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End of free book schemes?

Discussion in 'English' started by phoebe14, Dec 26, 2010.

  1. But, apparently, we need to imporve the Literacy standards because they are shameful - go figure. Hypocrisy of the top order and a very Scoogish Christmas announcement.
  2. The policy has now been reversed.
    However I'd support the ending of government funding for this scheme. Firstly I make the obvious point that if government pays for free books then pretty soon politicians are going to decide which books are and which books aren't acceptable, and not everyone will agree with these decisions.
    More generally, there's a limited pot of government money. The more it is ringfenced - so many million for reading books, so many million for teaching assistants, so much for music, an interactive whiteboard in every classroom - the less freedom schools have to decide their own priorities, and the more decisions are made in Whitehall. Of course the end of a music ringfence is loudly decried as "the end of school music", and the end of a books ringfence is "the end of reading", but it's not really. If you have a thousand pounds you can buy a decent-sized library or three or four instruments, or you can split the money and have one instrument and a small book collection. These decisions are best made locally - obviously reading is more important than music, but that doesn't mean no money on music whatsoever. You don't have two thousand pounds. That's just life.
  3. tafkam

    tafkam Occasional commenter

    bgy1mm - I think you're confusing money in school budgets with national schemes.
    I agree that ring-fencing parts of school budgets is a nuisance and generally unhelpful. However, this was not that. This was essentially seed-funding a charitable organisation to provide books for every child. Not books that they can borrow, tatty and dog-eared after 10 years in the school library, but a brand new book that they can own forever, that becomes theirs. That's a huge factor in reading ability and improvement, incidentally.
    What's more, the £13 million spent at a national level brought in over £50 million from publishers and other groups. That £13 million devolved to school budgets (and let's be honest, the chance of that actually happening is nil - the 13 million will just disappear back to the treasury) wouldn't make anywhere near as much difference.
    It is possible that something good may come of this. My school is fortunate: we are in a reasonably well-off area with parents who are largely educated to the extent that they wouldn't dream of letting their children grow up without books. However, I've also worked in areas where families wouldn't even think to buy books, let alone join a library. What worries me is how narrow the government's new offer might be. If they restrict the scheme to just those on Free School Meals then they do nothing but shrink the scheme - it won't necessarily make it better for targeting those who need it. And therein lies the problem: how do you target something that's so hard to judge without risking missing the key audiences?

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