education of junior school pupils. However the Union also thought that teachers should encourage those pupils who wanted to follow up a school project or lesson at home. It was acknowledged that children might not have access to suitable reading material at home. It was therefore important for primary schools to have well stocked libraries and to encourage children to use their local public library.

Members of other education unions have also been interested in the Homework debate as evidenced by the Association of Assistant Mistresses’ (AAM) 1974 discussion document. AAM made the point that traditionally compulsory homework had been associated with grammar schools rather than secondary modern schools.

“There has therefore grown up in the mind of the public a false correlation between homework and intelligence, and even between homework and social status”. 

Eventually the government stepped in and in 1998 Labour’s guidelines recommended an hour a week for five to seven-year-olds, gradually rising to 2.5 hours per night for pupils aged between 14 and 16. But then in 2012 the Conservatives decided that whilst homework was part of a good education, it should be up to head teachers to set their own homework policy because they knew what would be most suitable for their own pupils. In 2018 Damian Hinds (Secretary of State for Education) stated that

Just to be clear: schools are not obliged to set homework, and some don’t. But when schools do set homework, children do need to do it. We trust individual school head teachers to decide what their policy on homework will be, and what happens if pupils don’t do what’s set.

Books available in the library including Homework: the evidence by Susan Hallam (2004) and Homework for learning: 300 practical strategies by Gerry Czerniawski and Warren Kidd (2013), along with the 2019 journal article by Jane Medwell and David Wray and newspaper articles are all evidence that homework is still a much debated topic by teachers and parents alike.

With regards to the NUT donated items, the scale of the donation means that these have not yet been catalogued and that is the next stage in this exciting project. In the meantime, please visit our LibGuide, which includes information on the access arrangements that we have in place for these fascinating items.

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Superheroes and real-life heroes haunt the library

Book cover - Graphic novel - Page by Paige - by Gulledge.Over the summer, many bright and shiny books will be smuggled onto the shelves by busy librarians and also flash the message from the catalogue: ‘Graphic novel’.  There will be far more than the Newsam Library ever held in its ‘Curriculum Resources Collection’, which in fact includes all kinds of children’s and young people’s books.

‘Which corner?’ you may ask – I can see some of you already on their way here while they are reading this on their smartphones!

Well, some of them stand in a rack at the far end of the library, but generally, we put the graphic novels in different corners because they are of varying nature: a visual re-imagination of a novel or tale; a presentation on the borderline of historical research and fiction; a brand-new story based on a recent event…

Do not be surprised at the categories ‘graphic novels’, ‘comic books’ or even ‘comic strips’ – in fact, look out for all these: partly, these terms are due to international conventions, partly, it is sometimes difficult to put these works of art and learning into categories.

Screenshot - Catalogue search - Graphic novels.

An illustrated version of a literary work will be right next to it. L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of the Green Gables awaits you at MON (for the author’s name) in the ‘Fiction’ department as the original text of 1908, as an abridged audio-book on CD’s, and in a ‘comic book’ adaptation of our days with very little text indeed. Philip Pullman’s Northern lights lives at PUL as the novel of 400 pages (1995) and as a slim (but at least as scary) graphic novel of 77 pages, and at ATW, Margaret Atwood’s The handmaid’s tale (1985) unsettles you more than ever.

Book cover - Graphic novel - Northern lights - by Melchior and Oubrerie.We also offer yoBook cover - Graphic novel - Anne of Green Gables - by Marsden.u plenty of new titles, from volumes of over 500 pages to slender comic books with no words at all. In Mera tidebreaker, a princess finds her superpowers in a realm beneath the sea. She wants to be ‘more than a dress’; indeed, if she wants to free her country from the oppressors in Atlantis, she must fight and kill…

In Page by Paige, another teenage girl develops her artistic powers – those of the drawing pencil, which we can watch under our noses, when situations and emotions are visualised in the strangest manner. In this preview, you can watch the protagonist wringing her own neck and hair till ink pours out as if she were a quill. Just look at the cover above, where the long red hair — which so many literary heroines share — weaves itself into a script…

Book cover - Graphic novel - Northern lights - by Durr and Horneman.In a previous blogpost, I drew your attention to literature about contemporary refugees, including graphic novels; we have just added a new one in Zenobia, but be warned: it is bleak. There is a historical reference in the warrior queen of antiquity, whose memory gives a girl courage for the journey into an uncertain future.

