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Citation for Fay Dowding

FAY DOWDING

  • Queen Elizabeth School, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria
    Nominated by Nicola Gatrell, Library assistant

Fay came to the rapidly expanding Queen Elizabeth School in 2003. Most of its 1400 students are bussed in from a large rural catchment area and library opening hours reflect this. Fay arrived in time to help plan a new sixth form library, and in 2005, the main 11-16 library was revamped after she persuaded the Deputy Head to look at it from the viewpoint of a Y7 student. Money was found for the structural changes which Fay advocated as well as for new décor, furniture and fittings. With a combined total of 11,000, the stock in the two libraries looks good and relevant.

The Headteacher and Deputy Head, Fay’s line-manager, provide huge support. Library policies and Annual Development Plans feed into school improvement programmes. Fay was involved in piloting the DfES self-evaluation model, and has since twice undertaken the exercise again. She attends Heads of Department meetings, has established a library development group and works with literacy, curriculum, IT and SEN development groups. She is also the school archivist, an important role in a school that goes back to 1598. Her full-time assistant, full of praise for the support Fay gives, carries out most of the day-to-day running of both libraries, leaving Fay free to promote them.

The school’s ethos of helping others is echoed in the library, where 15 student helpers are selected annually, plus a number of sixth form lunchtime supervisors. Three lunchtime reading clubs for different year groups each attract around 25 members. In addition, the library is packed every lunchtime with students engaged in a range of independent pursuits. Fay has a ready rapport with students, and her support for SEN students is clear. Her wide knowledge of children’s literature enables her to make reading recommendations to individual students and staff. She has esatblished a smogging books project, which motivates students to read by appealing to their competitive instincts. She provides recommended Year group reading lists to parents, including those of Y6 children about to join Queen Elizabeth. The annual Spellbinding Award is a Cumbria-wide reading initiative which includes on-line debate using a Moodle page built by Fay. Queen Elizabeth’s participation grows annually, with 35 students involved in the final event in 2006.

Teachers speak of Fay’s great contribution to learning and achievement. She has established a library development group involving all Heads of Department, and with 35 subjects taught in school, she sees a common research method as vital to learning. We observed lessons in which Fay skilfully kept students interested and on task. A research wheel model created for A level students and intended to “fight the cut and paste” is being replicated for all year groups. Fay takes research skills teaching into classrooms, and teachers also bring their classes into the library for regular subject based library lessons. Library support for English classes, and for reading generally, has helped to raise literacy scores. Through the auspices of the South Lakes Federation, Fay developed a project to bring school librarians together for Continual Professional Development and to work together on library self-evaluation for all the secondary schools in the region.

Fay’s line manager shares her vision, which puts the library at the hub of the curriculum and essential for life-long learning. She describes Fay as “bright, sparky, young and passionate”, someone who has changed the perception of the library “incredibly”. Fay is an outstanding practitioner, rigorous and organised, with leadership qualities, yet affable and humane. Students think she’s awesome. There is work to do – she intends to visit all 42 feeder primaries every year, wants to build a research skills teaching room alongside the library, and hopes to increase staffing to meet growing demands. Her commitment is undimmed. As the Headteacher put it: “Fay gives heart and soul to the school”. Lucky school.