A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

Letter from John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary, seeking views on Governance Review

LAS received the following letter from John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, in which he highlights the recent launch of Empowering teachers, parents and communities to achieve equity and excellence: A Governance Review.

LAS will respond to the online consultation, which ends on 6 January 2017, and we would also urge our readers to submit their views via the above link.

 

Letter of 6 October 2016 from John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills to Literature Alliance Scotland.

Thank you for your further letter of 13 September concerning the proposal to remove librarian posts from schools in Argyll and Bute. As I previously indicated in my response of 18 August the delivery of education including the management of a library service is the responsibility of the local authority and it would not be appropriate for Scottish Ministers to comment or intervene in local decisions.

However, I note your concerns and I would like to assure you that Scottish Ministers are committed to doing everything we can to ensure children and young people get the best start in life. This means we want them to get high quality early learning and childcare before they go to school and the best educations when they are at school.

You may be interested to know that from financials year 2017-2018 the additional £100 million per annum that will be raised each year from our Council Tax reforms will be allocated directly to schools. The allocation will be based on the numbers of children in primary schools and S1-3 in secondary schools who meet the eligibility criteria for free school meals. It is likely that applying this approach will mean that 95% of publicly funded schools will receive funding and Head Teachers will be able to determine how best to use additional funds to meet their local needs, such as library provision.

As you may be aware, the Scottish Government launched a Governance Review of early years and school education on 13 September. This governance review seeks your views on how education in Scotland is run, including who should take decisions in relation to the education of children and young people, and how funding can be made fairer. It also asks about the support teachers and practitioners need to do their jobs well and how this can be improved.

We want to hear views from every part of Scotland – from children and young people, from parents, teachers and practitioners and the wider community. We want to hear from those with a formal role in our education system and those who share a stake in its success. Further information on the Governance Review and events can be found at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Education/thegovernancereview

There is also the opportunity to respond to the review directly through our online survey at https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/empowering-schools/a-governance-review

Yours sincerely,

John Swinney

 

October 6, 2016

LAS Letter to the Public Petitions Committee in Support of School Libraries

LAS sent the following letter to the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament, which convened at the end of September with a new panel, in support of Duncan Wright’s petition on the need for a national approach to save Scotland’s school libraries and ensure access to a school library with a trained school librarian for every child in Scotland.

Letter of 21 September 2016 to Johann Lamont MSP, Chair of Public Petitions Committee

Dear Ms Lamont
PUBLIC PETITIONS COMMITTEE
PETITION PE01581: SAVE SCOTLAND’S SCHOOL LIBRARIES

On 19 December 2015, we wrote on behalf of Literature Alliance Scotland, to the then Chair of the Public Petitions Committee, Mr Michael McMahon, in support of the petition ‘Save Scotland’s School Libraries’, lodged by Mr Duncan Wright. We attach a copy of our letter of 19 December 2015, along with a list of the principal literature organisations in Scotland represented by Literature Alliance Scotland. We wish to submit the following additional comments.

Since we wrote in December 2015, we are gravely concerned that Argyll & Bute Council decided to dispense with all its school librarians in February 2016 and that, despite entreaties from all sides, most prominently from the children and young people of Argyll and Bute, the Council has not yet rescinded its decision and reinstated its school librarians.

Depriving the children and young people of Argyll and Bute, or any other part of the country, of their trained school librarians directly acts against giving them equal opportunities and equal rights. Trained school librarians are an essential part of a modern school. They transform the school library into a place of learning, where pupils can be helped in directing their own reading, learning and research.

Other countries understand the essential part that school librarians and school libraries play in young people’s education. Under the Swedish 2011 Education Act, pupils in Sweden are entitled to a school library staffed by trained school librarians: it is viewed as a child’s right. In Denmark, where its Education Act requires every school to have a school library, school libraries are becoming learning centres where the school librarian, the learning instructor, advises, trains and guides learners in an understanding and knowledge of books and digital information. If we are also ambitious for our children and young people, why would we not follow suit?