The Iliad and the Odysee, in their various incarnations, even for young children, live in the ‘Folktales’ at 398.238, surrounded by superheroes Hercules and Theseus, mighty monsters Hydra and Minotaur, heroines Persephone and Antigone, and a flock of animals conjured up by Aesop.

Book cover - Graphic novels - Iliad by Hinds.For our new editions, bring extra bags (since they are as heavy as weighty) or extra time: the words may be abridged from Homer’s epic but are not always simplified, and the actions and details in the pictures demand your attention just as a verse or prose translation might. While Gareth Hinds presents elegant poetic speech in his Iliad (“They prayed to the gray-eyed goddess, but their efforts were in vain, for Athena’s heart was set on the destruction of Troy”), Russell Punter opts for comic-style brief words and phrases in his Odyssey (“I pray to Athena that the people here welcome me”).

Shakespeare’s immortal cast dwells at 822.33 in the ‘Non Fiction’ section, where works about literature support the works of literature next to them. Various annotated versions of a play and relevant teaching materials sit side by side, and if we have retellings or illustrated stories, that is where we put them also for you.

The heroes of biographies in ‘comic book’ form also find their home on the Non Fiction shelves within their field of achievement. The faithful spy about Dietrich Bonhoeffer lurks at 943.086 with the other supporters and adversaries of Hitler. This true story of a pastor who wrestles with himself to turn into an assassin has whole pages of text and straddles the border of fiction and non-fiction.

Book cover - Graphic novels - Bonhoeffer by Hendrix.

The time traveller, a similarly conceived but briefer biography of Robert Paul, the London pioneer of cinema, haunts 791.43. Thereabouts, you can also find our new Illustrated history of filmmaking, covering the technology as well as the art of cinema from its ‘Prehistory’ to ‘The Future’. Adam Allsuch Boardman has put up some pages of his work, which itself borrows the style of graphic novels, on his website.

Book cover - Filmmaking - by Boardman.


You have not heard of Robert W. Paul? I had not either until the fabulous local museum at Bruce Castle put up yet another free exhibition on London history. This instrument maker morphed into a major inventor and director for a while, then abandoning cinema for new exploits. In order to realise his visions, he built a film studio at the back of the Muswell Hill, then still countryside above London.


Book cover - Graphic novel - Robert Paul - by Christie and Ilya.Robert Paul propelled the emerging medium of film forward with an incredible number of technical inventions and artistic innovations. First drama scene; first news report; first hand-coloured film; first subtitle in the scene… I think you could call some of his ideas the first special effects!

In the lovely show at Bruce Castle Museum, you can watch many of Robert Paul’s miniature films and extracts from longer ones, from slapstick to adaptations of literature, from newsreels to historical re-enactions. I hope whenever I look up the graphic novel by Ian Christie and Ilya on our catalogue, I shall find it borrowed by an avid reader. The Newsam Library seems to be the first one in the country to have this gem of graphic art.

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Secret societies, suffragettes and saplings- some recent additions to the Literature Collection

Real life experiences of American teachers at home and abroad, a romantic triangle, a Cambridge University secret society, educational experiences in post- colonial 1960s Rhodesia and post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona and several ‘grey’ books which are anything but, are all among the books recently added to the Library’s Education in Literature Collection.

In Touching lives: a teacher’s memoir Shirley A. Kitner-Mainello describes her 40 year career as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, private tutor and school administrator, offering an insight into the many changes in American education since the 1960s.

The author of The Kurdish bike: a novel Alesa Lightbourne, uses her own experiences as inspiration for her story about Teresa Turner. In 2010 the young American is dissatisfied with her teaching job in a school in northern Iraq, so she decides to buy a bicycle and explore the surrounding villages and countryside. Her friendship with a local widow helps her to find out about the lives of Kurdish women under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The surprisingly complicated lives of university students are featured in two novels. In the first Lauren, Paul and Sean are affluent students at a small, liberal-arts college on America’s East Coast. Their curious love triangle is at the heart of The rules of attraction by Bret Easton Ellis.20190606_150425 In the second Hans Stichler’s aunt will ensure that his application to Cambridge University, where she teachers, will be successful. In return Hans must help her to infiltrate the elite university secret society, the Pitt Club. His investigations become increasingly dangerous. The Club by Takis Wurger was translated from the German by Charlotte Collins.

