National Survey Results – Could do better!

School Librarians deliver their report card to Education Minister Nick Gibb.

Key findings include:

  • 9 in 10 schools in England that participated in the research have access to a designated library space, falling to 67% in Wales and 57% in Northern Ireland however;
  • Schools with a higher proportion of students on free school meals are more than twice as likely not to have access to a designated library space;
  • Employment terms for librarians and library staff fall below national standards, with low pay and little investment in professional development and training.


Commenting on the publication of the research, Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP said: ” We welcome this landmark report as the first comprehensive picture of the state of play in our school libraries. On the one hand, it is a testament to the Head Teachers, Governors, Teachers and Librarians that value and promote the importance of school libraries for their learners and their schools. On the other hand 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 a national School Libraries Strategies and investment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, drawing on the example of Scotland.”

To find out more about the Great School Libraries Campaign, please visit their website:

BBC Young Reporter Competiton

BBC Young Reporter is an excellent way for your students to get involved in the whole topic of information literacy and fake news, whilst also having the chance to enter a competition for their voices to be heard on the radio.   Josie Verghese who is Head of Young Reporter told me:

“BBC Young Reporter works in partnership with schools, colleges and youth organisations to provide young people with the skills they need to create and understand the media. It is an opportunity for 11-18 year olds to develop media skills, news literacy and share their own stories with the BBC.  Educational establishments and youth organisations taking part will benefit from access to exclusive events, training and resources, as well as mentoring and career talks from BBC staff and journalists.

The BBC Young Reporter Competition is a chance for anyone aged 11-18 to suggest a story idea that they think the BBC should be telling – original untold stories that reflect young people’s personal experiences, insights or their community or about a subject that really matters to them.  There are two categories, “My Life” and “Our World” and young people can upload their ideas online – as a text or a video or audio clip. It isn’t about creating a finished piece; at this stage we just need an outline of their idea.

 The closing date is Sunday 26 October and all the details and the link to upload a story idea is 

In addition, we have some specific news literacy online resources (including video masterclasses and some suggested lesson / activity plans) which you can view via

There is also an interactive learning BBC iReporter game which puts the player in the role of a journalist working at the heart of the newsroom during a breaking news story: (usable on any computer, tablet or smartphone).”

I know that some of you will already be using this, but it is new to me – as are the news literacy resources, which are excellent.  If your school gains a place and you would like to share this story with Heart, please get in touch.  #GreatSchoolLibraries

Riding the Book Bus to Zambia

Jackie Rice, JCoSS LRC Manager spent two and a half weeks of the summer holiday in Zambia, Southern Africa, volunteering with a charity called The Book Bus. This is a review of her experiences.

During the summer break I spent two and a half weeks with The Book Bus charity in Livingstone, Zambia. I first heard about The Book Bus a few years ago when reading a report from one of the volunteers. The report explained how volunteers travel to Zambia to take part in a literacy project, driving out every day on Book Bus Charlie to schools in rural areas. Elephants and giraffes can be seen from the bus on the way to the schools. Combining a literacy project and an adventure – I knew that I wanted, if possible, to join the team on that bus!

 This year my plan was realised. An exhilarating and life-changing trip was about to begin. Travelling with a fellow Barnet librarian, we flew via Johannesburg and on to Livingstone. Our suitcases, safely stashed in the hold, were bursting with books and craft materials. We were met by members of The Book Bus Zambia team and settled into our accommodation.

During the holiday programme which runs in Livingstone from June to September, international volunteers join the Zambian team.  The team works with teachers to introduce books in English to children aged from 3-16 years of age – some older children are still completing their primary level. We would travel to rural primary schools, share books and stories and literacy-related activities such as singing, arts and crafts and playing games. The programme aims to make reading books a fun and enjoyable activity.  The children were always excited by the arrival of the bus and books. Some children will walk or run 15 miles each way to reach school.

Twice a week we also visited a Book Bus supported library where we could read one to one with the children and sing songs. Again, the children were filled with joy and delight to see the bus arriving. The volunteers are accepted as part of The Book Bus community and greeted warmly.  In contrast the library had few shelves and a small number of very well read books.  On returning to our accommodation we prepared for the next day’s classes, choosing the books, songs and craft activities. Sometimes we experienced a power or water cut as the government regulated scarce resources.

Why Zambia?

Zambia is one of the poorest nations in the world with more than half of the population living below the poverty line. Over half of the population are under 18 years of age, and most people live in rural areas. Although there are over 75 local languages, English is Zambia’s official language – learning to speak and read in English massively increases a child’s life chances. However, most children do not complete their primary level education.

Tom Maschler, a publisher in the UK, travelled to Zambia in 2006 and saw first hand the scarcity of books in remote areas. Teachers and community leaders welcomed the idea of a Book Bus. In 2008, the first Book Bus, with 5000 books on board, left London for Zambia. The bus was beautifully decorated with illustrations by Sir Quentin Blake. Since then staff at The Book Bus have built relationships with school teachers in communities which have very few books or resources. These are all provided for the programme by The Book Bus.

