Inspecting School Libraries

So there seems to have been another mini pump into the cog of of inspections for school libraries. At the ATL conference they backed the call for support of school libraries (a great thing) by also a call for libraries to be part of the inspection process (a very bad thing).

I’ve spoken about my views before on the inspection of a school library and how support of this will do very little to encourage the use of school libraries. Schools are free to use their money how they wish and with all the government reforms in recent years giving schools more power to do as they want (just look at academisation and the free school movement) they are not going to dictate to schools that they must have a school library. This a completely against everything that they have been doing for the past 6 years. If they cannot dictate a scheme for levelling students to schools then there is no way they are going to make them all have a library. So not only is it a waste of time arguing this point it also masks a number of other issues.

1. Surely it is the job of school librarians themselves to show the quality of what they do and how much value they add to a school. If all school librarians were doing this then the argument would be a lot stronger. By blaming others, school leaders, ofsted etc they are taking away their own part to play in the demise of school libraries.

2. The issue I have the biggest problem with. Who is going to decide what criteria we use to judge school libraries?? I have absolutely no trust in the organisations who claim to support and be the voice of school librarians to come up with the right kind of criteria (let’s be honest what job have they done the last 20+ years to show they understand school libraries – yes I’m talking about CILIP!!!!). So what we could end up with is either a set of criteria created by group so out of touch with school libraries and schools in general that only reflects their own views of what makes a good library or ofsted on their own who create a curriculum driven set of criteria, again with no real understanding of what a library can actually achieve and is more akin to the English department with no understanding of the pastoral, information literacy etc etc part of a library.

I would fear for any future of school libraries that is part of an ofsted inspection especially one whose criteria is created by people who have such a weird, twisted view of what a schoo library is.

ATL, in my opinion have been spun some sort of line, which they don’t understand themselves and have blindly supported something that not only is extremely unlikely to happen but if it were to happen would have such a detrimental impact on school libraries that might mean the end of school libraries as we know them.

In my opinion we would be much much better supporting school libraries by showing school leaders the positive impact that school librarians and libraries have. By campaigning to make sure that every school understands what impact a good school librarian can have and also looking at the actual training librarians have and making sure that there is an element of school librarianship within it that doesn’t try and fit a public Iibrary model into a school one.

We really could make a difference if the people trying to campaign had an understanding themselves of what was actually going to work and what would make school libraries in schools work.



  1. I agree with your concerns about the criteria school libraries may be judged on but i would strongly support inspections. I feel this would be a major factor in giving school libraries equal pegging with teaching depts. I would love to show Ofsted what we do and have a prominent mention in any report on the school. I agree that school librarians also need to do much more to promote the work they do within their schools and to show how the school library impacts on teaching and learning but being formally inspected would surely be a help. I also think that formal inspections would then lead to school libraries being made a statutory requirement (much like the teaching depts.) At the moment the school library is often going to be the first place that takes a hit when budgets are cut. No school will decide to get rid of the English or Maths depts., but the library………..

    • I have already seen examples of positive library mentions in school reports and this is without an inspection of them. If good things are happening then they will be seen. But to put so much energy into something that is utterly fruitless (it’s just not going to happen and even less unlikely that school libraries are going to be made statutory!!!) that we really need to focus our energies elsewhere. Not in a million years will the government tell schools they must have a library it goes against everything that has happened in education for the past 20 odd years.

  2. Does anyone know what is said, on the PGCE courses and leadership and management training that Head Teachers (and Senior Leadership?) take, about school libraries and they value that they can add? If positive evidence were mentioned to all teachers then perhaps there would be fewer school libraries being closed? You’re right that library training courses and qualifications need to improve the delivery of training / information about school libraries.

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