Although Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangaremba is a new edition of an old favourite it is worth remembering the importance of this novel. When it was published in 1988 it was the first book published in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe. In this semi-autobiographical novel, set in 1960s Rhodesia, Tambu is from a poor, rural, Shona family who eagerly replaces her brother at a missionary school after his death. 20190606_154625Gender and colonialism are major themes of the novel. How the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can, over time, become a bitter struggle for survival is the theme of This mournable body which portrays Tambu’s later life.

Nada is the first novel, published in 1945, by Carmen Laforet. It is set in post- Spanish Civil War Barcelona. Andrea is an orphan raised in a convent in provincial Spain who is awarded a Government scholarship to attend university in Barcelona. At first she lives with her extended family in a decaying apartment but their increasingly violent behaviour forces her to move to Madrid to live with her friend Ena. Although the novel won the inaugural Premio Nadal Literary Prize in Spain it was controversial because in order to be published it had to pass the censorship of the Francoist State. At the time there was harsh state suppression of the Catalan language and culture in Barcelona. In 2007 Nada was translated into English.

There are now several books in the Literature Collection sporting grey covers which are all published by Persephone Press. Twenty years ago the founder, Nicola Beauman, set out to publish forgotten books by women writers from the early 20th century. All the books have to be a well written, ‘good reads’. Nicola Beauman has also stated that, because she is’ very, very interested in the novel as social history’, she likes books which tell how we lived.

The Persephone Press books include The Call by Edith Ayton Zangwill which is about Ursula who resists her mother’s attempts to involve her in Edwardian society. Her chemistry experiments are much more important to her until she becomes involved with the suffragettes.20190606_155613 The author based the details of Ursula’s working life on that of her stepmother Hertha Ayton (1854- -1923) a physicist who became an expert on the electric arc. The book gives an insight into a woman’s domestic life in the first two decades of the 20th Century.

Surprisingly, another Persephone Press book, Saplings, is written by Noel Steatfeild, better known as the author of the children’s classics ‘Ballet Shoes’ and ‘White Boots’. Published in 1945, the book is about the four Wiltshire children and the effect the Second World War has on their lives. Noel Streatfeild really understands children and the distress caused to them by the loss of an understanding grown-up.

Despite not having a grey cover Mariana by Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens, is also a Persephone Press imprint originally published in 1940. It is a funny, readable and perceptive story of the growth to maturity of Mary Shannon in the 1930s with superb contemporary detail.

Do not despair if none of these new books attracts your attention because they are plenty of other novels and autobiographies to choose from in the Education in Literature Collection which is shelved on level 4 in the Library. Books may be borrowed for eight weeks. If you would prefer to watch a film there is also a selection of DVDs which include foreign language films. DVDs may be borrowed for 7 days.

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Focus on DERA (Digital Education Research Archive):Modern Foreign Languages (MFL)

The IOE Library has always collected documents published by government and other relevant bodies in the areas of education, training, children, and families. Today, the Official Publications Collection here at the Library is the largest of our special collections and is highly valued by our users.

In some ways, official publications are no different to other areas of publishing and we have witnessed a rapid transition towards a “digital by default” approach. You may already have read our recent blog post about DERA – our online repository founded on the traditions of our printed Official Publications Collection, dedicated to preserving the digital output of government in relation to education – where we highlighted content on the subject of school meals. This month, we are highlighting DERA resources focused on the teaching of languages in schools.

A recent online news headline Language learning: German and French drop in half in UK schools caught my attention. The article analysed information from secondary schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland about the number of pupils taking GCSE language courses. The decline in uptake of these courses appears to be alarmingly rapid, with drops of between 30% and 50% since 2013 being reported in England.

