Librarian's award gives asthma-death secondary something it can celebrate

8th October 2010 at 01:00
Honour for man who led learning centre overhaul at beleaguered school

A school facing closure following the death of one of its pupils was cheered last week by the news that one of its teachers had received a national honour.

To the delight of colleagues, Kevin Sheehan, librarian at Offerton School in Stockport, has won a top prize for his work in rejuvinating an old-fashioned, neglected learning centre.

School staff are still facing disciplinary action after the death of 11-year-old pupil Sam Linton, who died of an asthma attack in December 2007.

An inquest in March found that the decision to leave him sitting in a school corridor during the attack and failure to call an ambulance "significantly contributed to his death". He died later in hospital.

The headteacher has since left the school, which is awaiting the results of a public consultation on whether or not it should be closed.

But none of this has had an impact on Kevin Sheehan's enthusiasm for his work in the library, for which he has been named school librarian of the year, alongside Duncan Wright of Stewart's Melville College, Edinburgh.

"If you come in, you can see students doing their homework, doing private reading, or reading for school," he said.

"The library brings students together. It stops them being isolated."

"The library is open before school for a breakfast club, at lunch hours and after school.

"Libraries have to be fun, they have to be accessible, they have to be about meeting students' needs - that's the way to get students in. It is educational."

Mr Sheehan's first act on joining the school was to throw away the outdated books - all 10,000 of them.

The revamped learning centre has 8,000 brand new volumes, a Nintendo Wii, and is the venue for activities ranging from making films using Lego characters to a Dr Who knit-your-own-scarf competition.

"I arrived four years ago," he said. "It was a really old-fashioned library with complete rubbish on the shelves dating back to the 1960s. Once I'd got rid of things like needlework manuals, there were just 2,000 left.

"Now I have built up a stock of 8,000 books with brand-new fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels - stuff that children like reading."

He added: "We've had a complete refurbishment and brand-new computers."

The school has reviewed the way it cares for children with asthma and other medical conditions since Sam's death.

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