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SLYA Citation for Karen Bhatti


  • Yeading Junior School, Hayes, Middlesex
    Nominated by Emma Willis, Asst Head/Library Coordinator
Karen Bhatti being presented with her Honour Certificate by Philip Reeve. Photo: Martin Salter
Karen Bhatti being presented with her
Honour Certificate by Philip Reeve.
Photo: Martin Salter

Yeading Junior School has 16 classes (4 classes in each year). The 2 storey brick building was built in the 1930s, with an adjacent Infant School, to serve the surrounding newly built housing. The building has changed little since then (although there are plans to update parts of the school). As a consequence space is at a premium including in the small 2nd floor library, which spills out into the corridor. After her appointment in 2000 Karen led a team of parents and staff in transforming its ‘brown sludge’ décor into a vibrant, colourful, carpeted area. Emma (her nominator) calls it an ‘Aladdin’s Cave of Learning’ and it’s now one of the most popular parts of the school, used by children, staff and their parents before, during and after the school day. Karen is supported in her role by a paid assistant and an enthusiastic team of pupil librarians.

The library has a comprehensive stock of fiction and non-fiction that includes regularly exchanged books from Hillingdon’s School Library Service. Laptops are always available for information work which frees up space for study tables. Karen oversees the school’s new Reading Scheme, housed in the library, and, due to her dual role as lead bi-lingual TA, coordinates and promotes EAL resources. 83% of the children speak another language at home, 20% are in the early stages of acquiring English and over 30 languages are spoken throughout the school, offering a rich source of diversity. Progress depends on many factors: often children arrive via Holland and have learnt to speak Dutch. Karen organises a weekly session in the library for Somali Mums explaining how they can support their children’s progress.

In a former life Karen worked in the finance and management sectors and she has been able to use many of the skills she acquired then in her present role. Her generous book fund is justified by using statistics relating library use to SAT results. ICT is an important part of her work with the children, teaching retrieval skills using websites and giving children passwords to access subscribed sites means that they can ‘take the library home’. The library has a white board that Karen makes full use of. She promotes best use of the library computer by teaching all TAs and pupil librarians how to issue, return and find books on Junior Librarian, thus freeing up her time to be available for the children. One of the panel’s lasting memories of the library is Karen, sat on floor, in deep discussion with a group of Yr6 pupils over the merits (or otherwise) of their choice of fiction.

At one point Karen thought she might retrain as a teacher. Her natural skills as a teacher were displayed when the panel observed a Yr 6 lesson in the library researching aspects of Victorian life, using books and electronic sources. Her instruction to and subsequent engagement with the children in the group was impressive.

Karen’s professional focus is now on certification by CILIP, working towards the ACLIP qualification. The school is fully supporting her in this, but it is Karen herself who has the vision and enthusiasm to complete it, as the required study makes extra demands on her busy schedule. The school benefits from her use of professional good practice learnt during her studies.

Karen is in daily contact with Mrs Jones, the headteacher, with whom she discusses performance targets that will maintain the success of the library. Mrs Jones described how Yeading’s role as ‘hub school’ for the local ESP has been enhanced by links Karen has made with the public library and involvement in several authority initiatives. She complimented Karen on the way ‘she never stops thinking’ of projects that will enhance the role of the school and also support individual pupils’ learning skills. Library ethos within the school is further strengthened by these activities.

Before Karen was appointed the library was organised by a class teacher. Since her appointment the whole school has benefited from her professional approach. She fulfils a unique role, with passion and enthusiasm that is appreciated by children and staff alike.