Thursday 20 September 2018

Ofsted and reading by Anne Booth

Ofsted and reading by Anne Booth

It is 06.27 and I have suddenly realised that it is the 20th September and I haven't written my blog post for today. But, thanks to a meeting I had yesterday, I know what I am going to write.

Yesterday I went shopping with my husband and two youngest daughters to get things for university. They are twins and both of them are leaving home within the next week (hence my preoccupation and forgetfulness about this blog post)


I bumped into a local school librarian.

Just before World Book Day this year, I was contacted by this librarian. The writer who had been booked to come to the librarian's primary school had had to cancel at the last minute, and the librarian was very apologetic about  such short notice, but she wondered if I could come instead. I would be paid.

So I went, and I was so glad. I was so well looked after and I felt very valued, and I know that my visit was helpful as the school librarian has kept in touch with me and given me feedback about various reluctant readers starting to write and read after my visit. Every time I get an email from her I feel better about myself - and this has continued long after March. If she can have such an effect on the confidence of a writer - imagine how good she is for the children she meets every day.

The school librarian works part-time as a librarian and part-time in the office - I think it is to do with school attendance. She knows every single pupil.

The school is a state school, with a high proportion of children from economically  disadvantaged backgrounds, so, of course, thanks to a change in funding policy by this government, it is one of those schools which is losing most of its money in the cuts.  AAAGH.

And yet the library is WONDERFUL.

Honestly, I cannot stress enough how impressed I was. This school librarian is working with both children and teachers and is putting great effort into making a lovely, welcoming place with a great range of reading material. The school has given her a good budget for this, and really values reading. I was so privileged to do that school visit, and have since donated some books and chose to launch the first book of my series called 'The Magical Kingdom of Birds' there. Oh yes, and she makes the effort to NOT buy books at huge discounts, as she feels it is unfair for the authors. And she organised the sale of my books for me and got stock in via the local Waterstones, so I didn't have to worry at all.

She doesn't even 'just' see the library as for the children - she is aware of the need to organise literacy support for the parents too, so that homes can be more places where reading isn't feared.

Basically, the school librarian I met is AMAZING. And her work, valued by the wise Head, is vital for the school and the wider school community.

I bumped into this wonderful woman yesterday. She said that the school had just had two days of OFSTED. 

I said 'I bet they were impressed by the library.' 

And she made a sad face and said 'They weren't interested.'

They didn't even ask to speak to her.  I think she may have even said they didn't even visit it.

And she said 'I even missed seeing Cressida Cowell at Waterstones because of preparing.'

And I feel furious. I have been into this wonderful state primary school and I have seen how teachers and pupils use the library, and I have been into classes and given an assembly and launched my book there and talked to pupils and I have seen their faces light up with enthusiasm about reading, and I know that was very much because their school librarian has made them excited about it and supports and encourages their teachers. And I have recognised myself in those students, as I grew up on a council estate with parents who had very little money and  felt intimidated by those who used 'big words' and disempowered by their own relationship with them, but wanted more for me. I can see how her care for both pupils and their families, and her encouraging them with reading, is one of the greatest things the children will receive in that school.

But Ofsted isn't interested. It seems. Incredibly and depressingly. Though see my P.S.

So I am writing my 4th book for the series I launched. Unfortunately it won't be out until next year, but it will be dedicated to this school librarian, one of the most wonderful and dedicated people I have met as a writer. I do mention her in the back in the acknowledgements to 'The Ice Swans', the second book in the series, out soon (shameless plug there!)

And if anyone knows Cressida Cowell, please can they somehow arrange my lovely librarian gets to meet her. They can contact me at twitter as @Bridgeanne (I have deleted her name as I realised I didn't ask her permission to write it)

Because she deserves it.

P.S. I am still hoping that Ofsted DID visit the library when she was busy doing something else and will rave about it and her in their report. I still don't understand why they didn't bother to interview the librarian, but maybe they heard such good reports about her they didn't need to. If they DO report on the library and praise her I will tell you.


Sue Purkiss said...

Well, she sounds wonderful, and Ofsted sounds very silly!

Penny Dolan said...

It helps the heart to know there are libraries and librarians such as the wonderful woman you describe. An excellent book dedication.

Also, if it is any comfort, good school libraries do make their presence felt to anyone passing who has experience of visiting schools (where it's often not the case).

Margaret McAllister said...

Whatever Ofsted say - or don't say - she is transforming the lives of the children and giving them a lasting love for reading.

Enid Richemont said...

Oh she sounds amazing! What lucky children (and school staff) to have her, and she's clearly passionate about literacy and books, and passion is infectious.

Moira Butterfield said...

How wonderful this library sounds, Congratulations to that lady! Thank you for telling the positive news about her. And good luck to your family this week.