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Citation for Helen Pallett

HELEN PALLETT

  • Djanogly City Academy, Nottingham
    Nominated by Mike Butler, Principal

Djanogly City Academy occupies three separate former school sites in inner-city Nottingham. Helen, with experience in school and public libraries and the LEA, was appointed by Djanogly in 2002 to develop reading levels. She was instrumental in the planning and design of the library in a new-build 11-14 school which opened in 2005. Its location, directly opposite the school entrance and open to the main corridor, was at Helen’s insistence, as “an open invitation to pupils”. In the words of the Principal, “The library is a reflection of the relationship of the librarian with the school – it is Helen’s vision, jointly developed with the school’s commitment”.

Helen has been in charge of separate libraries on the three school sites since 2004, and has moved libraries eight times in three years. When we visited, the new 16-19 library had been open for only three weeks and the 14-16 library was still in boxes. In the 16-19 library a bright, light space contains PC’s and a mainly non-fiction book stock. There has been a big increase in library-based ICT lessons here, with a programme developed jointly by Helen and ICT teachers. The 14-16 library is also in a new location, which provides the opportunity for an ethos based on books and reading rather than PC games as before. The importance of books in reading and learning is a recurring theme throughout the school, and Helen has been instrumental in establishing this.

Djanogly has seen a massive upturn in results, from 8% A-C GCSE’s, to 50% and rising. The reading and information skills culture that Helen has introduced has been key to this. Library issues have risen from 5000 to 9000 in a year, and the library is clearly impacting on literacy and reading comprehension. Teachers now recognise the value the library in the learning process. The 11-14 library is consciously books-only and does not try to compete with ICT provision. Helen works with teachers on curriculum resource provision and we observed her team-teaching two lessons in the library, in which students engaged in reading development and information retrieval. She demonstrated a relaxed confidence and command of her role, with students involved in lively and informed discussion.

Large numbers of students pursue a wide range of activities at breaktimes. Corridor displays promote reading and the library in imaginative ways and there are currently 5 author visits per year. Everybody in school participates in “drop everything and read” sessions. The school takes part in the annual Nottingham City Book Award and in Greenaway shadowing, in which Y7 students work with local primaries. A popular volunteer training programme is clearly of great benefit to the school as well as to the students, and several volunteers articulated their high regard for Helen. When we visited, library induction lessons were still for Y7’s only, with Y8 and post-16 lessons “imminent”. Such is the pace of development at Djanogly that the wait will not be long.

Helen makes an impressive 45 visits to the nine feeder primary schools in a school year. This ensures that new Y7’s are already comfortable with Djanogly on arrival, and that the Y7-Y9 library is right for them. We were privileged to witness Helen at work in one of the local primaries, where her enthusiasm for books and reading reached out to eager Y6 pupils.

Helen brings vision and drive to her experience, knowledge and expertise. In a short time, all three libraries at Djanogly have become indispensable and are fast developing independent and autonomous learning. There are sound policies and development plans in place for the future. As the Principal, Mike Butler, told us: “Helen is making a fantastic contribution to the school’s mission".