The harsh reality of life in Zambia was brought home to us as we visited a traditional village beside one of the schools we were working with. The riverbed was dry as the rains had failed. The villagers could therefore not grow their crops which they rely on to sell at market. They had to pay for fuel to work the pump to raise the water they need from deep in the ground. Only 17 miles away, back at our accommodation in Livingstone, the grounds were being watered daily to look attractive.

The Book Bus programme has been extremely successful so far. The UK based charity now operates all year round in Malawi, Zambia and Ecuador and has five buses. Since 2008 the charity has worked with over 200 schools, reaching 100,000 children. Literacy programmes are being expanded and reading levels and school attendances have improved.

Zambia is a beautiful country and volunteers have the opportunity to visit the Victoria Falls, the greatest curtain of falling water in the world, and see the sunset on the Zambezi River. You can also see stunning wildlife by taking a local trip see rhinos, elephants and giraffes or simply by looking out of the window of the bus each day. Highlights of the trip for me: meeting and becoming friends with the Zambian team – such gracious, dedicated and kind people; making a positive contribution to literacy in Zambia in such an enjoyable way; getting to know the children and being greeted with such joy as the Book Bus arrives; seeing three elephants take turns to swim across a river; swimming in the Devil’s Pool at the top of the Victoria Falls; spotting two giraffes standing on a roundabout. This was an unforgettable experience and one I will always treasure.

Does this sound like a project you would like to get involved with? I would recommend the experience to anyone of any age. For further information about The Book Bus, to volunteer in Zambia, or donate go to

Contact me if you require any further encouragement to volunteer.

Jackie Rice  September 2019


Report: The Impact of School Libraries on Learning



This is an excellent and important research paper, for us all to use for advocacy.  Good research showing that a good school library does impact results.  It also tells us what a good school library looks like.   Also good for showing headteachers why they should keep/why they should have a library.  And finally the report highlights the importance of digital resources, and the place they have to play in a good school library. Essential reading for all of us!

Michael Gove answers tweets about School Libraries

Recently, Michael Gove was asked questions by a Parliamentary committee about a whole host of subjects submitted by the Twitter community under the hashtag AskGove. Lots of us school librarians got involved, and asked why libraries were statutory in prisons and not in schools.  So many of us asked the question, that it was actually put to Michael Gove.  He had a very short answer, but I think it does start in the right direction.  Now it is up to CILIP and the SLA to follow up with Michael Gove and see that all school libraries are fully resourced, fully staffed and inspected by Ofsted.

Truth, lies and the Internet

There is a very interesting new piece of research into children’s digital fluency, which can  be accessed either from a link on the Evidence page of Heart, or downloaded from the Reports section of the Box files.  It talks about how children rely on the internet for their sources, and how reliable that is.   As a result of their findings, the authors strongly recommend that the Government put digital literacy on the curriculum.  However, they acknowledge in the report that there is no proper place for it to be taught, arguing that ICT probably has the strongest claim to teaching these skills.

However, many school librarians have been angered by the report, which makes no reference to them, and indeed the research did not include them.  Surely one of the core skills of any good school librarian is teaching digital/media/information  literacy.  We do this all the time, yet once again our skills are being ignored, even though we are the people best qualified for teaching these skills.

What do you feel about this?  Read the report, which has some very interesting and useful information for us to absorb, and then make your comment on the author’s blog here.   Comments welcome here on Heart too.

A positive mention for School Libraries by Ofsted

Ofsted logoOfsted have made a really positive mention of school libraries, and the effect they have on literacy, in their latest report entitled: ‘Removing barriers to literacy’.  This is the extract, from paragraph 100. ‘The primary and secondary schools visited emphasised the school library as contributing markedly to improving literacy skills.  All the schools visited had well-resourced libraries, often with computerised loan systems and facilities for accessing learning resources on an intranet.  Libraries in the secondary schools were often open for much longer than the school day.  This enabled students to complete their homework on the school’s computers before and after school.  The enthusiasm and responsiveness of the librarian generally had a direct impact on the attitudes of the students towards the library and reading.’  

 If Ofsted feel that the library is so important for literacy – and this is a pretty strong endorsement – isn’t it about time that school libraries were inspected by Ofsted, and the lack of a library made a point of failure for a school? 


BookTrust to lose their funding

Booktrust logoBookTrust, that amazing organisation that funds Bookstart, BookTime and BookedUp, has been told that they are losing 100% of their funding.  Which means, of course, that no more Year 7 pupils will receive the gift of a wonderful new book, all of their own.  And no more young families will recieve books to encourage them to read to their babies and young children either. Many of those families are disadvantaged or have English as a second language, where early literacy skills are of vital importance. This is also the week in which The Guardian published a study which shows that teenagers in the UK have slumped to 25th place in reading ability.  This will come as no surprise to many school librarians, but to have one of the weapons we use to fight back with taken away will be a very, very grave loss.  Please share your stories of how Booked Up books are used to help the pupils in your school, and the activities you do around this event.

UPDATE:  The Government has re-thought due to a storm of protests, and is reconsidering funding.  See the statement from CILIP here:

New report on reading habits by Pearson

The educational publishers Pearson have commissioned on reading which shows that many of the parents questioned had to bribe their children to read books.  Half of parents believed that digital media was distracting their child from reading.  You can read more about this in the Daily Mail article here: What’s your experience?