The School Library Association announced the winners of the Primary and Secondary School Librarian of the Year, Community Award and Enterprise of the Year at its annual award ceremony in Swindon.
The winner of the 2023 Primary School Librarian of the Year is Sally Hamerton from Two Mile Hill Primary School, Bristol, while Bridget Hamlet from Rushey Mead Academy, Leicester, has won the 2023 Secondary School Librarian of the Year.
CEO of the School Library Association, Alison Tarrant, said the awards help to "shine a spotlight" on the incredible work that is happening in school libraries. "New research from Cambridge University confirmed what we knew - that the impact of reading extends far beyond the skill or the period in which it's done." The research has found that the benefits of reading for pleasure as a child last well into adolescence. "School libraries are evolving to meet today's needs; they are providing solutions to issues around wellbeing and diversity, media and information literacy, inquiry learning and reading," Tarrant added. "It's an honour to shine a spotlight on their fantastic work."
2023 Primary School Librarian of the Year: Sally Hamerton from Two Mile Hill Primary School, Bristol
When Sally joined Two Mile Hill Primary at the beginning of 2020, she inherited a library which was under-utilised and unloved, but with a lot of potential. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Sally made an immediate and effective impact on her school. With access to a well-stocked and carefully curated library, coupled with staff aware of the importance of reading for pleasure, reading attainment has increased dramatically.
Sally knows that the benefits of reading for pleasure are far-reaching and long-lasting. She said, "Small changes and projects will have an immediate impact, but long-term changes will only become apparent in ten or twenty years, when our children become adults. My aim is to have confident, self-assured readers, with a sense of self-worth, but also empathy for their community."
Tom Stack, deputy head of Two Mile Hill Primary said, "Sally's contribution exemplifies the school's vision to represent all our children in the books that we read and the curriculum we teach. Two Mile Hill Primary is a better school because of Sally; she has enabled children to develop reading as a habit, a hobby, and a life-long passion."
2023 Secondary School Librarian of the Year: Bridget Hamlet from Rushey Mead Academy, Leicester
Bridget has not only had a huge impact on the library at Rushey Mead, transforming it into a welcoming, vibrant space, but has also set up libraries in other schools in the Academy Trust. She ensures that these libraries are established according to each school's needs and that the librarian who will run it is fully trained and supported.
Within her own school, Bridget has used various activities and challenges to establish a strong reading culture amongst pupils and staff, including instigating reading for pleasure tutor times for all 1700 students and supporting teachers with their book knowledge. Equally the responsibility given to pupils in helping to run the library at Brook Mead school is having a significant impact on their self-esteem.
Vicky Barwell, Principal of Rushey Mead Academy said, "It means a lot that Bridget's phenomenal expertise has been recognised beyond our school. She is thoroughly deserving of this prestigious accolade. We are all incredibly proud of her and grateful for the hard work and love she has committed to cementing our school library as the heart and soul of the school."
SLA Enterprise of the Year Award 2023
The 2023 Enterprise of the Year celebrates one-off or progressive projects which contribute towards reading and literacy in schools. This year's winner is Colham Manor Primary School, a state-funded primary school in West London where staff transformed a neglected storage area into an inviting and engaging library on a very limited budget.
The new library space, along with staff equipped with tools and knowledge to make the most of it, has transformed the whole school's approach to reading. Headteacher of Colham Manor, Carly Rissen, said, "Previously our library was an uninviting and unused room with ancient, unattractive books. It was imperative that as part of our mission to make reading a whole school priority, our library became the heart of the school. Employing Reading Advocates to champion reading for pleasure was an integral part of this. There is a constant buzz about the library and our children now have every opportunity to fulfil our motto and 'Aspire, Achieve, Thrive'.
SLA Community Award 2023
The SLA Community Award recognises the organisations and initiatives which partner with schools to promote and develop a reading culture. The 2023 winner is the Swindon Youth Festival of Literature, a collaborative project run by the librarians of secondary schools across Swindon. Now in its 16th year, the week-long literary festival held every November celebrates reading, writing and creativity. The free-to-attend events have enabled thousands of students to be inspired by diverse authors and performers.
Sherryl Bareham, Headteacher of Dorcan Academy and one of the festival organisers, said, "The Swindon Youth Festival of Literature is a highlight of our school calendar. Promoting a love of reading is a high priority and having famous authors and poets in our school is both inspirational and educational for our students. I know that my colleagues across Swindon feel the same. The festival is an excellent example of collaboration and community working at its best."
President of the SLA, Richard Gerver, said: "It's fantastic to celebrate such innovative and impactful projects. When supported by senior leaders, school libraries can be one of the most significant departments in a school. Impact can be hard to pin down so it's wonderful to amplify the amazing work led by my school library colleagues."