3 aims that make our Great School Libraries campaign so important

Together we are stronger

School libraries are essential to our children’s education. School libraries increase our children’s academic attainment. Thankfully you don’t have to take me at my word as there are plenty of studies saying just that. We regularly hear about the more children read fiction the better they will do at school and recent research from the UCL Institute of Education confirms this. “Young people who read fiction have significantly stronger reading skills than their peers who do not” https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2018/oct/fact-or-fiction-novels-come-top-reading-skills

The wonderful thing about school libraries is that we have another string to our bow. We can also support and teach inquiry-based learning which also impacts student learning. Dorothy Williams et al have carried out numerous studies into this. If you want the evidence then read this http://keithcurrylance.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WilliamsWavellTLfeb2014.pdf

We are constantly hearing of schools removing their librarians in order to save money but across the country, there are, thankfully, still some very hard working passionate school librarians all wanting to do their best for their students and teachers. They work in schools whose budgets are being pushed to the limit and they are still finding ways to support their schools on a shoestring. Often alone fighting for their place in the school and the curriculum but it is time to stop doing this all on our own. Time to stop fighting our own corner. Time to come together and support each other regardless of past disagreements.

We come in all shapes and sizes. The biggest elephant in the room is qualifications, to have to not to have. Well, let me put this one to bed immediately. We have so much more to worry about! If you are a school librarian with no qualification at all or a school librarian with a degree but not a library one, or a school librarian with every qualification under the sun it really does not matter. We all believe that our schools need someone in their school library. We all know that students will do better in school with us than without us. This is not about us it is about our student’s futures. How can we fight between ourselves at a time like this?

We are stronger together! We have a clear opportunity to stand together and say that our students are important and we need to be in schools to support them. The aims of this campaign are threefold. Let me remind you of what they are:-

  • To secure school library funding

There are many school librarians who don’t know how they are going to continue supporting their students with the poor resources they currently have. Like any other department in school, they should know what money they are getting from the school budget. We are not saying how much, we know school budgets are tight, are just saying that as a department it does need some of the school budget to do the job it is there for. If we can raise awareness of the importance of school libraries to our Headteachers and the need for a budget to function properly our ability to support their students through literacy and independent learning greatly increases.

If your budget is good then you also need to join this conversation in showing what you are achieving with it. How is it impacting your students and teachers? We need your voices too!

  • To produce a national framework for school libraries

A national framework will not change your role dramatically if you don’t want it to. It is not a magic wand that will make schools instantly recognise the amazing work that school librarians do and start making demands of you. If a framework were produced it would work as a guideline for best practice, a path to something better for everyone in the future. No longer would we be struggling to put into words why school libraries and librarians are important. This document would highlight all the possibilities and opportunities that come from school libraries. You could use it to say look what we are already doing or look at what we could be doing. We want our students to have equal opportunities and this framework will support that.

  • Recognition of school libraries within the Ofsted framework

Schools don’t like Ofsted inspections. No school wants them but this is how they have been told they will be judged on their quality. How often has one of our schools been inspected and the school library is never mentioned? What does this say to the parents reading the inspection report or to the school who get outstanding? This worrying trend re-enforces the national lack of understanding of the role the school library has within teaching and learning. In ensuring that Ofsted recognises the work the school librarian plays in supporting independent learning, schools would be encouraged to look at what is happening within their libraries more. If you have a great library and are proud of what you do then this is your chance to shine. This is just going to help you tell everyone what a great job you do. If you feel you would need a little help, there are lots of school librarians out there that could and would support you.

What can you do now?

Talk positively about our campaign, talk to your teachers and schools about it. If you are not sure how then ask, we are more than happy to help! We are still looking for case studies to help build a picture of best practice throughout the country. We are going to release a brand new website in September along with the results of the questionnaire and would love to share your stories about what is going on in your school libraries. If a case study is just a step too far then send us a blog instead.

Please remember we are doing this for our students. Together we are stronger! Our children deserve great school libraries.

By Elizabeth Hutchinson, Head of Learning and Development, Guille-Allès, Guernsey.

