#39 Pupil Helpers

Pupil Helpers

Librarians tend to have mixed views on pupil helpers: some are enthusiastic, others regard them as a nuisance who create more work than they save. I’m firmly in the first camp, as long as some common sense is applied.
Firstly, I would have some form of application process, even if this only consists of brief details supplied on an A4 sheet of paper. This keeps things fair and above board. Suitability of the candidates can then be assessed at this stage, without fear of accusations of favouritism.

Duties should be outlined clearly from the outset, and a rota system put in place to ensure an equal balance of workloads.
It is also desirable to have clearly defined reward systems: library privileges as well as concrete rewards at the end of term for those who last the course and/or make themselves useful!

I once had a team who set up a CV and interview selection process for new recruits, which I thought was over the top, but actually went down quite well with everyone (including the headmaster when he heard about it).

The downsides are that pupils can get bored once the novelty wears off, and they tend to drift off into other things. Constant review of their duties is the only way to avoid this, and to attempt to give them a variety of tasks, some of which may be challenging to them, to keep them interested. The best scenario of all is if they decide to start their own library based ‘project’ which will help library staff, or other pupils.

It is wise to consider child protection issues (and your own professional well-being) in the case of pupil helpers staying on after school hours. You need to consider the risk factors which exist in relation to being alone with individual pupils; this issue, of course, can arise at any time of the day for school librarians and is an occupational hazard.

The text below is useful on this topic.

Organising Voluntary Help in the School Library
by Geoff Dubber
ISBN 0900641762 · 1996 (SLA Guidelines)

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