Research conducted by the ATL found most school libraries in England face cuts or closure with budgets being squeezed and technology becoming more widely prioritised. The findings showed that more than a fifth of education staff within the union claimed their school library budget has been significantly cut in the 10 past years.
After hearing reports of school librarians declining memberships and throwing books into skips because ‘reading can be done on iPads’, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers have demanded that school libraries should be part of Ofsted inspections. 22 percent of the 485 ATL participants surveyed claimed their school library budgets have been cut by at least 40 percent since 2010.
The research also showed that 40 percent of participants claimed that their library couldn’t offer enough space for the number of students wanting to use the facility. One teacher from a primary school in Cornwall claiming that their school library had become “a wall of shelves in a corridor with two seats.”
Yet in the recent spring budget statement the government claimed that they plan to “put the next generation first and at its heart will be a bold plan to make sure that every child gets the best start to life.” But does this mean the best start doesn’t involve books and reading?
A Department for Education spokeswoman said that school libraries “played a vital role” in child development. However most libraries in schools face either reduced opening hours, conversions to e-learning centres, cuts in staff hours and librarians being removed or replaced by support staff or teachers. The research found that nearly a third of members (32%) said their school no longer had a designate librarian.
However the Department of Education maintain that they “want all children to read widely and well and believe school libraries can play a vital role in fostering that love of reading. We trust schools to decide on whether to provide and maintain a library service for their pupils.” Yet the majority of schools are closing libraries down due to budget cuts and the belief that they are no longer relevant. A primary school teacher in the West Midlands has been quoted, “the new head has decided a library is no longer needed so is planning to get rid of it as all reading can be done on iPads.”
From the findings of this poll the ATL union has planned a campaign to combat this. Mary Boustead the ATL general secretary says she finds it worrying that schools are cutting library hours and turning libraries into classrooms, “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 disadvantaged the most deprived children who are less likely to have access to books or computers at home and depend on their school libraries.”
What do you think? Are school libraries needed? Or should schools encourage reading to be done on iPads in classrooms? For pupils in deprived areas libraries can be the only places they can access books. But how can libraries survive with such widespread budget cuts and the growing thinking that they are outdated and irrelevant? What do you think? Have your say here…