Schools' library snubs hit literacy rates

Schools' library snubs hit literacy rates

The government's lack of coherent support for school libraries is one of a number of factors contributing to the fall in children's literacy, according to a report by an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education.

The report "An Inquiry into Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy" considered a number of issues that impact on literacy including teachers' professional development, teaching resources, the curriculum and the teaching of phonics. It was funded by Besa (British Educational Suppliers Association).

The report read: "Libraries are essential to provide free and open access to a wide variety of learning materials. Economic constraints are forcing some of these to close and for schools to limit their library facilities, and this can only be a barrier to successful literacy for learners of all ages."

Ray Barker, director of Besa, said the support of parents was vital in preventing more schools from closing their libraries. "The parent power in schools will be considerable from now on, and we need to see how we can engage with them through platforms like Mumsnet."

Tricia Adams, director of the School Library Association, warned of further school library closures in 2012. She said: "I am concerned about how things will develop given the tightening of budgets. Schools believe it is easier to lose a librarian than a teacher, even though the librarian supports teachers across the school."

The inquiry also reported on funding cuts to school libraries—including a 40% fall in school spend on library resources since 2002, according to figures from the Publishers Association.

Barker said the APPG would continue to exert pressure on the "big issues" of school libraries, teaching resources and continual professional development of teachers when MPs returned in September. He said: "Teachers have lost the communication and training network that local authorities provided, and we need to work with the unions, the Department for Education and the industry to find out how to replace that."