I’m writing to you in the hope that you are a reasonable person who has become a headteacher with the view to providing young people with the best education they can possibly receive. I write in the hope that you are also, in your leadership, geared towards the continued progress of all young people in your care as I hope to offer you a deal that will not only help you to achieve this but to give you, your school and students so much more.
As you know the education landscape in the past few years has seen some of its biggest changes since the Education Act of 1944 especially in such a short period of time. We have seen the introduction of ‘free schools,’ academies (select and forced) the scrapping of the EMA and introduction of Pupil Premium funding, the eradication of levelling (for God knows what) a new SEND framework, a curriculum change of all key stages as well as a restructure of the GCSE grading system. We have also seen the government and Ofsted place greater focus on certain areas such as literacy, numeracy and independent learning.
As you will know many schools have faced downgrading from previous ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ positions with the goalposts having been shuffled to make the higher recognition harder. You will also have noticed that many schools that are in the Requires Improvement category to have on their front pages statements that read ‘This school is not yet good because; students do not read widely enough’ or variations on the type.
I’m sure you also know that one of the key questions asked in school inspections nowadays is around how a school teaches its weakest readers. I do not need to tell you one of their success criteria is actually listening to young people read. There have also been numerous publications, that I know you are familiar with, that talk about the importance of literacy and especially reading in schools, reports such as Moving English Forward (2012), Getting Them Reading Early (2014), Reading Writing and Communication (2011) to name but a few.
So I know that you understand the importance of reading and literacy, know that you realise how much of an issue it is for everyone that we get it right. So my offer to you, my promise; is one of help and hope. I offer to you a solution, a way to make things work in your school, a way to succeed in literacy, reading and so much more.
This solution is a simple one and you may already have part of it in your school – all the better if you do. The solution is a library. Now stay with me, don’t stop reading just because you think I’m wrong, I know you’re sensible and pray you’ll bear with me.
To start off with you may not be familiar with the idea of a library in your school. You may know it by another name, a Learning Resource Centre or some other spurious title, however I can promise you that under it all these are all still libraries. You may have had a bad experience in another school of a library or you may believe the stereotype of a library (yet baulk at the stereotypes others have of teachers). But, I can promise you, if you support it, believe in it and work with it a library can be your solution, your saviour.
A library in your school can offer you a way to engage your students into reading, reading for pleasure importantly. It can be the place where learning is centred and can provide a way to work with your weakest students. It has the potential to work with your SEND department and offer specialist reading help for your weakest readers.
When it comes to learning a library can also work with all your teachers to improve the quality of teaching and learning in your school by offering support in resources and knowledge. It can guide your students to become independent learners in arming them with the skills to find and assimilate information into knowledge. The educational benefits of a library are massive but if you needed even more reasons to have one think about the types of students that use this place as a safe haven, the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural aspects that are so difficult to put into curriculum time are fulfilled through a school library and we haven’t even started to think about the parental engagement or transition work that can easily be undertaken by a library that lives in non-contact time.
But for this to work, for your library to improve all these aspects of your school it requires just one thing from you. Support. The support to make it work, to open the doors and allow the library to fulfil its potential in your school. It needs this small thing to make a big difference, but I promise if you do it your school and importantly your students will feel the benefit in so many ways.
So I hope that you are a sensible person looking at ways to improve outcomes for all your students and teachers and hope that you take this offer with arms wide open.