FOSIL Group shortlisted for Strategic Education Initiative of the Year

Darryl Toerien, Head of Library at Oakham School, reports on the shortlisting of the FOSIL Group for the Strategic Education Initiative of the Year.

On Friday 15 November the shortlist for the Tes Independent School Awards 2020 was announced, and I was delighted to discover that Oakham School had been shortlisted for the Strategic Education Initiative of the Year for setting up the FOSIL Group.

This is a significant achievement because it recognises two important developments within education.

Firstly, FOSIL – as a model of the inquiry process, an underlying continuum of inquiry skills (which include information literacy and related skills), and a growing collection of free resources to support the systematic and progressive development of inquiry skills– directly addresses the root cause of the clash of learning cultures in transition to university, as characterised by Jane Secker and Emma Coonan in Supporting undergraduates of the future: developing a new curriculum for information literacy.

Clash of learning cultures diagram








FOSIL approaches transition from the profoundly insightful perspective of Blanche Woolls (the “grande dame of [US] school librarianship”), which is that the only difference between [high school & university] students is the time from their graduation from high school in June to entering university in August. FOSIL therefore treats the school library as essentially an academic library and the school librarian as essentially an academic librarian. Central to this conception of the school librarian is the core pedagogical activity of developing information literacy and related skills progressively and systematically through a process-based model of the inquiry process (IFLA School Library Guidelines, 2015, p. 43). This, in turn, requires effective collaboration between school librarian and classroom teacher if high school students are to actually experience the transition to university as seamless. And this, in turn, makes it a crying shame that not all schools have a school library with “well-trained and highly motivated staff, in sufficient numbers according to the size of the school and its unique needs” (p. 25), and with “the pedagogical program of a school library…under the direction of professional staff with the same level of education and preparation as classroom teachers” (p. 17). Although somewhat dated now, I’d be surprised if the situation in 2010 as highlighted by ENSIL has improved since then, and fear it may be worse.

ALIES - A Library In Every School - diagram


Secondly, the FOSIL Group – as a growing, increasingly international, community of mainly librarians, teachers and lecturers responsible for the education and training of librarians as specialist teachers, centred on but not limited to FOSIL – for providing a Forum in which to develop increasingly effective collaboration between school librarians and classroom teachers to the end outlined above. The FOSIL Group currently has 166 members, with 561 following @TheFosilGroup on Twitter.

FOSIL was recently included in the Models and frameworks section of the CILIP ILG Information Literacy website, where a brief history of the development of FOSIL and the FOSIL Group may be found. A fuller treatment of FOSIL may be found in my Guest Post on the Information Literacy BlogThe principal lesson that school teaches is the need to be taught (Illich, 2000). Discuss.

Darryl Toerien on behalf of the FOSIL Group.

Darryl Toerien is Head of Library at Oakham School. He serves on the National Committee of School Libraries Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, the Board of the School Library Association, and the Section Standing Committee for School Libraries of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. He is the originator of FOSIL and the FOSIL Group.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *