School libraries facing budget squeeze, says SLA survey

School libraries are being forced to scrape by on ever-decreasing budgets, according to a new survey by the School Library Association.

Literacy charity Booktrust has advised that secondary schools should be spending £14 per pupil on books. However the survey found that nine out of 10 secondary schools are spending less on books per pupil than the recommended sum, with the average spend being just £4.28 per pupil per year. One school with 1,500 students which responded to the SLA survey revealed they spent only 31p per pupil on their library budget.

Out of more than 1,000 schools which responded to the survey in May, the majority of secondary schools, 21%, reported that they had a budget of between £3,000 and £5,000; however, 10% receive less than £1,000.

Most school libraries are also battling cuts to their budgets. Only 18% of all schools surveyed said that their budget had increased in the past year. While 34% reported that their budgets had shrunk, 48% were having to manage with the same budget, amounting to a cut in real terms in line with inflation.

Tricia Adams, director of the SLA, said in the report: “The results of this survey seem to indicate that there is less and less of a high quality service being provided for our students.

“Without the skills and pleasures that reading and researching can give us we will have a cohort of students lacking even more of the life and work skills that are appropriate for today’s 21st century world of work.”

The report also outlines steps the SLA would like to see taken, including government support for trained librarians in all secondary schools, and Ofsted inspections of libraries and their role within the school.