Politicians from across the political spectrum have made recommendations to improve school libraries across the UK, including urging the Department for Education (DfE) to start collecting concrete data on library provision in schools. In a new report, the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group also recommended that Ofsted should also consider libraries when they inspect a school.
The report, titled The Beating Heart of the School, strongly echoes the suggestions made by librarians and groups such as the Society of Authors (SoA) and CILIP, the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals, in The Bookseller last month.
Currently schools have no statutory duty to provide a library service, and the new report does not include that move in its recommendations. However, it recommends that the DoE starts collecting figures on school libraries and libraries, examines the contribution made my school libraries to children's education, that Ofsted should proactively inspect libraries, and that the DoE should have a lead staff-member for school libraries.
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."
Part of the report included a survey carried out by National Foundation for Educational Research, which showed head teachers were overwhelmingly positive about the impact of school libraries, however, 55% of respondents said that libraries had no strategic imput of the school's teaching.
The report has been met with a positive response. Barbara Band, CILIP president and a school librarian, said: "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."
She added: "School libraries should be embedded in the Ofsted framework with a minimum level of provision underpinned by statutory requirements. The DfE 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.”
Tricia Adams, director of the School Library Association 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."
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