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Whyteleafe School

Inspiration Award 2014: Judges' Citations

Whyteleafe School

Whyteleafe, Surrey

Head Teacher: Anthony Marsh


Finalist in the Primary School Category, 2014

The story of this school library begins with a missing book.  A school book borrowed by a student during the Second World War found its way into airport lost property and was finally returned to the school in 2013. It was a copy of Alice in Wonderland and provided the inspiration for the design of the space. A plan was conceived to surprise the children upon their return to school in September of that year, an artist was commissioned to design a library, inspired by the book.  Jane Churchill wrote this for us about her vision:

‘Alice is the most magical story and the images left a lasting impression on me from my childhood, bringing alive the literature and giving the possibility of always believing that all might not be quite what it seems in life… which is true.  I hope the work leaves a lasting impression upon children’s imaginations; that worlds can be created in literature and art that can influence the way we feel.  Through our creativity we do create our own world.’

The door was removed allowing the entrance to be decorated with wooden tree shapes on each upright.  This looks very attractive and inviting to those who approach the room.  Inside the work done is of a good quality and clearly an investment has been made, for the long-term future of this library, by its Head Teacher and Governors.  The theme has been applied throughout the space and is beautifully done. Every aspect of the room has been incorporated including pipework and the attic entrance. 

They have Microlibrarian and the students are able to self-issue which is clearly a source of empowerment for them. There was a fairly constant stream of small groups making independent use of the space and those there for private reading seemed very comfortable and moved into the task straight away. Clearly the careful supervision of the space by Wilma Baugh has set this ethos.

There was a lovely display of work on the wall outside the library ranging from Year 1 up to Year 6 inspired by the Alice in Wonderland theme.  The HLTA Fiona Sharp said the impact of the library on literacy levels had been immense.  She showed us the detailed records staff keep, reflecting their use of the library with children, showing resources used and levels attained.  Fiona was very clear about the quality of the theme and the depth of work it allowed them to access with the children.  “A timeless theme… lots of mileage for literacy and numeracy and real-life aspects which are developed in PSHCE using role play… proved ideal.”

The students clearly enjoy the space: “the difference from the old library to the new was Wow” and “Every time I walk in I look… fascinating to the imagination… I love the dragonslayer”.

Jane Churchill’s intention to inspire creativity through her library design can be seen in the teaching and learning that is taking place in response to this new environment establishing its place in the Honour List of 2014.

Further information about the SLA School Library Inspiration Award.