Works Cited

Walker, R. (2018, October 17). Fact or Fiction, Novels Come Top for Reading Skills. Retrieved June 19, 2019, from UCL Institute of Education: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2018/oct/fact-or-fiction-novels-come-top-reading-skills

Williams, D., Wavell, C., & K, M. (2013, October ). Retrieved June 19, 2019, from Impact of School Libraries on Learning: http://keithcurrylance.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WilliamsWavellTLfeb2014.pdf

Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

Winners Announced

We are delighted to announce the winners of our competitions who will be receiving a bundle of books for their school libraries.

Drum roll please…

The Lucky schools for the ASCL competition are:- 
Wymondham College
Cockburn School


The Lucky schools for filling in the questionnaire are:-
Ark Isaac Newton Academy
Northfield School and Sports College
St John’s Catholic Primary School, Camborne
St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School


We hope you enjoy your books!

Thank you to everyone who took part. The results of the questionnaire will be released in September.

We need your case studies! How do I do that?

Case Study – simple example

School Librarians are constantly moving forward, thinking of new ideas and trying new things out. As Liz Free says above ‘[Librarians] bring with the expertise that enhances the learning preparation with teaching staff” and sometimes that is very much based on thorough research and reading around the topic, like in the case study example found here.  However many changes made in school libraries are made through conversations with teachers, an awareness of curriculum needs and sometimes even a gut instinct that something needs to change. We don’t all have time to do the research first before we try something out.

We know that it takes time to write a case study especially if you have to find the research and the evidence of outcomes so I wanted to share with you one that I did recently. I wanted to ensure that our students were using our ebook collection more, it was that simple. My case study clearly states just that and ok when I started to fill it in I realised that I had read something recently that probably helped my decision but I believe I would have gone ahead and tried it anyway. I knew I had to do something or stop paying for the ebooks and I was not ready to give up just yet.

I have uploaded my own case study so that you have another example that shows something simpler. There are times when we do have to do lots of research for our big projects, but for our everyday changes, that also have an impact, we use different methods to make those decisions for change. I hope it helps persuade more of you to create your own case studies and send them in.

To fill in your own case study download it here. Case Study Template

Great School Libraries – the questionnaire!

School libraries aren’t statutory, and in the UK no one knows how many there are, or if they are staffed or funded. The Great School Libraries campaign is a three-year campaign which aims to change this – collecting data about school libraries as well as working towards securing school library funding; producing a national framework for school libraries and recognition of school libraries within Ofsted.

It is about ensuring that all children receive the benefits a school library can provide. To watch a video about the impact of a school library see post below.

We are conducting a sector-wide survey of primary and secondary schools to better understand the level of provision of both learning resources and staff responsible for them. As you know, there is currently no definitive information on how schools are resourced – something we want to change. We would appreciate your help in gathering this information to provide a clearer picture of the situation and would be grateful if you could complete a short questionnaire.

Your responses will be treated in the strictest confidence and BMG Research, who are conducting the survey on our behalf, abides by the Market Research Society Code of Conduct at all times.

The survey will be sent to schools shortly and will be open between Monday 25th February to Friday 29th March. If you want to make sure this survey has been completed on behalf of your school please do get in touch with Jamie Lawson, Research Executive at BMG Research, via e-mail at Jamie.Lawson@bmgresearch.co.uk. Alternatively, you can contact him via phone at 0121 333 6006.

If you are interested in finding out more information about the Great School Libraries Campaign, please contact Alison Tarrant, Chair of the GSL working group via e-mail at info@sla.org.uk

Reblogged from the SLA website with permission.

Mental Wellbeing and School Libraries

Christina Clark, Head of Research at the National Literacy Trust, is a member of the campaign working group. In this blog she introduces us to some of their latest research into links between well-being and literacy.

We’ve long known that a love of reading and writing can help children flourish at school and go on to succeed at work. But our latest research on the link between reading, writing and mental well being tells us that reading and writing for enjoyment can also help children lead happy and healthy lives.

This matters as the mental health of our children and young people is increasingly an area of concern. Indeed between 2015 and 2017 the Government announced new funding for mental health, including specific investment in perinatal services and eating disorder services for teenagers, and in July 2018, statutory health education in schools was announced.

