One in eight schools in the UK do not have a library, according to a survey.
The lack of access to books affects a large proportion of poorer children whose school is twice as likely not to have a library.
In response to the survey, campaigners have warned of an “inequality of access and opportunity” which must be addressed, particularly in primary schools that have been shown to be less likely to have a library at all. If schools do have a library they tend to be used as extra classrooms, or meeting rooms rather than reading or studying.
According to the survey of 1,750 schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 87 per cent have access to a designated library space – which means around 13 per cent do not.
The study also shows that a school with higher numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals are less likely to have a library space- meaning a big discrepancy between rich and poor.
Nick Poole, chief executive of library and information association CILIP, told The Independent:
“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.”
Cressida Cowell, author of How To Train Your Dragon, added:
“This research shows inequality in library provision that is a social mobility time bomb. Nobody has yet answered this question for me: if a child’s parents cannot afford books, if there isn’t a library in their school, and they don’t have opportunities to visit a public library, how on earth can they become a reader for pleasure?”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders offered:
“The government’s severe funding cuts to our education system have left school leaders having to make difficult choices about what they can actually afford and it is those schools, often in the most deprived areas of our country, that are having to suffer the most as a consequence.”
Despite the fact the Conservative government have cut spending over the past 8 years of them being in power, they have made some half-hearted statement.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
“We want all children to have the opportunity to read widely – that’s why we’ve strengthened the national curriculum to focus on developing reading skills, and increased the focus on phonics to help children acquire the basic building blocks of reading.”
“School libraries play a role in this and schools are responsible for deciding how to provide this service for their pupils. We recently announced an investment of £14bn more in schools over the next three years to 2022-23, allowing schools to invest more in teachers and resources – such as library provision – to ensure all children get the top-quality education they deserve.”
After devastating cuts over the past decade, they are now promising to reinvest in the neglected schools.
Thanks, I guess?