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Rosalind Buckland

Rosalind Buckland
Ripley St Thomas CE Academy, Lancaster

Rosalind BucklandRosalind Buckland has learned to think big: Ripley is one of the biggest and the most over-subscribed non selective secondary schools in Lancashire with 1,650 students on roll with 350 students in the Sixth Form. That means 270 pupils in each year group taken from up to 60 feeder primaries.

Rosalind is about to start her sixth year at Ripley (“which means I have followed most of the children through the school, and am getting to the stage where I know them all”), which she joined after her first full-time school librarian post in a secondary that had just come out of special measures.

Ripley, by comparison, has more than 95 per cent higher grade GCSE passes, became an academy last year and has achieved 31 Grade 1s in its last Ofsted inspection in December 2011 which allows the academy to apply for Teaching School status.

“Ripley is a different experience. There is very innovative management and a culture of freedom to achieve what you want as long as you can justify and evaluate what you do.”

“Whilst budgeting resources are challenging they are line with other departments and the LRC is included in the school’s focus on teaching and learning. From my work with Lancashire SLA, I know there are many school librarians doing an excellent job with far fewer resources and less support and so I appreciate what I have.”

In the past year, Rosalind has been given a library assistant for four hours a day which has freed time to invest in reader development projects such as an inter-school Year 8 reading group, which has involved three schools in its first six months with two more to join in September. “It’s exciting because the students have yet to meet in person; they’ve been communicating via a blog which was a new experience for many of them.”

Rosalind Buckland with pupilsRosalind is also proud of her programme of inter-school author visits, inviting pupils from six neighbouring schools and which recently included Jacqueline Wilson, Rick Riordan and the Man Booker shortlisted author, Carol Birch. She has also taken Sixth Form students along to Lancaster University for a lecture by Professor David Crystal. “We include adult authors for Year 12 and 13 because we want to continue to encourage our Sixth Form students to read for pleasure.”

Ripley has been selected to participate in the Man Booker Prize’s new Schools Partners for 2013 and shadows the Carnegie Medal as well as judging the Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year Award 2013.

Rosalind’s research and work in setting up a gender based boy-friendly area in the library has been shared as a Toolkit on the National Literacy Trust schools network. Titled If shops have men’s departments then why shouldn’t libraries, it has proven to be a major success in reader development for boys at Ripley. “Again I’m lucky because Ripley is very much a reading school, many of the students like to read and their families buy books, however there is always more you can do.”

Until recently Rosalind held an additional post working on Sundays as an Information Officer at the University of Cumbria library. This experience has been crucial to Ripley’s campaign to address the information skills gap between schools and higher education, work which starts in Rosalind’s Key Stage 3 library lessons.

“There is a debate about whether it is the job of schools or higher education to teach students to cite and reference properly and how to avoid plagiarism, the ball gets passed back and forth. There is a lot of excellent practice in schools in information literacy but there is not yet a commonality of practice, in contrast to the standards in higher education. Schools need to collaborate and tap into what their local higher education providers are offering.”

Thanks to Rosalind’s links with University of Cumbria, Ripley students have access to the university’s interactive online tutorials on citing and referencing skills and she has established a programme of visits by university staff and also for Ripley students to visit the university libraries. This partnership has been especially beneficial to those who undertake the Extended Project Qualification with which Rosalind is also involved.
Her experience in HE has also helped her lead the school’s investment in qualitative research databases. “We want sixth formers to have the research tools that they will be expected to use at university. And with reduced contact time and more self-directed study for sixth formers it is important that they are provided with quality digital resources”.

A survey of Sixth Form students (Rosalind runs many student surveys, usually using SurveyMonkey – “evaluation is in the school psyche”, she says) revealed that they undertook between 70% and 90% of their research online. “Yet only 4% of content on the web is intended for educational purposes. Students need something in addition to Google and Wikipedia” – and she has written articles for JCS Online in support of this argument.

Rosalind grew up in South Wales, studied Technical Graphics at West Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education and had a first career as an illustrator and later as an Art Buyer in advertising agencies in the 1980s. After a move to the North-West and a career break to have her two sons, she started working four hours a day in public libraries.

“I realised that libraries could offer everything I wanted from a career but I appreciated the profession had evolved using new technologies. I felt out of touch with IT so in my own time I did the European Computer Driving Licence and two A-level equivalent qualifications in web design.”

Having got the bug for independent study, a five-year part-time degree in Library and Information Management at Manchester Metropolitan University followed, while increasing her working hours and at one point working part-time in a high school library during the week and a public library on Saturdays and at the end of the five years, working in HE on Sundays.

“I like to be aware of the many aspects of librarianship and am able to draw from my three strands of experience in H.E., public and school libraries.”

Rosalind is currently preparing her Chartership portfolio and hoping to complete the process this year, while considering an education-based masters related to teaching and learning. She is also a staff governor and one of the school’s Duke of Edinburgh Award coordinators, and finds time to paint with watercolours and enjoy crown green bowling.

“I need to keep stretching myself and it is reassuring to know that at school I’ve got the support to do it.”

Ripley St Thomas CE Academy website: