Loss of school librarians is ‘a national scandal’

TESS survey reveals wide variations in access to qualified staff, as councils make cuts amid shrinking budgets

The access that Scottish secondary pupils have to qualified school librarians varies wildly between councils and even within them, TESS research reveals, prompting concerns about the emergence of a “two-tier system” as budgets tighten.

Our survey of councils comes as East Renfrewshire and Falkirk councils move from having a qualified librarian in all secondaries to having one for every two schools. Scottish Borders Council is also reviewing how it staffs school libraries, and Argyll and Bute plans to cut all of its secondary school librarian posts from August.

The TESS survey reveals, meanwhile, that East Ayrshire employs no qualified librarians; its school libraries are staffed only by assistants.

This is akin to replacing teachers with classroom assistants, said Duncan Wright, the school librarian spearheading the campaign to save Scotland’s school libraries. The lack of access suffered by some pupils has also been branded a “national scandal” by leading children’s author Theresa Breslin.

However, our survey on school libraries shows that the picture is not entirely gloomy: around a third of councils (11 out of 32) continue to run their libraries with qualified staff.

But of “major concern” are the 19 councils where provision varies from one school to the next, said Mr Wright. These councils are in danger of diluting further what is on offer, he said, and he called on the Scottish government to act.

A Scottish government spokesperson said that libraries continued to “play an important role in local authority schools” and that it was funding pilot projects in every local authority area so that children automatically become library members.

This is an edited article from the 20 May edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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