1 in 8 primary schools don’t have a library

The National Literary Trust and Penguin have launched a national alliance to address the chronic lack of investment in British primary schools.

 A shot from above of three children reading books
Libraries are a key resource in primary schools. Image: Penguin

An alliance between the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Books UK has been set up to transform and equip 1,000 libraries in primary schools by 2025.

The move comes after a report, published today, showed 1 in 8 schools in England do not have a library or designated reading space, rising to 1 in 4 schools in the most disadvantaged communities.

There’s no ring-fenced budget for primary school libraries, as they’re not required legally. As a result, many teachers use their own money to buy new books due to a lack of funding.

The Primary School Library Alliance is calling for large-scale public and private funding, alongside collaboration with other charities, publishers and ambassadors, with a target of improving the literacy of 500,000 children within the next four years.

“We know that one in 11 children on free school meals doesn’t own a single book of their own,” said Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust. “With the latest research showing 40% 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.”

School libraries have been proven to have a positive impact on all areas of primary pupils’ learning, including the development of reading and writing skills, wellbeing and overall academic attainment. “Primary education is the key window to establish confident, engaged and enthusiastic readers,” said one teacher. “For children who do not have access to books at home or sufficient parental support with reading, a staffed school library is essential.”

However, a recent survey shows 40% of primary schools don’t have any budget to buy new books for their library – and many teachers lack the knowledge, skills or time to manage their school library effectively.

The impact of the pandemic has further worsened access to books for disadvantaged pupils as well as their reading progress due to school closures. This year, the Department for Education stated that some primary school pupils have experienced a learning loss equivalent to between two and three months of progress for reading.

In response to the Alliance and as proof of investment in this crucial educational area, Arts Council England today also announces investment in the expansion of World of Stories, a library programme pioneered by Penguin and the National Literacy Trust, which will support 500 more primary schools through bespoke training, new books and resources.

Are you a school looking to transform your library? Click here to find out more and register your interest.

What did you think of this article? Email editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk and let us know.

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