Literature Alliance Scotland strongly supports the current emphasis on closing the gap in opportunity between children and young people in different parts of the country, and the aim of giving every child equal life chances on which they can build. There can be no higher aim in seeking to build a fairer and more equal country. The results will help to determine the success that individual young people can make of their lives and will also influence the future success of Scotland. However, to succeed, we will need to work constructively together to avoid a situation where children’s chances continue to depend on where they happen to find themselves in the country, something over which they have absolutely no control.

We implore the Public Petitions Committee to take up the cause of school libraries in Scotland vigorously, and to urge the Scottish Government and the local authorities in Scotland to work constructively together to think about our young people’s futures and save Scotland’s network of school libraries.

Yours sincerely

Dr Ann Matheson, Chair,
Dr Donald Smith, Vice-Chair

Enc. Literature Alliance Scotland Membership

LAS Membership at September 2016
MEMBERS

  • Association for Scottish Literary Studies
  • Association of Scottish Literary Agents
  • CILIPS (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland)
  • Edinburgh International Book Festival
  • Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust
  • The Gaelic Books Council
  • Moniack Mhor
  • National Library of Scotland
  • Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust
  • Playwrights’ Studio Scotland
  • Publishing Scotland
  • The Saltire Society
  • Scots Language Centre
  • Scottish Book Trust
  • Scottish Language Dictionaries
  • SLAM (Scottish Literary and Arts Magazines)
  • Scottish Society of Playwrights
  • Scottish PEN
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • Scottish Storytelling Forum
  • Scottish Writers Centre
  • Society of Authors in Scotland
  • Universities Committee for Scottish Literature
  • Wigtown Festival Company
  • Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (Scottish Region)
September 21, 2016

LAS Open Letter to Argyll & Bute Council

This open letter has been sent by LAS members to the Leader and Councillors of Argyll & Bute Council in support of the plea by pupils in Argyll & Bute to their Council to save their school librarians and their school libraries (http://www.cilips.org.uk/news/2016/6/30/heartfelt-plea-from-argyll-and-bute-pupils-to-keep-their-sch.html).

Letter of 11 July 2016 to Councillor Dick Walsh, Leader of Argyll & Bute Council

Dear Councillor Walsh

ARGYLL & BUTE COUNCIL:  SCHOOL LIBRARIES AND SCHOOL LIBRARIANS IN ARGYLL & BUTE

We wrote on 21 April 2016 on behalf of the members of Literature Alliance Scotland earnestly to ask you to restore the school librarian posts from schools in Argyll and Bute, which had been recommended for withdrawal by a decision of Council earlier in the year.

Now that pupils in Argyll and Bute have recently written to Theresa Breslin, author and current President of the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPs), and to other children’s authors, seeking their support in keeping their school librarians and their school libraries, we are writing again as an alliance of Scotland’s literature organisations to plead with you to rescind this decision.

We will not restate here the case for the importance of school libraries staffed by trained school librarians, as set out in our letter of 21 April 2016, but we firmly stand by all the points made in our letter. We would only point out again that our neighbours in the Nordic countries and in The Netherlands have already recognised and acted upon the essential role that their school libraries and professional school librarians play in encouraging and training pupils to read, investigate, research and, by these means, to attain in the digital age in which we now live.

Scotland has long been admired elsewhere for the strong network of school libraries that was built up across the country over successive decades in the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s by dedicated effort, enthusiasm and support from all sides. As you will know, COSLA produced its very important Standards for School Library Services in Scotland in 1998. We are certain that all of us wish to ensure that such an essential service is sustained and maintained for the young people of today and tomorrow and that its fragmentation, which denies opportunity to those affected, is avoided.

The plea from pupils in Argyll and Bute is more eloquent than any words that we can write (http://www.cilips.org.uk/news/2016/6/30/heartfelt-plea-from-argyll-and-bute-pupils-to-keep-their-sch.html).  We implore you to listen to them and to protect the school library service they consider so important to them. The future success of our young people will determine the future success of our country.

We request that our letter is laid before all Councillors in Argyll & Bute Council.

 

Dr Ann Matheson (Chair)                  Dr Donald Smith (Vice-Chair)

July 15, 2016
LAS Open Letter to Argyll & Bute Council