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Information Scotland

The Journal of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

ISSN 1743-5471

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February 2003 Volume 1 (1)

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

Training

On an equal footing

The New Opportunities funded Training for School Librarians recognises the high level of their ICT skills, says Rhona Arthur.

It was back in 1998 when the Government announced its intention to allocate £230 million of National Lottery Funding to provide Information and Communications Technology (ICT) training for teachers and school librarians. The Scottish fund amounted to £23m. The training was part of the Government's commitment to the 1997 Connecting the Learning Society paper which aimed to have all schools connected to the Internet by 2002. From the outset school librarians were seen as an important part of this strategy and representatives from the sector and SLIC have been involved in the development of the programme.

The aim of the programme is to embed ICT in everyday learning and teaching and to equip teachers and school librarians with the confidence and skills to do this. Ultimately the raising of the standards of pupils’ learning experience and achievement was the main driver.

Discussions were held at COSLA in 1998 with BECTa and a range of representatives who discussed research into the current skills base. It was established that, in general, school librarians had a higher skills base than teachers. A range of Expected Outcomes (New Opportunities Fund website, http://www.nof.org.uk/) were defined by the Scottish Executive, which it was anticipated would provide teachers and school librarians with the appropriate knowledge and skills to understand when, when not and how to use ICT effectively in learning and teaching.

It was agreed that training could be provided by a range of providers – higher and further education institutions, local authorities, private companies and consortia – and that proposals should be examined so that there was adequate coverage. The New Opportunities Fund (NOF) invited interested parties to apply for Approved Training Provider status. This commenced with advertisements in newspapers and introductory seminar, prior to scrutiny of the proposals of the applicants by a panel of experts (including HMI, educational representatives and librarians).

The aim was to ensure adequate capacity, a choice of delivery mechanisms, a commitment to coverage of the Expected Outcomes within a Scottish context, flexibility, robust management and appropriate quality assurance. There were seven providers who initially applied to provide training for school librarians and four were felt to have demonstrated an appropriate Scottish and school library context. However, only three are still delivering training. By comparison, 14 were originally approved to deliver training to Scottish teachers, 10 are still in operation (of these, two deliver training throughout the UK and eight in Scotland only). The NOF allocation worked out at £450 per head and the funding could only be spent with an approved training provider. Providers were able to claim 30% when trainees signed up and 70% on completion.

Quality Assurance by HMIE

The overall responsibility for the quality assurance of training in Scotland was given to HMIE and a team of Inspectors and Associate Assessors was established. Part of the team evaluated the training materials for each curricular area and for school librarians at the beginning of the training and the quality of the school librarians’ learning materials were assessed as either good or very good. The other part of the team was trained to carry out evaluations of the training providers.

A series of eight quality indicators (the Scottish New Opportunities Fund support web site, http://www.ngflscotland.gov.uk/nof.asp) were agreed in early 2000, and evaluations of all providers were carried out in each year of operation. The evaluation teams examine the self-evaluation report of providers, carry out questionnaires, visit schools, speak to Education Authorities and training providers, observe training, collect evidence of best practice and scrutinise internal quality assurance mechanisms.

Following the discussion of the evaluation report with each provider, an action plan has to be submitted, clearly setting out plans for improvement. HMIE then carry-out a follow-up on the action plan and a mid-year report is also submitted to HMIE to ensure that the quality of the training programme is kept on track.

Throughout the programme, HMIE has held a series of meetings with the teams of Inspectors and Associate Assessors, the Education Authorities and Approved Training Providers. These discussions have provided a useful platform for the exchange of ideas and information, kept all parties up to date with developments and encouraged sharing of best practice. More information about the programme is contained in an HMIE interim report ICT: Into the Classroom of Tomorrow (available at http://www.hmie.gov.uk/) which was published in June 2002.

The ICT training was a massive undertaking – the up-skilling of an entire profession in a tight timescale – by NOF, who were at that time a newly established funding body. NOF’s role was to provide the funding and a robust structure for the training. They were not the provider of the training and were responsible at arms length for the quality assurance. Many of the trainers were newly created consortia, which had to respond quickly to the needs of the programme. The uptake of training is over 90% but concerns about completion (and the definition thereof) still persist.

The Training Providers

School librarians had the opportunity to select from three training providers – Scotia, a consortium led by Glasgow University, the Robert Gordon University and Queen Margaret University College, Scotsys and the Learning Schools Programme (LSP), a consortium of the Open University, RM and SCET (as it was then). Scotia and LSP offered face-to-face workshops led by trainers which were supplemented with self-study modules to be completed between the workshops. Scotsys carried out intensive training with staff identified by the local authority and then the local authority staff delivered the Scotsys programme at local level. All programmes included websites, discussion lists and email contact elements.

