Books, bags and boxes: A study of the role and impact of the Leeds School Library Service

This project Books, bags and boxes: A study of the role and impact of the Leeds School Library Service was funded by a UKLA research grant and was a collaboration between Dr Lucy Taylor and Dr Paula Clarke from the University of Leeds, and Kirsty Fenn and Michelle Ackroyd from the Leeds School Library Service. The study sought to investigate the role and impact of the Leeds School Library Service and to identify future directions for the service.

Once offered by all local authorities as a support service to schools, School Library Services (SLS) have been much reduced since the Education Reform Act of 1988 and the Academies Act of 2010. There is currently no reliable information about the number of SLS in England, or the service they offer. The Leeds SLS serves 180 primary schools and delivered 9514 boxes of resources in the academic year 2022-23.

The key findings of the project are listed below; please read the full report here (link)

The Leeds School Library Service is very highly regarded by the users. The resources form an essential part of the ways that primary schools in Leeds resource their curriculum, enabling them to offer children up to date, varied and engaging texts across a variety of curriculum areas. The SLS plays a core role in supporting reading for pleasure aims in most of the schools surveyed, as well as contributing to literacy skills.  Most of the services offered are well used by the schools who are entitled to them, but some are less well known.  The current service is perceived as good value by users, and they would like to be able to access more of the services on offer. 

Resourcing and teaching of the primary curriculum: users of the SLS rely on the topic resources provided. They are integral to curriculum planning and design. School budgets do not allow schools to purchase their own resources in adequate quantity or quality.

Resourcing and teaching of reading and reading for pleasure: users of the SLS consider the resources to be essential in delivering reading for pleasure. The resources are key in planning for reading and are an intrinsic part of schools’ identity around reading.

Staff in primary schools in Leeds: the boxes provide opportunities for knowledge sharing amongst staff, the librarians from the SLS are an essential resource for professional development and the job is made easier by having the resources.

Children in primary schools in Leeds: the service enables children to access far more books, both fiction and non-fiction, compared to what a school alone could offer. The range of books is wider and more up to date than the schools’ own resources and the new stock provided by the library service creates enthusiasm and engagement. 

The service provided by the Leeds School Library Service must continue to be recognised for the essential role and impact that it has for schools using the service. Without the SLS primary schools in Leeds would find it very difficult to resource the curriculum, or to provide up to date, high-quality texts for reading for pleasure. Pressures on school budgets mean that a centrally funded loan service provides children and teachers with the best possible access to high quality, new and relevant texts. It ensures that access to texts is equitable and is particularly important for schools in economically disadvantaged areas.

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