There are a few studies that explore children and young people’s subjective wellbeing. However, to our knowledge, no one has looked at the link between how one feels about oneself and reading or writing. We therefore wanted to know how general mental wellbeing is related to several reading and writing variables, such as enjoyment, frequency, self-rated perceptions of skill and attitudes.

So, what did we do? In our latest Annual Literacy Survey of 49,047 children and young people aged 8 to 18, we focused on three aspects of mental wellbeing: life satisfaction, coping skills and self-belief. To explore how mental wellbeing in general is associated with aspects of reading and writing, we combined responses across the three components into one to create an overall Mental Wellbeing Index.

We found that children who enjoy reading and writing in their free time have significantly better mental well being than their peers who don’t. Indeed children who enjoy reading and writing, do it daily outside school and have positive attitudes towards literacy are three times more likely to have high levels of mental well being than their peers who are not engaged in reading and writing (39.4% vs 11.8%). On the flip side, not being engaged with reading and writing makes children twice as vulnerable to low levels of mental well being than their engages peers (37.4% vs 15%).

Previous research has shown that reading skill is linked to mental wellbeing, with children who struggle with reading having worse mental wellbeing outcomes. We had reading skill data for 1,098 pupils aged 11 to 15, which allowed us to explore not only the link between mental wellbeing and reading skill but also how important reading skill is when other reading components are considered. In line with previous studies, we found that children and young people who read at or above the level expected for their age have higher mental wellbeing scores, on average, than their peers whose reading skills are below expected levels.

However, what was particularly interesting was that when all the reading variables were considered simultaneously, reading skill was not found to be a significant predictor of mental wellbeing in our study. This might indicate that enjoyment and attitudes are more important for mental wellbeing, which in turn might suggest that focusing on improving positive attitudes and enjoyment of reading might be particularly beneficial in the classroom and across the whole school.

And this is where school libraries have a vital role to play. We know that school libraries are positively linked to personal and interpersonal outcomes such as feelings of success, resilience, independence and self-esteem. Positive attitudes and enjoyment of reading in particular have been consistently linked to school library use, both in the UK and internationally. Data from a large scale survey in the UK has shown that pupils who use the school library are more likely to enjoy reading, to read more books in a typical month and rate themselves as good readers. The data also showed that school library users think more positively about reading. They are more likely to see reading as fun and cool and less likely to agree that they only read when they have to. Some evidence also suggests that the impact of school libraries might be particularly important for engaging boys in reading.

At a time when children and young people are facing a multitude of pressures at school, at home and in their social lives, it is vital that we do everything we can to help them develop the resilience they need to cope with life’s challenges — something that we now know a love of reading and writing can help with. And school libraries can play a central part in this.

School Library Campaign receives grant for major UK wide survey

The School Library Data Group (SLDG), a sub-group of the Great School Libraries Campaign, has received a grant from the Foyle Foundation in order to undertake a major survey of UK school library provision.

The value and benefits of school libraries are well documented in international research yet many children have no access to a library within their school creating inequalities of provision. School libraries support academic achievement, raise attainment across all subjects, increase reading enjoyment and literacy, and feed into pupil’s well-being as well as wider learning skills.

There is currently no authoritative independent data collected on school libraries meaning we are unable to accurately state the existing level of provision and address the issues facing the school library sector. The survey will give us this information, and will be used as a benchmark to track annual changes and trends in provision. Alongside the survey, the SLDG will also be collecting case studies of projects and initiatives within school libraries that show qualitative evidence of their impact.

The Foyle Foundation is an independent grantmaking trust that distributes grants to UK charities via its Main Grants Scheme (covering charities whose core work deals with Arts and Learning), the Foyle School Library Scheme and the Small Grants Scheme.

The Great School Libraries Campaign was launched in September. The mission of the campaign is to ensure that every child has access to a school library and a professional librarian.

The SLDG will be commissioning an individual, independent research organisation or university to undertake the survey. Please contact Christina Clark, Head of Research at the National Literacy Trust: Christina.clark@literacytrust.org.uk for further information regarding the Invitation to Tender.

Barbara Band
Chair School Library Data Group


What makes a Great School Library?

