School Librarians in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have called on Education Minister, Nick Gibb, to address the findings of new research into School Library provision, which highlights inequality of access to school libraries and insecure employment for school librarians.
The research was commissioned by the Great School Libraries campaign − a 3-year evidence-based campaign run by CILIP, the library and information association, the School Library Association (SLA) and CILIP’s School Libraries Group − to ensure that every child has access to, and can benefit from, a great school library.
Key findings include:
- 9 in 10 schools in England that participated in the research have access to a designated library space, falling to 67% in Wales and 57% in Northern Ireland, however;
- Schools with a higher proportion of children on free school meals are more than twice as likely not to have access to a designated library space;
- Employment terms for librarians and library staff fall below national standards, with low pay and little investment in professional development and training.
School library sector organisations are calling on the Department for Education to work with them to:
- Create national School Library Strategies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, drawing on the example of the National School Library Strategy in Scotland;
- To recognise the value and impact of school libraries, librarians and SLS in national frameworks for schools inspection and improvement.
- To work with school leaders and the school library community to develop new investment in School Libraries with the aim of balancing inequality of access and provision.
Commenting on the publication of the research, Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP said,
“We welcome this landmark report as the first comprehensive picture of the state of play in our school libraries. On the one hand, it is a testament to the Head Teachers, Teachers, Governors and Librarians that value and promote the importance of school libraries for learners and their school. On the other hand, the research paints a picture of inequality of access and opportunity and insecure employment that we cannot accept. The findings highlight the urgency of securing national School Library Strategies and investment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, drawing on the example of Scotland.”
The research also looked at the different ways in which school libraries support activities in the school, including reading and literacy, promoting a culture of reading, enhancing and extending curriculum-based teaching, supporting digital and media skills and enhancing pastoral care and wellbeing.
Award-winning head teacher, educationalist and speaker, Richard Gerver, has lent his support by becoming a patron of the campaign. Speaking on the importance of the Great School Libraries campaign and the findings of the national survey into school library provision, he commented:
“For children to achieve, they need experiences which broaden their horizons, stimulate their imaginations and contextualise the world around them. Books are vital tools in that process; access to them should be a basic human right. A good school library is at the heart of a great school; well stocked, well-staffed and beautifully designed. It is for that reason that I urge the Government to better support educators in providing that quality in every school in the country.”
Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, who recently revealed her ten-point Charter to ensure that books and reading are available to absolutely everyone, commented on the findings of this report:
“This research shows an inequality in library provision that is a social mobility time bomb. Nobody has yet answered this question for me: if a child's parents cannot afford books, if there isn't a library in their school, and they don't have opportunities to visit a public library, how on earth can they become a reader for pleasure? We know from many, many academic studies how important reading for pleasure is to children’s life prospects, so we need to do everything possible to encourage reading for pleasure in ALL children, not just in some children.
From a personal point of view, I know from visiting schools around the country for over twenty years that schools with both a library and librarian have a huge advantage over those that do not. Libraries and reading for pleasure support learning in every subject by encouraging intelligence, creativity and empathy, and librarians are highly skilled at the complicated process of getting the right books into the hand of the right child at the right time.
I urge the government to implement a School Library Strategy that recognises the importance of a well-stocked school library and librarian not just for some children but for every single child in this country. Reading is magic, and magic is for everyone.”
Download the report in full here.
Download ‘Report Card’ Graphic here.
Notes to Editors
CILIP, the library and information association, is the leading voice for the information, knowledge management and library profession. Our goal is to put information and library skills and professional values at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society. CILIP is a registered charity, no. 313014. www.cilip.org.uk
The SLA is a UK focused charity which supports everyone involved in school libraries. They believe that every pupil is entitled to effective school library provision and the educational, emotional and developmental benefits that come with it. The SLA is committed to supporting, promoting and sustaining high quality reading and teaching and learning opportunities for all in a diverse and changing world. www.sla.org.uk
About CILIP School Libraries Group
The School Libraries Group is a special interest group of CILIP advocating for school libraries and school library services. SLG is committed to enabling its members to achieve and maintain the highest professional standards, and encouraging and supporting them in the delivery and promotion of high quality library and information services responsive to the needs of users.
About Richard Gerver
Richard Gerver is an award-winning speaker, bestselling author and world-renowned thinker. Richard began his career in education, most notably as headmaster of the failing Grange Primary School. In just two years, he famously transformed the school into one of the most acclaimed learning environments in the world, for which he was celebrated by UNESCO and the UK Government. Richard has since transitioned to the global stage where he uses his trademark humour and natural style to deliver passionate, provocative and authentic speeches. www.richardgerver.com
About Cressida Cowell
Cressida Cowell is the number one bestselling author-illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once book series, and the author of the Emily Brown picture books, illustrated by Neal Layton. She has sold over 11 million books worldwide in 38 languages. How to Train Your Dragon is also an award-winning billion-dollar DreamWorks film series, and a TV series shown on Netflix and CBBC; The Wizards of Once has also been optioned for film by DreamWorks.
Cressida Cowell is currently the Waterstones Children’s Laureate (2019 – 2021), and is an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust, a trustee for World Book Day and a founder patron of the Children’s Media Foundation. She has won numerous prizes for her books, including the Blue Peter Book Award and the Ruth Rendell Award for Championing Literacy. She grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland and she now lives in Hammersmith with her husband, three children and a dog called Pigeon.