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No new resources for Northern Ireland

You may have recently seen news about #wedeservebetter – a grassroots campaign for the people of Northern Ireland which is calling for the two largest parties in Northern Ireland to resume talks and reinstate a government. The Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in January 2017, and since then there has been no acting government in the region. The news report I watched focused on the big multi million pound projects that are currently on hold, but the smaller impacts are adding up and causing long term damage.

In Northern Ireland school libraries are under the remit of the Education Authority; school library resource funding has effectively ceased due to the absence of the decision-making assembly at Stormont. This means 18 months without any new resources bought for those pupils; 18 months with reduced or no professional development for the staff, 18 months in which staff are being forced to run a substandard school library service.

This is not acceptable given that research from the Robert Gordon University found that school libraries contributed to:

  • Higher test or exam scores equating to academic attainment: this includes academic attainment in the form of higher standardised test scores in reading, language arts, history and maths, and better grades in curriculum assignments or exams

  • Successful curriculum or learning outcomes, including information literacy: this includes higher quality project work, the development and practice of information literacy, increased knowledge and reading development

  • Positive attitudes towards learning: including increased motivation, improved attitude towards learning tasks, self-esteem, and wider reading for pleasure.

 

Additionally, a Literature Review by the National Literacy Trust in 2017 found that “While traditionally evaluations of library services have focused on outputs rather than service outcomes, a considerable body of evidence shows that schools have an impact on pupils: 

  • School libraries have been found to impact pupils’ general academic attainment, reading and writing skills, plus wider learning skills, as well as their scores in history, mathematics and science. 

  • School libraries have also been found to have an impact on pupils’ reading enjoyment, reading behaviour and attitudes towards reading. Motivation and attitudes in particular have been connected to school library use. 

  • Several personal and interpersonal outcomes, such as self-esteem and the feeling of success and accomplishment, have also been associated with school library use.”

The lack of current resources in schools will hamper children’s reading and consequently their attainment, and is compounded by the lack of funding to other publicly funded organisations, whether that’s different arms of government or charities who would have bid for funding.

The repercussions of this will be felt long after a government is actually re-formed. All stakeholders who can directly contribute to school library resource provision should consider the educational requirements of children and adequately fund school libraries in Northern Ireland.

Impact of school libraries on learning: A critical review of published evidence to inform the Scottish education community.Professor Dorothy Williams, Caroline Wavell and Katie Morrison Robert Gordon University Institute for Management, Governance & Society (IMaGeS) October 2013 https://scottishlibraries.org/media/1211/impact-of-school-libraries-on-learning-2013.pdf

  1. School Libraries: A literature review of current provision and evidence of impact by Anne Teravainen and Christina Clark (2017). (https://literacytrust.org.uk/research-services/research-reports/school-libraries-literature-review-current-provision-and-evidence-impact-2017/)

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