The relationship between reading attainment and reading for pleasure is dynamic and reciprocal, and school library staff can impact attainment by identifying barriers to reading, having specialist knowledge about which books suit which child, and supporting teachers in developing their reading environments.

Critical literacy is an essential skill in today’s world – the ability to evaluate information and entertainment sources is something no young person should be without, and the skills that allow them to do this also allow them to play an active role in society. Library staff have been specialists in this area for decades, teaching children how to find, evaluate and use information effectively and ethically – now there is a new air of urgency, and library staff have the knowledge and resources to empower pupils and support teachers in this vital area.

But great school libraries are also about space – a space that provides safety and comfort, a space that welcomes all pupils, and gives all equal access. A space that questions, and entices, and excites. A space where all children are free to travel on their learning journey and are supported and inspired by a knowledgeable specialist.

There are some libraries where these things aren’t happening, and this is a shame – both for those children who won’t get those experiences or knowledge, and for those teachers who lack support at a time when they need it. Part of this campaign will be about supporting staff (both library and teachers), and providing guidance on useful articles, places to start and where to go next, to ensure that all libraries are fulfilling their potential. However, it is important to note that in some schools Library Assistants have been employed on their own – we are not expecting them to take on the role of a Librarian/Library Manager. Nor are we expecting library staff who are under-supported or underpaid to start taking on more work. Through the campaign we will be raising expectations and understanding about the profession, and making decision makers aware of exactly what is missing when the school library languishes. This increase in understanding will lead to better access to CPD, salaries to match the role and a higher level of accountability, which will provide the best education for pupils, and support for staff.

Alison Tarrant, CE of SLA and Chair of Great School Libraries working party

Peters are the official sponsor of Great School Libraries!








Last week saw the launch of the Great School Libraries campaign – a three year campaign spearheaded by SLA, CILIP SLG and CILIP. The campaign has three aims: to secure school library funding; to produce a national framework for school libraries and recognition of school libraries within the Ofsted framework.

We are truly excited to announce that we have been able to secure funding for the Great School Libraries campaign for the entirety of its duration from Peters, the UK’s leading specialist supplier of books and furniture for schools, academies, and public libraries.

Ray Dyer, Peters’ Managing Director commented: “We are delighted to be sponsoring the Great School Libraries campaign. At Peters, we understand the importance of ensuring children and young people have access to great books and a vibrant school library is an essential part of this. We are looking forward to working with the School Library Association and CILIP to ensure that every child has access to a great school library.”

Alison Tarrant, Chair of the Great School Libraries campaign working group said: “We are delighted to be working with Peters on this campaign. They understand the difference that a staffed and funded school library can make to school, and securing this funding means that we are not restricted, and will focus on producing meaningful resources and maximising engagement. Together they will enable the sector to move forward, and mark the beginning of a new era for school libraries.”

We all have a role to play in ensuring every child receives the benefits a Great School Library can offer.

To find out more about Peters, visit: https://peters.co.uk/

Welcome to the Great School Libraries Campaign!


Today sees the launch of the Great School Libraries campaign – a three year campaign spearheaded by CILIP, SLG and SLA. The campaign has three aims:

  • to secure school library funding
  • to produce a national framework for school libraries
  • recognition of school libraries within the Ofsted framework

The Campaign working group will be aiming to engage all potential stakeholders – whether that’s school library staff, parents, and school leadership or decision makers in government. All children deserve a great school library because adequately funded, staffed school libraries deliver enhanced and independent learning as well as reading and curriculum support.

Evidence also suggests school libraries:

  • Lead to higher qualifications/attainment
  • Promote a better quality of life
  • Generate improved results
  • Alleviate pressure on health and mental health services
  • Alleviate teacher workload
  • Increase efficiency for schools
  • Contribute to the delivery of a well-rounded education
  • Deliver and teach essential Information/critical literacy skills to combat fake news and engender independent learning

Throughout the course of the campaign the School Library Data Group will be collecting evidence in order to show the huge variety of ways that UK based school libraries contribute to better outcomes for every child. Go to the Resources tab to download a Case Studies Template and an exemplar.  We need as many of these as we can get, so that we can provide enough evidence of how school libraries add value to a school – please consider filling one in for us.