Gap in library provision for FSM students

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

An inequality of access to school libraries and insecure employment for school librarians have been revealed in research published as part of the Great School Libraries campaign.

Involving evidence from 1,750 schools, the research finds that while 87 per cent of schools in England have access to a designated library space, this figure falls to 67per cent in Wales and 57 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Furthermore, schools with high proportions of children on free school meals (FSM) are much more likely not to have library provision.

The figures show that while 91 per cent of schools with nine per cent or fewer on FSM have library provision, this figure drops to 81 per cent for schools with 25 to 49 per cent FSM, and 56 per cent for schools with 50 per cent or more on FSM.

Another finding is that while 55 per cent of school libraries opened for an average of six hours a day, trained librarians are not always present for that entire time – often due to budget pressures.

The report also raises concerns about employment terms for librarians and library staff, which it says fall below national standards with low pay, term-time only contracts, and little investment in CPD and training.

The Great School Libraries campaign is a three-year campaign being run by CILIP, the library and information association, the School Library Association (SLA), and CILIP’s School Libraries Group. It is campaigning for every child to have access to a great school library.

The report calls for education ministers to create national school library strategies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, drawing on the example of the National School Library Strategy in Scotland.

The research also looks at the different ways in which school libraries support wider activities and curriculum in the school, including reading and literacy, promoting a culture of reading, enhancing and extending curriculum-based teaching, supporting digital and media skills, and enhancing pastoral care and wellbeing. It includes a number of school case studies.

Nick Poole, chief executive of CILIP, said: “The research paints a picture of inequality of access and opportunity and insecure employment that we cannot accept. The findings highlight the urgency of securing national school library strategies and investment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, drawing on the example of Scotland.”


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