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Books denied to 600,000

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 20 May, 2011 | By: Helen Ward

Full extent of swingeing cuts to school library services revealed for the first time in TES investigation

School library services providing books to more than half a million pupils have been axed in the last year, a TES analysis has revealed.

Some of England’s largest local authorities - including Kent and Birmingham - have scrapped their services as their budgets are squeezed.

The news that 600,000 children will no longer have access to the work of a school library service (SLS) has been strongly criticised by celebrated children’s authors.

SLSs have been under threat for a number of years, but it is only as school and local authority funding comes under increased pressure that the axe has fallen.

Traditionally the services, provided by council officers but bought in by individual schools, supplied new books to libraries as a way of keeping their collections fresh and posters and artefacts for use as classroom resources. They also regularly organise writers’ visits.

Other local authorities to have scrapped these services in the last 12 months include Gateshead, Cambridgeshire and Sutton. Greenwich, which suspended its service in 2009, confirmed this week that it will not reopen.

Celebrated authors have lined up to attack the cuts. Philip Pullman, author of the best-selling His Dark Materials trilogy, condemned the way the services are being allowed to crumble away. “It is an absolute disgrace. The Government doesn’t fund schools properly so schools have to make the choice between repairing the toilet roof and having a school library service,” he said.

“But I don’t exonerate schools from all the blame; some schools display a philistine lack of care for their own library.”

And Michael Rosen, the former children’s laureate, agreed, saying: “Schools library services have been decimated. But they are central to education.

“I cannot think of anything more important in education than to fill classrooms full of books that children can browse through.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, blamed the government and squeezed budgets for the predicament of SLSs. “There are many things to spend money on and not enough money to go around because mending the toilet roof matters, ICT matters and having a strong school library service matters.

“A library has more effect on reading than a phonics check. Being able to have a wide range of books that appeal to different interests will do more to drive literacy than some of the government’s strategies.

“A flaw in the government’s thinking is that they think of education in terms of schools, but some services are done better at local or regional level, like music and school library services,” he added.

But one headteacher in an affected area said he his school would be fine without it. Avtar Singh Mangat, head of Wilkes Green Junior in Birmingham, said that schools could provide resources without paying for a central service: “We used the service many years’ back and the last time we used it was last year, but very sparingly. We are a well-resourced school. We felt we should support our curriculum from within the school.”

Gill Harris, chair of the association of senior children’s and education librarians (ASCEL), believes the lack of certainty is a key problem:

“Some schools will say we’ll save money this year and subscribe against next year, but if they miss out a year, then the service may close down and they won’t get it back again.”

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Comment (5)

  • We haven't bought into a SLS. Too expensive. All our books are bought through book fair commission and fundraising. Our library is better stocked than children's sections of public libraries ........... and used more (500 kids + 50 adults). It's the size of the library that is limiting, not the lack of books and there is no money around for buildings. Adequate school libraries are VITAL.

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    24 May, 2011


  • I think School Library Services should be phased out and each school run its own library service in order to save money.
    When I obtained a good grade degree, I only used two text books from the vast lists that were handed out, and even then they were books that we had to buy.
    Reading extra books uses up even more of the planet's resources in terms of electricity used in light bulbs and electric radiators, and also extra food.
    Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, has claimed that workers are attracted to the teaching profession because of the generous pensions.
    This assumes that they will live long enough to collect their pension or live for a reasonable length of time afterwards. It also assumes that they will not transfer to another profession of their own accord or be forced to because of low standards of workkmanship.

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    25 May, 2011


  • LIbraries and resource centres are central to student learnign. I live and work in Peru where the ideas of libraries seems pretty alien to most people. In fact, I worked in a university where the Library was about 5 meters quare and the students were not allowed to browse the books, instead they had to ask for a book which was then handed to them , they could use it in the library ad the definitely could not take out more than 1 at a time. I remember my days at university where I lived in the library, and worked from up to 10 books at a time, beng able to take them home.
    There are schools which don't have libraries and there are schools where the library is kept under lock and key and students are not allowed to access the books.
    Books to me are a life blood and I am trying to instill this into my daughter, who is 6. She has about 100 books at home of which over 90 have been sent from England as books in Peru are so ridiculously expensive.
    I think schools in England should think very carefully before they get ris of their libraries. Books are important to us. Yes, we have internet now, but until the information on the internet becomes a little bit mre reliable and monitored we have to ensure that students can cross reference internet research, which can be uploaded by anybody with physical books, which have gone through vigourous research editing and checking before being published.
    Schools, should actively teach research skills, and perhaps there should be some way whereby schools can limit access to internet sites that have not been checked and verified by experienced staff. Perhaps that could be the new role of school librarians, because we cannot deny that the internet is now an important learning tool, but until all books are on the internet physical libraries are required. We must also remember that even books that are seemingly out of date are still of great importance as we can use them to trace back the development of ideas.

    Keep libraries, but modernise them to incorporate trusted internet access.

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    25 May, 2011


  • Well, this is a sad thing, but on other hand we are in 2011 (oh even 2012!) now and I think they should just put money into e-copies of all needed books. These days most pupils are using internet to write all their <a href="">essays</a>, term paper and rest of paper work anyway. Times of paper books are sadly slipping away.. However, it is totally wrong that they had already cut down support for real libraries while e-libraries are still not even being developed.

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    6 January, 2012


  • These days most pupils are using internet to write all their [url=""]essays[/url], term paper and rest of paper work anyway.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    6 January, 2012


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