Education & Family

Top authors call for school libraries to be protected

Chris Riddell's books include the Goth Girl series Image copyright PA/Chris Riddell
Image caption Chris Riddell's books include the Goth Girl series

The children's laureate and eight well-known children's authors are calling on the education secretary to ensure school libraries are preserved.

Goth Girl author Chris Riddell says in a letter to Justine Greening that many lack investment and need funding via a central government grant.

Supported by eight former children's laureates, Riddell is asking Ms Greening to set out required standards.

The government said it was up to schools to spend as they saw fit.

In his letter, Riddell, supported by authors such as Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Quentin Blake, said: " I have seen personally, in my school visits up and down the country, how they promote reading for pleasure and in doing so, turn pupils into avid readers.

"I am deeply concerned that this role is not fully appreciated and, worse, is being undermined through lack of economic and intellectual investment.

"In recent months two major school library services closed in Dorset and Berkshire, and year after year the School Library Association loses members as school library provision shrinks through lack of funding."

'Insidious pressures'

He said he had seen how library provision was "wildly inconsistent", with great examples of well-funded and staffed libraries.

He said the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Libraries had asked the DfE to gather statistics on school library provision so that the extent of this problem could be understood, but this had not yet happened.

Riddell also said: "While schools face insidious pressure on budgets and staff, things cannot change.

"That is why, with the backing of my fellow laureates, I am now calling on Justine Greening and the Department of Education to act on the all-party group's request and then set out clear standards of library provision, and put into place the necessary funding."

This way, every school would have a library service it could be proud of, with books to borrow and, wherever possible, a school librarian to help children choose, he said.

A Department for Education official said reading was a key part of a child's education and ultimately helped them to reach their full potential.

"That's why we've strengthened the curriculum to focus on developing their reading and writing skills, and teaching phonics helps children acquire the basic building blocks of reading," the official said.

"We want all children to have the opportunity to read widely - school libraries play a role in this, and schools are responsible for deciding how to provide this service for their pupils.

"This is backed up by a record £40bn schools budget this year, and it is up schools to spend their funding as they see fit."

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