In 2015, with the new National Curriculum bringing sweeping changes to every primary school across the country, Barrowby Primary School, decided to take a long hard look at what they were offering pupils. Aware that the new National Curriculum was placing greater emphasis on reading for pleasure, Head Teacher, Len Batey was keen to address the quality of their reading provision.
One particular initiative he decided to implement was something called the ‘Learning Walk’; literally a walk around the school, into each classroom, looking for ideas which could be rolled out across the whole school. “Simple as it sounds” says Len, “it was a real eye opener for us. We found individual teachers were using some really good ideas in their classrooms and we were able to take these ideas and implement them across the whole school. It’s something we do every few months now, so that we can keep sharing best practice.”
As part of the process, the school looked at how pupils’ accessed books and where they could spend time reading for pleasure. “We naturally took a fresh look at our library” explains Len. “The library shelving was more than 20 years old. It wasn’t falling apart but it looked tired and old-fashioned. But what really made us stop and think was how we were using the library. We had a number of study tables at one end of the room and topic boxes dotted around and so only half of the space was genuinely being used for reading for pleasure. We felt quite strongly that if we were serious about our reading for pleasure offer we needed to make significant changes to the library. One of the things we really wanted to do was make the library the hub of the school. We wanted children and teachers to be able to use it for researching and exploring new topics or for reading around a particular subject and we wanted pupils to feel it was their space, not just somewhere they were told they could go to once a week. “
The school decided it was time to invest some funds into a new library and suggested to their PTA that they make this the focus of their efforts with a promise that whatever they raised, the school would match. BookSpace was asked to look at the space and draw up some ideas. The brief was very clear: to create a child-friendly library with reading at its heart. “We loved the plans. We had three to choose from but each one was slightly different. Miss Sugden, Deputy Head took over the reins and brought together some year 5 &6 librarians, other staff members, key members of the PTA and a number of school governors.”
Over the next couple of months the library designs were amended and tweaked based on feedback from the working party. “It was important to get buy-in from all of our stakeholders” says Len. “Each was representing a different interest. The children’s ideas were particularly credible as they were thinking of what they really wanted from their library and what would make them want to sit down, spend time in there and read.
One of the real surprises for us was how BookSpace built a number of Display Frames into the plans. We hadn’t considered we might need anything like this, we were simply thinking about book shelving and the Mobile Units which we knew we wanted. We originally thought they would be good to feature books by a particular author. But we’ve found we’re using them to display topic work and children’s 3D art such as musical instruments they’ve made, papier-mache masks or pottery. We weren’t expecting to have the ability to showcase non-fiction in the library, given that we were focusing on reading for pleasure. The Display frames are great though and provide a way of displaying the end result. The children use the library for researching topics, reading around the subject and then their work is displayed in the frames, so the library is used for all stages of their work.”
The library is the central place for the whole school now and is being used in so many ways. Every month, a different year group has the opportunity to invite their parents in to the library to spend some time reading with them and to see examples of their work. Classes come and visit for stories, small groups of children visit and work independently and of course all pupils are encouraged to borrow the books in the library.
“The library has been brought to life” says Len. “We’re delighted”.