The crucial element in the success of the training and customer satisfaction rested with the completion of the training needs analysis (TNA) and the provision of appropriately differentiated learning. Weaknesses in these procedures in the early phases of the programme gave rise to concern, and resulted in some librarians having an unsatisfactory training experience. The NOF training was not ICT skills-acquisition based, as in the case of the Public Library Staff ICT training’s ECDL component but focused on when, when not and how to use ICT in learning and teaching.

Also, it is important to understand this was not primarily driven by value for money but by providing a blanket level of knowledge and understanding, rather than developing an individual’s skills as far as possible given the sum of money provided. However, the learning materials provided to the teams of assessors show a range of challenging extension materials for those with well-developed ICT skills.

Impact

Overall, the evidence collected by HMIE and the approved training providers demonstrates that the programme has had a positive impact on teachers and school librarians. There was always a high level of ICT use in school libraries/resource centres compared to many classrooms but visits to schools and discussions with practitioners show that there is an improved level of confidence and greater expertise.

In some instances, school librarians were not widely familiar with the Expected Outcomes. Where HMIE found this to be an issue, providers have been asked to ensure that there is more emphasis and coverage.

There were, in some places, issues about access to hardware, software and Internet connections. Glasgow, for example, opted to wait until the extensive PPP programme, which has resulted in the building of many new school libraries, had been completed. Other school librarians found themselves waiting for email addresses or the right software or for the Internet connection to be reactivated after the school holidays.

Issues

For both teachers and school librarians, as with the Public Library Programme, identifying time to complete the modules and undertake extension activities was a problem. The training was most often agreed between the Head of School Library Service (or equivalent), the training provider, head teachers and the school librarian. In some cases the roles and responsibility of the Head of School Library Service and the training provider was not clearly understood and this led to confusion about important issues like the monitoring and signing off process.

In some cases, head teachers were not always aware of the content and progress of their librarian’s training and consequently the need for non-contact time to allow for study went unrecognised.

The success of the programme also rested with the ability of each individual librarian to maintain motivation and the quality of their time management skills. Progress should have been encouraged by the use of progress checks, based on the Expected Outcomes, and creation of portfolios of work. This was not always implemented consistently. The progress check should also have been used to assess further training needs and build towards the individual action plan required at the end of the programme.

The quality of the learning experience

The overall quality of the learning experience improved where the TNA was used to inform trainers and differentiated training was provided. The training was most successful where school librarians:

Putting ICT into practice

There are many good examples of PowerPoint, which is easily tracked to the NOF training, as it was not widely used prior to the programme, being used effectively in learning. These include presentations running on library websites to support pupils as they embark on research, use search engines or create bibliographies.

More interesting, are the examples of school librarians who are actively trying to convey to pupils a critical judgement of when and when not to use ICT. This is evidenced in working with pupils to develop research strategies, evaluating sources and a recognition that all that is www is not gold. It is increasingly recognised that information literacy and the development of information handling skills will be one of the key areas for school librarians.

Legacy

The NOF ICT Training for Teachers and School Librarians is approaching its final phase. The training must be completed by the end of this year. The Scottish Executive has funded Masterclass, its latest ICT training initiative. Education Authorities were invited to identify a total of 600 participants for intensive ICT training so that the participants can return to their Education Authorities to promote learning communities in ICT.

The first sessions were held at SETT (the Scottish Education and Teaching with Technology) Exhibition in September 2002 and this is followed by a four-day residential training course at the Stirling Management Centre, with sessions on Managing ICT resources, ICT and learning styles, ICT and inclusion, the MIICE toolkit, Think.com and a collaborative task. Of the 600 participants 16 have a school library background, and their sessions are in early March.

An online community of Masterclass participants is being created based on the use of Think.com and participants are expected to contribute to the content on an ongoing basis. The long-term future of this programme is still under discussion.

This is the first instance of school librarians being included on an equal footing in teacher training to my knowledge. HMIE have been meticulous in their efforts to ensure that their interests have been represented throughout the programme. Alan Ogg HMI has maintained a high-level of contact with SLIC throughout the programme and the exchange of views and sharing of expertise has resulted in improved ICT training to the benefit of school librarians.

Rhona Arthur is Assistant Director, SLIC.


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Information Scotland Vol. 1 (1) February 2003

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Last updated: 12 February 2004