Teachers warn that children will suffer

Camden’s schools have been hosting events to boost literacy this week – but educationalists warn that closing libraries will be devastating to children’s learning.

Infants arrived at Gospel Oak Primary School on Monday to find that a mysterious nest had appeared on the roof.

The unexplained arrival was used to ignite the children’s imaginations.

It was part of a week-long initiative to improve children’s creative writing and literacy.

The police, fire brigade, Hampstead Heath officials, Kentish Town City Farm staff, the Natural History Museum and Acland Burghley secondary school science teachers were drafted in to help unravel the nest’s origins and spark the children’s creative energies.

Headteacher Alan Seymour said: “Improving literacy through reading and writing is my priority for Gospel Oak School this year.

“We are keen that our children develop excellent skills so they are well-prepared for today’s world.

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“This week is Literacy Week –so teachers will be using the arrival of the mysterious nest to boost pupils’ enjoyment of writing and their achievements.”

At Fitzjohn’s Primary School in Hampstead, children read Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and wrote their own stories and poems.

But headteacher Rob Earrey admitted that the potential closure of Swiss Cottage or Hampstead Libraries would be “devastating” for pupils.

“Libraries are integral to the development of children’s love of books,” he said. “The closure of local libraries means that children would find it hard to continue their learning outside of school.”

The possibility of Swiss Cottage Library closing is one of several options in a council consultation document designed to make cuts of �1.6million across Camden’s 13 libraries. The town hall has already saved �400,000 through back office cuts.

At Brookfield Primary School in Highgate, children were given the opportunity to hold exotic animals such as parrots, snakes and meerkats to trigger their creative writing. The school is next to Highgate Library in Chester Road, which is also under threat.

Literacy co-ordinator Gemma Curtis said: “We have very strong links to Highgate Library. Every class has visited it and last year all the children became members.

“It’s a brilliant resource to have next to our school and it would be such a shame for the children if it closed.”

Rebecca Davidson is a volunteer with Volunteer Reading Help, a charity which helps children who struggle with reading to develop a love of literacy.

She spends an hour and a half a week at Brecknock Primary School in Kentish Town, helping children to read.

She also voiced concerns about the impact closing libraries would have on children’s learning.

Mrs Davidson, who has two children aged five and three, said: “Libraries are cornerstones to promoting literacy and they are entirely democratic. Everyone can get a library card.

“They host reading schemes and book clubs – all of which are important in engaging children with literacy.”

But schools’ boss Heather Johnson denied that the cuts to the libraries budget would affect children’s literacy.

She said: “There will still be an adequate number of libraries in Camden and schools have libraries as well. It’s up to us to ensure that there’s provision in the schools and events such as Literacy Week continue.”