CILIP School Libraries Group Regional Training Day 27/10/17

CILIP’s School Libraries Group organises training days in different parts of the country throughout the year. This blog post is about an event at City of London School, an independent secondary school for boys, which I attended on 27 October 2017.

The event consisted of a series of talks and a visit to the newly refurbished library at City of London School, the Levene Learning Centre. The talks and speakers were as follows:

  • SLG News Update – Caroline Roche
  • Engaging with Essays – Sarah Pavey
  • Lost in Transition: How school librarians might help prepare students with skills needed to navigate the demands of HE – John Iona
  • To BAME or not to BAME: is that the question? – Irfan Master
  • Diversity Exploration in Graphic Novels: Not just Superheroes – Amanda Ball
  • Refurbishment: Creating the Levene Learning Centre – David Rose

View over the Shard, Millenium Bridge and Tate Modern from the Levene Learning Centre

SLG News Update

Caroline talked about what the SLG committee have been working on, including representing school libraries at a number of events, and how school librarians can get involved with their work. The next conference will be 28-29 April 2018 at a venue in Milton Keynes. More information will be shared on the CILIP website and social media.

Engaging with Essays – Sarah Pavey

Sarah’s talk covered the nature of essays, what formats essays take in schools, games for demonstrating essay skills and useful apps for writing essays. She started by detailing the wide range of skills required to write an essay. As she pointed out this range of skills is one reason why they are so popular at universities still. And with cheating on the rise at universities – pupils can buy essays written for them – schools have an increasingly important role to play in helping pupils develop the skills and confidence to write essays.

It was interesting to reflect on the different types of essay: report, classification, descriptive, argumentative etc. An essay does not necessarily have to be a debate. Importantly, whatever the type of essay, it is usually an extended piece of writing that gives structure to a line of thinking. It does not need to have lots of images or fancy fonts.

In secondary schools, pupils start to write extended pieces of writing from Key Stage 3. Essays are often set in exams. And GCSE and A level candidates also sometimes have to submit extended essays (‘coursework’ or ‘controlled assessments’). Many schools also offer students the chance to do an extended essay qualification that is independent of their GCSE or A level subjects. For example, the Extended Project Qualification, Cambridge Pre U or IB Extended Essay.

Sarah also commented on the emotional experience of essay writing, for example feelings of frustration, especially when comparing one’s progress to that of peers. Sarah has created a jigsaw puzzle that allows pupils to experience some of the challenges of essay writing whilst learning about planning, proofreading, academic honesty etc.

Lost in Transition – John Iona

John Iona is a Subject Liaison Librarian at Middlesex University. His talk focused on the study skills needed by first-year undergraduate students and how schools can help teach these. We started by sharing thoughts on what the typical A-level student lacks. Time management, wider reading and self-confidence were all suggested. Then we looked at what skills and attitudes an undergraduate student needs. John said that in his experience academic writing skills are the biggest issue. These skills cover developing and structuring an argument supported by evidence and critical evaluation of different ideas. The library is in a position to help with many of these skills, from searching for information to evaluating and citing it. As John pointed out though, students need to see how these skills align with the assessment criteria. EPQ and similar qualifications are a useful way of developing the skills needed by undergraduates.

To BAME or not to BAME: is that the question? – Irfan Master

Irfan Master gave a great talk about how he became a writer, the lack of BAME writing for young people and the impact this has. Irfan is the author of A Beautiful Lie, shortlisted for the Waterstones Chidlren’s Book Prize in 2011, and Out of Heart, published by Hot Key Books in April 2017. All participants received a free copy of Out of Heart and Irfan kindly signed them for us too.


Irfan stressed the importance of a few key people in his career. He had a difficult time at school but his English teacher noticed his potential and encouraged him to aim high. His first editor was also a huge support.

On BAME writing, Irfan had a few telling anecdotes to illustrate the lack of diversity in young adult fiction. For example, at a talk he gave in a school, although impressed by Irfan’s achievements, one boy remarked ‘yes, but someone like you only comes along once every ten years’. Another pupil commented that the character names in the books she reads are nothing like those she is familiar with. And another pupil could not find a BAME character to dress up as for World Book Day.

Having read Out of Heart, I’d heartily recommend it for its subtle exploration of family and community and its pared down writing. It tells the story of a lonely man who accidentally discovers the identity of the man who donated him his heart. It is a quiet, understated sort of story but all the more powerful for it.

Diversity Exploration in Graphic Novels: Not Just Superheroes – Amanda Ball

Amanda Ball gave an overview of graphic novels in both primary and secondary school libraries: how to find, choose and use them in book clubs and lessons. She structured her recommendations into categories such as diversity, KS2/KS3 transition, gender and sexuality, cyberbullying and webcomics. She also explained key concepts for understanding Manga and gave advice on dealing with controversial material. It was a really useful overview of the wide range of graphic novels available for young people to enjoy today. If you’d like to investigate the genre further, Amanda recommends asking the very helpful staff at the bookshop Forbidden Planet.

Some of Amanda’s recommendations:

Refurbishment: Creating the Levene Learning Centre – David Rose

To conclude, David Rose gave a talk on the refurbishment of the library at City of London School for Boys. This was followed by a tour of the library. I will let the photos speak for themselves… However, you might like to look out for the bespoke desks, which apparently absorbed quite a lot of the cost.