Inspection will be used to "encourage" schools to improve their libraries, in an attempt to ensure that every child in Scotland has access to a “vibrant” school library service.
The new National Strategy for School Libraries in Scotland 2018-2023 – the first for any part of the UK – was published at the weekend in response to growing concerns that pressure on council budgets is leading to school library provision being cut and qualified librarians being removed.
Earlier this year, Tes Scotland reported that Scottish Borders Council was planning to replace school librarians with pupils – a move that was described as “the first step in getting rid of school libraries altogether”.
The new strategy highlights actions schools and headteachers should be taking “for the development of excellent school library services”. It says that schools inspectorate Education Scotland will “look at the contribution of the library to wellbeing, inclusion and achievement across the curriculum” when it inspects schools.
School libraries 'help pupils' wellbeing'
The strategy also says school library services should be: included in schools’ improvement plans; delivered to all pupils from nursery to secondary school; and include creative approaches to learning across the curriculum.
It states: “Headteachers and Education Scotland will ensure that the work of the school library is included in school inspections and inspection results are used to encourage improvement of the service.”
School libraries play a “critical role” in education, it says, while warning that their potential is not always realised.
A Tes Scotland investigation in 2016 revealed that access to qualified school librarians varied wildly between councils and even within them.
“Due to local variations in service provision and without a shared understanding on the role of school library services and school librarians across Scotland, not all children and young people currently have access to a suitable school library service," the strategy states.
“To achieve the ambition of excellence and equity in Scottish education, all pupils require access to, and support from, excellent school library services throughout the learner journey.”
A specialist group will now be formed to oversee the implementation of the strategy’s aims and report on progress.
Education secretary John Swinney said the strategy sought to make libraries “the vibrant hub and epicentre of our schools”.
He added: “School libraries have a vital part to play, throughout the learner journey from 3-18. They support literacy, numeracy, and health and wellbeing, improving attainment across the curriculum.”