DERA holds a great deal of information related to languages in schools. A House of Commons Library Briefing Paper from December 2018 (Language teaching in schools (England) and a House Of Lords Library Briefing from November 2018 (Foreign Language Skills: Trends and Developments) outline the landscape for language teaching in classrooms. They describe what should be taught, expectations on the quality of teaching, levels of achievement and, interestingly the potential impact of UK leaving the European Union. This last point has received considerable coverage in the wider media, as demonstrated in the Guardian article, Brexit Britain cannot afford to be laissez-faire about its language crisis. The author David Cannadine says that Britons need to forget the idea that most other people speak English and so we do not need to make an effort to improve our linguistic skills. Additionally the UK’s linguistic under performance has economic repercussions in terms of lost trade and investment.

Languages are also vital to national security, diplomacy and “soft power”. Indeed at the reopening of the Foreign Office’s language centre in 2013, the then foreign secretary, William Hague, said:

Diplomacy is the art of understanding different cultures, and using this understanding to predict and influence behaviour. Speaking the local language is the essential first step in this process. It is an important sign of our respect for other societies, and it increases their respect for us in return.

One factor that is said to have had an influence upon the number of language teachers, especially in England, is the introduction of The English Baccalaureate (EBacc). The EBacc measures the achievements of pupils who have gained Key Stage 4 (GCSE level) qualifications in the following subjects: English; Mathematics; History or Geography; the Sciences and a Language. A House of Commons Briefing Paper 2017 gives a good overview of the motivations behind the EBacc, including the increase in the take-up of ‘core’ subjects which would best equip pupils for further study and work. Fears were expressed about the fact that extra attention paid to the core subjects might have an impact on subjects such as art, music and drama which were not included. The decision to not include religious education, although it would remain compulsory to teach it, was particularly controversial. It was also argued that the Ebacc would not necessarily be suited to a number of pupils.

The National Curriculum in England: languages programmes of study: key stage 2/ key stage 3 (2013) states that teaching “may be of any modern or ancient foreign language” and in 2016 the Government announced that a range of community languages would continue to be provided at GCSE and A level. These included Arabic, Modern Greek, Polish, Bengali, Urdu and Japanese as languages that can be studied alongside German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin and Welsh.

The influence of Brexit on the learning and learning to teach MFL is already being felt, as discussed in The British Council Language Trends 2018 Report (p.7) with parents discouraging their children from learning languages once again because of the erroneous belief that everyone speaks English. In reality once the UK leaves the European Union the number of native English speakers will be greatly reduced and English may not retain its place as one of the “official” languages of the EU.

James A. Coleman’s article “Why the British do not learn languages: myths and motivation in the United Kingdom” discusses some of the reasons why pupils may not be motivated to study languages beyond GCSE Level. Amongst other factors, it is argued that the xenophobic attitude of some politicians and certain newspapers undermines the value that we place on learning an additional language. In addition, languages are sometimes portrayed as a ‘hard’ option that involves more effort to gain a good grade.

One part of the UK where children can be said to start with a positive attitude towards the learning of languages may be Wales, where education is provided through the medium of English and Welsh. In DERA I found the 2009 document from the Welsh Assembly Making Languages Count which makes the point:

Our young people therefore have a head start in the development of the skills, knowledge and understanding that are at the heart of language learning and can be readily applied to wider European and world languages.

The Welsh Government also funds a MFL Mentoring Scheme whereby undergraduates and postgraduates are placed in secondary schools to encourage engagement with MFL via face-to-face and online mentoring with the aim of increasing the number of students studying MFL at GCSE level and beyond. The success achieved in Wales can be replicated elsewhere in the UK as demonstrated by Anna Bawden’s recent article describing the results of a trial in South Yorkshire. Year 8/9 pupils at 10 secondary schools in Sheffield received 5 weeks of mentoring from language undergraduates from Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam Universities.

The success of this scheme may help to mitigate the effect of current financial constraints that have led to UK schools turning to foreign governments to fund languages . It is unlikely that the Italian, Portuguese, French or German governments will want to continue to help once Britain leaves the EU.

Once again an interesting article in the popular press has lead via DERA and Explore to a better understanding of the background to the current situation concerning the teaching and learning of MFL. There are examples of schemes which if implemented on a larger scale could lead to more children enjoying their language lessons and wanting to study MFL to the highest level.

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