Posted on 8 July 2014

“Every secondary school in the UK should have a good library” – call by MPs and Peers

A new report by Westminster politicians calls for every child in the UK to have a good library in their secondary school.

The Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group’s report calls for the Department for Education to start collecting figures about the number of schools that have a library and librarian, and for Ofsted to look at school library provision when they inspect a school.

It is vital that all schools have a good library to ensure children develop essential literacy and digital literacy skills in order to fulfil their potential and to contribute to the success of the UK economy, says the report, The Beating Heart of the School.

Schools Minister David Laws said:

“Reading for pleasure and study has a well-documented positive impact on children’s educational attainment across the curriculum.

Reading develops literacy skills, which improves children’s chances of achieving their potential in life. The availability of a wide range of books and encouragement to read at school and home will help this happen.

The school library is an incredibly important way to ensure that children have a good choice when choosing books, a dedicated space for reading, and effective encouragement and stimulation from librarians to develop their literacy skills. 

I welcome the interest the Libraries All Party Group is taking in this important subject.”

Lord Graham Tope, Chair of the Libraries APPG, said:

“We live in a world awash with digital information, where literacy skills are essential for most jobs and our daily lives, yet one in six adults in the UK struggle with literacy.

We must make sure that children in our schools are encouraged to read, have access to exciting books and reading materials, and are taught research and digital literacy skills.

If every school has a well-resourced, properly staffed, fit for purpose library that is a key part of their strategies it will make a huge contribution to young people’s educational attainment.”

The Beating Heart of the School report recommends:

  • The Department for Education starts collecting figures about the number of schools that have a library and librarian
  • The Minister for Schools examines the full contribution that school libraries make to children’s education and development
  • Ofsted includes libraries in their inspections
  • The Department for Education has a lead staff-member for school libraries

The report includes findings from research about secondary school head teachers’ attitudes to school libraries. A survey was carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). Respondent head teachers were overwhelmingly positive about the impact of school libraries on teaching and learning, and overall importance of the library to the school. However, for libraries to be successful they should have input into the strategic direction, and over 55% of respondents said their library staff had no or small degree of input.

The report has been supported and brought together by the Chartered Institute for Library & Information Professionals (CILIP), who provide the secretariat for the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group.


Press contact:

Mark Taylor, Director of External Relations, CILIP
Tel: 020 7255 0654
Mobile: 07792 635 305

Notes to editors:

1. Download The Beating Heart of the School from - direct link to report

2. Reactions to The Beating Heart of the School:

CILIP President and school librarian, Barbara Band, said:

“Currently children across the UK do not have equal access to reading and some have none.

National Literacy Trust research shows that 1 in 3 children do not have a book of their own at home. Studies by The Reading Agency indicate that 40% of 5 – 10 year olds and 23% of 11 - 15 year olds do not visit public libraries.

This means the only place that many children encounter books is at school. Because school libraries are not statutory not all schools have a library. Other schools think they have libraries when all they have is a room full of books.

School libraries should be embedded in the Ofsted framework with a minimum level of provision underpinned by statutory requirements.

The Department for Education should collect and maintain statistics about the number of libraries and librarians – if we don’t measure how can we improve?

The provision of school libraries must not be left to chance because it is children who are the ultimate losers.”

Director of the School Library Association Tricia Adams said:

“I wholeheartedly welcome the All Party Group’s report about the role of school libraries and librarians in educational attainment.

It provides four clear and pragmatic recommendations. If adopted much needed steps will be taken towards every secondary school having a high quality, properly staffed, properly resourced, effective library.

It is wrong that children across the UK have such unequal access to books and reading materials and often do not have sufficient choice. Children need choice so they can explore and find new books and authors that fire their imaginations and start a love of reading for life.”

3. The Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group was established to discuss both the role and future of libraries across the UK. The APPG recognises the importance of libraries in a variety of places, including in schools, prisons, universities, law firms, private companies, health and public libraries. By developing literacy skills, providing access to information and enabling the transfer of knowledge, libraries help to build a fair and prosperous society. The Group recognises the importance of skilled library staff with the right level of expertise. CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals provides the secretariat for the group.

4. CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is the leading professional body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers. CILIP’s vision is a fair and economically prosperous society underpinned by literacy, access to information and the transfer of knowledge. CILIP is a registered charity, no. 313014.

5. The School Library Association is an independent charity that believes that every pupil is entitled to effective school library provision. The SLA is committed to supporting everyone involved with school libraries, promoting high quality reading and learning opportunities for all.

6. Research by the National Literacy Trust, The Gift of Reading (2011), showed that 1 in 3 children do not have a book of their own at home

7. The Reading Agency figures about library usage