Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Book Spend of 31p Speaks Volumes, Says Charity: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Book Spend of 31p Speaks Volumes, Says Charity: News

Article excerpt

Schools are not investing enough in libraries, survey finds.

According to the government, authors such as Dryden, Keats and Dickens should be at the heart of school life. But far from valuing literature, secondaries are spending as little as the cost of a packet of crisps on new books for their pupils each year.

A survey by the School Library Association (SLA), which asked more than 1,000 library staff in secondaries about their budgets, found that one academy spent just 31p per pupil each year on books and another only 62p, compared with the Pounds 14 for secondaries recommended by charity Booktrust five years ago.

With school budgets increasingly tight, the average annual book spend per pupil in secondaries is now just Pounds 4.28, according to the SLA. Compared to three years ago, only a third of respondents said they were now spending more on books.

Tricia Adams, director of the SLA, said the results indicate "less and less of a high-quality service being provided for our pupils".

"We know some secondary schools do not have libraries, usually due to budget or space considerations," she said. "Those schools with a good library recognise what it does for the school, but those that just have a room full of books with no librarian - or no library at all - don't see what they're missing.

"Without the skills and pleasures that reading and researching can give us, we will have a cohort of pupils lacking essential life and work skills."

While the situation is bad for secondaries, primaries appear to be faring better. The 100 primary school libraries that responded were spending Pounds 10.25 per child each year, more than the Pounds 10 recommended by Booktrust, although the relatively small number of replies casts doubt on whether this is typical.

Alan Gibbons, children's author and libraries campaigner, said that library budgets in many schools are stagnant, meaning that the amount of money being spent on books is falling in real terms after inflation.

"In a lot of places, budgets have been slashed, and I know three or four schools where the librarian has no budget whatsoever," Mr Gibbons said. "That said, one state school has Pounds 20,000. That's exceptional, but it's clear it depends on the attitude of the senior management team. …

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