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SLYA Citation for Nikki Heath

NIKKI HEATH

  • Librarian, Werneth School, Stockport
    Nominated by Sally Westrope, Literacy Co-ordinator
Nikki Heath being presented with her Honour Certificate by Philip Reeve. Photo: Martin Salter
Nikki Heath being presented with her
Honour Certificate by Philip Reeve.
Photo: Martin Salter

Werneth School has 1200 pupils, Yrs 7-11, drawn almost wholly from 5 local primary schools. It is very much a local school with the children of many former pupils, like Nikki, now at the school. The school was formed as a new comprehensive in the 1970s when facilities were built to link the 2 previous schools. The designated library area remains in this part of the school.

Before her appointment in 2004 Nikki, a qualified librarian, worked for the local School Library Service forging links which are now very useful. She has head of faculty status and so can keep putting ‘the library’s point of view’ at curriculum meetings. She works in close partnership with Sally, her nominator (both agree to great effect!), and is line managed by the deputy head with responsibility for teaching and learning.

In 2004 Nikki found a library little changed over 30yrs. She began by organising a working party to redecorate and then put the case to LMT for new shelving. This sense of purpose has continued, she calls it ‘a journey that never stops’. The library is well stocked but Nikki’s budget has been cut, due to a falling school role, so will need careful management. The rectangular space has areas for non-fiction, study (including 13 PCs) and fiction. There is a good selection of magazines for leisure reading. Now that the LMS is web based pupils and staff can access the catalogue/check loans etc from home. Instruction on how to do this is delivered as part of ICT lessons.

Nikki runs the library with the help of an enthusiastic team of pupil librarians. After training they are expected to take responsibility for breaktime and lunchtime running of the library, freeing Nikki to be available for individuals. On the day the panel visited, the library was very busy with students using all areas of the library. The librarians we met were enthusiastic about their roles and the humorous but sympathetic support they receive from Nikki. They mentioned her reputation for appearing in T-shirts with a message eg Old librarians never die, they just get reshelved!

Nikki’s natural teaching ability was evident when the panel observed a Yr 7 lesson. She was offered support should she wish to acquire a formal qualification but Nikki feels her primary role would suffer. Her passion for supporting students to become both confident, independent researchers and to read for pleasure is her driving force. She does this in a huge variety of ways for all abilities, using both her original ideas and those initiated by other members of staff. These range from the more structured (Identifying new Yr 7s with low reading levels to join the Fit 4 Reading Breakfast Club) to the less formal (the annual summer term ‘Formula One Challenge’ a range of cross curricular challenges for KS3 teams). Her ideas are constant and too many to be listed here. 3 times per year the WHOLE school (including staff) stops for 20 minutes and reads. The panel observed one of these occasions and had a hard job to keep up with Nikki and Sally as they ran round the school taking photos to show the result!

Nikki’s infectious enthusiasm and natural ability were evident when the panel talked to other members of the school staff. 2 form tutors spoke of the difference Nikki’s efforts had made to their form periods: ‘Every form has a librarian who organises a book box from the School Library Service. Every pupil has a reading passport and a reading record. Now they even bring books from home!’ 2 SEN TAs described how at last pupils with disability and/or poor social skills have been helped by the welcome they receive in the library. The Head of English stated that the library was now firmly at the heart of all the school did “She facilitates: but it’s more than just being a librarian or a teacher: she takes you with her because of her great enthusiasm and belief in reading”.