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Building the Foundations of A Lifelong Learning Society A Review of Collaboration between Schools and Further Education Colleges in Scotland

UNISON Scotland's response to Scottish Executive Consultation Building the Foundations of A Lifelong Learning Society A Review of Collaboration between Schools and Further Education Colleges in Scotland

May 2004

Executive Summary

UNISON believes that there are potentially serious consequences for school and college librarians as a result of the Executive's proposals.

UNISON believes that the consultation does not adequately address the training needs for the staff, in order to deal with 14-16 year olds.

UNISON is disappointed that there is no reference to the resource implications for both school and college libraries.

UNISON highlights the necessity for trade union consultation for any proposed changes to employees' working conditions.


UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing 150,000 members delivering public services in Local Government, Health, further and higher education, energy (gas and electricity), water, transport and the voluntary and community sector.

This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's response to the consultation document issued by the Scottish Executive; Building the Foundations of A Lifelong Learning Society A Review of Collaboration between Schools and Further Education Colleges in Scotland.


The consultation document is an attempt to open up college courses to 14-16 year old pupils. Although its practical arrangement (5.23) cover lunch vouchers, there is no discussion whatsoever regarding resource implications and the potentially serious consequences for school and college librarians due to this major omission.

The only mention of a library is in 3.7, where it is noted that one of the differences between a school and a college is the bigger size of the college library. None of the many related issues are mentioned at all.

The Readability of Resources

Currently, college library resources will be geared towards adults. With the recommended changes, college libraries would have to deal with significant number of younger pupils, whose reading ages will inevitably be much lower.

Access to College Libraries

There has been no consideration given to whether 14-16 year olds will be given college enrolment; usually this is necessary to access college libraries.

Availability of Sufficient Resources

Even where pupils can comprehend resources easily, there would be an increased demand for these from the college library, since there will be many more people seeking the same items.

Consequences for School Libraries

Pupils may not be given time to use college libraries (transport back to schools would probably be at the end of lectures, leaving no time to use college libraries). They may not be able to gain access or find relevant resources. Students could find the college library materials beyond their understanding, and therefore need to turn back to their school library instead.

Funding Implications

This proposal has significant funding implications for school & college libraries alike. If they are not going to receive additional funds, then either existing "customers" or the 14-16 year old cohorts are going to lose out.

Space Implications

College libraries vary widely in available space, but in all cases can find themselves fully occupied at particular times of the year. There could be a problem if the 14-16 year olds take up the available space when full-time college students require the same area. The same problem arises with the use of computers.

Computer Access and Logins

Schools have very strict guidelines and filtering mechanisms in place (using systems such as Websense) for computer access and logins. Whereas colleges deal with adults, and may have much less stringent safeguards. There could potentially be problems for college librarians allowing younger pupils to access these networks. A uniform standard would need to be set up to ensure that college librarians are protected.


In a similar way, pupils may be unaware of copyright legislation and may unwittingly break it by copying (either in print or electronic format) materials. This may lead to difficulties for college library staff, unless responsibilities are clearly defined on a national basis.


The Consultation document only partially recognises the fact that (3.7), college students employ "greater self-sufficiency" than school pupils do. Although this gap has been acknowledged in the consultation document, it is not actually addressed. Fore example colleges will have difficulties with new entrants from schools. They will have to be taught to become more independent learners. This must be tackled properly; or else it will impact directly on college library staff. The demands on the services provided by college library staff will increase. The needs and expectations of 14-16 year-olds will be different from the way in which they currently do their job.


In section 5.2, it is noted that,

"The training needs…of other staff in FE colleges will be considered",

It is important to ensure that the "other staff" includes college library staff, and that there are opportunities for them to liaise at local and national level with their counterparts in school libraries, in order that common issues can be identified, discussed and plans co-ordinated.

School Librarians

Pupils in schools that have college connections have already been trying to obtain material related to college courses from their own school libraries. If implemented, the proposals will increase this demand significantly. In the first instance, school librarians will not be aware of the courses, and will not have relevant resources. This will inevitably lead to frustration on the part of pupils, who may either vociferate this directly to the librarians, potentially causing conflict and stress.

Alternatively students may take their complaint to Guidance or Pastoral Care Staff, who may then demand that librarians meet these needs. Similar pressures may be brought to bear on the librarian by her/his Line Manager. None of these staff will appreciate the associated issues. For example, relevant resources at an appropriate reading age may simply not exist. So far there has been no call for these types of resources and it seems unlikely that there has been any discussion with major publishers to flag up the proposed new developments. Even where relevant resources are available, no additional budget will have been made available. Should the librarian buy these resources rather than other ones, this would simply lead to further conflict with mainstream teaching departments.

School pupils are not necessarily familiar with the "self-sufficiency" policy that colleges hold for students. School pupils may turn for help and support from the school librarian. This would put significant additional demands on librarians' time. Either in order to help pupils on an individual basis, or in order to undertake information skills courses for larger numbers of pupils. In some cases it could force librarians to perform duties beyond their current job descriptions.

It is very easy to envisage that, unless these issues are resolved now at national level, school librarians will be under a lot of pressure from pupils and senior staff.

For College Librarians

Like school librarians, college librarians will not have been given extra funding for this proposed venture. College librarians could find themselves in a "no-win" situation; if they do purchase resources for this cohort (school pupils), assuming of course that suitable ones are available, then staff could justifiable complain that mainstream college students are being disadvantaged. Equally, if they do not buy these resources, then pressure could be brought to bear, since they are disadvantaging the pupils, and thus undermining the new proposals.

Similar challenges and dilemmas would face college librarians in relation to whether or not they should make seating accommodation or computers available at the expense of full-time students. Even greater concerns might centre on access to the Internet, e-mail and copyright laws. If college librarians are to have any "duty of care" towards pupils, this could put library staff in a position that they may not have previously been required to have any knowledge. This would require relevant training.


Very few of the Questions in the Consultation document relate in any way to the above serious issues; however, some have an indirect connection. These are as follows:

Question 1

All of the above issues need to be addressed at a national rather than a local level, since the effects will be the same throughout the country.

Question 6

Wider collaboration is needed throughout the two sectors. It would be vital to have coherent skills and a reading strategy, building from Primary to Adult, also ensuring that materials at appropriate reading and ability levels are available for each cohort.

Question 15

Colleges must make appropriate provision for school pupils. They must recognise that college, teaching and library staff, need to be fully informed about pupils' skills requirements, reading ability levels and the implications for teaching and for related library and research tasks and materials. They would need to ensure that there is a continuum of Lifelong Learning from schools to colleges so that pupils can begin to build up the requisite skills.

Question 35

There are particular issues that the training and development of further education lecturers and teachers need to address, in order to facilitate more effective collaboration between the school and further education sectors. Both teachers & lecturers must be aware of the skills required, not just in terms of the subject or course itself, but in seeking information from books, the Internet and other resources; sometimes called the "Higher Order Reading Skills".

Question 36

Appropriate training will need to be given to teachers and other staff in further education colleges to be able to provide effective support to under 16 year olds. College library staff needs to be included in this training. Not just within their own environment, but also would need to meet with other college librarians and with those working in schools. The appropriate time would need to be allocated to these objectives at a national level.


The proposals in the consultation document imply serious consequences for school and college resources and members of staff. It is evident that these important gaps in the consultation document need to be discussed, assessed and resolved at national level. Failure to do so could result in unnecessary and avoidable challenges for staff working in school and college libraries, and would also make it very difficult for the proposals to work.

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For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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