Bousted: school library budget cuts risks pupils’ literacy

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), has warned cuts to school library budgets risk the literacy of children.

Bousted said that too many schools are turning their libraries into classrooms and discarding books, with some school libraries being too small and having inadequate numbers of computers for children. An ATL survey found that more than one in five school staff claimed their school library budget had been cut by at least 40 per cent since 2010.

In a report, the union called for Ofsted inspectors to report on the state of the library in each school they visit.

Bousted said: “We are also hearing alarming stories of schools cutting library hours and staff, or turning their libraries into classrooms and binning their books. This is particularly worrying because reading for pleasure develops children’s literacy, educational attainment and ultimately their chances in life.

“Getting rid of school libraries also risks increasing inequalities and further disadvantaging the most deprived children who are less likely to have access to books or computers at home and will have less access to public libraries since so many are closing.”

Linda Smith, past chair of the School Library Association, said: “School libraries and the staff who guide them are often the easiest department to reduce during times of economic cuts. This is exacerbated by the fact that school library provision remains an optional extra and there is no statutory necessity to house a library within a school and the misguided belief that being a digital native is synonymous with literacy.”

Nick Poole, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, said: “ATL’s survey paints a worrying picture of the state of the UK’s school libraries. Every parent wants the best for their child so they have equal opportunities and the same life chances as everyone else. Unfortunately not all children can benefit from the skills of a librarian in their school.

“We firmly endorse ATL’s call for inspections to include school libraries. Skilled staff significantly improve the quality of school libraries and increase access to their services.

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