Press release: Challenge to make 100 low-cost classics available to schools

Schools Minister Nick Gibb today (17 November 2015) challenged publishers to make 100 classic books available at low cost, so all pupils have the chance to read them.

Texts such as ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ should be made available to secondary schools at reduced prices.

Well-known children’s book publishers Penguin have suggested 100 books from their Black Classics that they could make available for low prices, and Scholastic have offered to give schools 26 books for as little as £1.50 a copy.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

Under our plan to extend opportunity to every child, we want every pupil to have the chance to be taught and read a wide range of literary classics which can inspire a life-long love of reading.

Access to these wonderful novels shouldn’t be the preserve of the few.

I want every secondary school to have a stock of classics such as ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ so that whole classes across the country can enjoy them together.

Books become free from copyright 70 years after the author’s death – and the minister is encouraging publishers to make these titles available at low cost to schools.

As part of this government’s one nation agenda, the Department for Education wants all children to be introduced to the classics of English literature, especially if these books are not on their bookshelves at home.

The minister unveiled his challenge during a speech at the Publishers’ Association conference today.

Earlier this year the government issued a call to publishers, schools, literacy organisations and early years’ providers to join forces in a bid to make English pupils the most literate in Europe by 2020.

International surveys show that the reading ability of our 9- and 10-year-olds in England are currently the sixth best readers in Europe – with the top 18% on a par with the best in Europe.

Since the phonics check was introduced at primary level in 2012, 120,000 more children are on track to becoming excellent readers.

In August, we announced the first steps in the government’s literacy campaign, including:

  • funding the Reading Agency to extend their popular Chatterbooks scheme and set up new book clubs in 200 more primary schools all over the country
  • supporting the Reading Agency to work with schools and get more year 3 pupils enrolled at their local library to help them get into the library habit early

Textbook challenge

The minister also praised publishers for responding to his call for better quality textbooks after saying the ‘anti-textbook ethos’ in English schools needed to end.

He said that some ‘great strides’ have been made – particularly in mathematics – but called for more good textbooks to be made available.

Teachers in 35 primary maths hub schools have been trialling 2 English adaptations of Singapore mathematics textbooks in their schools: ‘Maths No Problem’ and ‘Inspire Maths’.

The textbooks are based upon the mastery approach to teaching.

Notes to editors

Discussions with publishers about what books they can make available are in the early stages – and government will not be stipulating what titles should be included.

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