Thousands of primary schools have no library

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

One in eight primary schools do not have a library – rising to one in four schools in the most deprived areas of the country.

A report from the National Literacy Trust (NLT) also reveals that four in 10 primary schools have no dedicated school library budget (Tyler Todd, 2021).

The figures are particularly worrying when we consider that an estimated one in 11 children have no access to books at home – an issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, the report adds.

There is no statutory requirement for schools to have a library, yet the NLT report highlights once again the evidence of a clear link between reading for pleasure and attainment, reading and writing skills, and mental health and wellbeing.

Many school libraries are reliant on PTA fundraising or parental donations to operate, the report finds, while teachers are often buying reading materials with their own money.

The report states: “A universal theme emerging from the evidence is that schools cannot afford to fund a library and/or librarians from their normal school budgets. A supportive PTA and/or an active friends group, as well as philanthropic donations, could offer valuable additional support, but a solid funding base for a school library appears to be essential.

“Nearly 50 per cent of primary school respondents reported that their library was under-resourced, and 40 per cent reported having no budget for libraries at all. We found that 20 per cent were relying on old library stock.”

Off the back of the report, the NLT and publishers Penguin Random House UK have launched a Primary School Library Alliance which is pledging to “transform and equip” 1,000 primary school libraries by 2025.

Arts Council England has already awarded the Alliance £900,000 to support its work and Penguin Random House has pledged to invest more than £1m in both funding and in-kind support. They are seeking further investment from business and charities.

The project will be delivered via the NLT and Penguin Random House's World of Stories programme, which offers bespoke training, new books and resources to existing school libraries and has already worked with 225 primary schools during the last three years.

Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the NLT, said: “We know that one in 11 children on free school meals don’t own a single book of their own. With the latest research showing 40 per cent of primary schools don’t have the budget to support and sustain a library, it paints a very concerning picture of how these children and young people are able to access new books, and unlock a lifetime of potential through reading. Together, we are committed to changing this.”

The campaign is being supported by the School Library Association. COE Alison Tarrant added: “Primary school libraries are essential to children’s literacy and learning and yet the research continues to highlight disparity across the UK, impacting the development of reading and writing skills, wellbeing as well as overall academic attainment. They are in desperate need of funding. The School Library Association is excited to support this great initiative which will have a significant impact on pupils and will provide further evidence of the impact of school libraries.”


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