Great School Libraries Campaign

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Great School Libraries

Joy Court discusses the new ‘Great School Libraries’ campaign and the ways in which your library can get involved with the movement for change!

“June 6th saw the launch of the plan for the ‘Great School Libraries’ campaign, which should be dear to the hearts of everyone reading this! The three-year campaign, jointly run by the School Library Association (SLA) and the School Libraries Group (SLG) supported by CILIP, wants to ensure that every child has access to a great school library.  As the campaign website states, ‘Great school libraries are not just a vital part of teaching and learning, they are the foundation on which the rest of the library sector depends. Children who get the ‘library habit’ at school go on to become lifelong readers and library users.’ This campaign positions itself very firmly within the fight to save all our libraries from cuts.

Society needs to invest in its future and needs to invest in children, and the campaign vision ‘Every child deserves a great school library’ will resonate with parents and carers everywhere. It should matter to school governors, educators, and future employers too. The evidence-based campaign will focus on all of these different stakeholders at different points, and, as Alison Tarrant, the new Director of the SLA, says, it will make sure ‘we are speaking the truth, but talking in a way that makes sense to those different groups.’  The specific campaign aims actually seem quite modest:

  1. Recognition of School Libraries/Librarians in the Ofsted Inspection Framework
  2. Creation of a School Library Strategy for England
  3. Specific investment into School Library development

The exciting thing is that these aims are building upon the success that has already been achieved by CILIP Scotland and the Scottish government, which has a National Strategy for School Libraries due to be implemented across all state-funded sectors, including pre-school, primary, secondary, and special school provision, in August 2018. Alongside a School Library Improvement Fund, which encourages innovative projects to enhance the library offer, and The Annual Survey, a benchmarking exercise for primary and secondary schools, this promises to make a real difference!

In Scotland one of the first steps was expanding the annual How Good Is Our School self-evaluation framework to include school libraries, because one of the key challenges of any campaign is evidence. Currently there is just no data collected about the state of school library provision in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The School Library Data Group activity during the Great School Libraries campaign will change that by seeking to map provision (including of School Library Services) using quantitative data, and the group is also seeking qualitative evidence of impact, further supported by case studies. They can only do this if we all sign up, respond, and come forward with ideas for case studies. You can register on the website now to ensure you are sent the first pack of resources in September. This is a real opportunity for all of us involved in school libraries to speak with one united voice and to build on the support that big names and passionate advocators, such as Philip Pullman, who spoke so emotively at the Hay Festival recently, are giving us.

The growth of the Open University and UKLA Teacher Reading Groups all around the country also shows that there is a growing army of teachers who recognise the importance of reading for pleasure and recognise too that school libraries are vital to achieving this.

If you have not already done so, do check out the website.

I was also really heartened by a tweet from Nick Poole (CEO of CILIP) in the first days of this campaign:

“Excellent way to end the week, a school #librarian got in touch because she was facing a 25% cut in her budget. She successfully argued to retain the money because of the risk to #readingforpleasure & the impact on students doing GCSEs….and won! Great work #GreatSchoolLibraries”

It really feels like we are standing on the cusp of a breakthrough, and we should seize this momentum for change.”

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