Manchester City Council

Reading Ahead

Went to a great event yesterday lunchtime thanks to an invite from Steve Lynch, UNISON Education Officer and Union Learning Reps Co-ordinator. The City Council's Libraries together with UNISON have been promoting the six book challenge, the aim to get more people to read for pleasure. For the participants, as well as the sheer enjoyment, there are lots of benefits, better mental health, more confidence, better skills, better able to read to and with the kids ( if you've got them ), and for the Council it helps to positively develop our workforce.

Yesterday was certificate presentation for people who have completed the challenge so a great celebratory event and UNISON even provided some refreshments. We were entertained with powerful poetry from award winning Manchester poet Ben Mellor, a raffle with great prizes including of course books and e-readers, and the Chief Executive of the Reading Agency told us that Manchester was an exemplar in using the challenge, now renamed Reading Ahead, in getting people reading. Within the Council, Manchester Adult Education Service have also been using the challenge, and as Steve told us yesterday, there's more to come.

Talking of challenges, this afternoon I met the new management team for our Childrens Services division. It's a little over a year since Ofsted adjudged our Childrens Services to be inadequate and since then Executive Member for Childrens Services,Sheila Newman, and Director of Childrens Services, Gladys Rhodes White, have been working not only to ensure immediate improvements, but also to build a team capable of leading the department from inadequate through requires improvement to good. Of course the responsibility doesn't just lie with the department, but with other parts of the Council and with partner organisations as well, but there still needs to be strong leadership for childrens services to not only play its part but to make sure others are contributing. A new team is now in place. All of them come with excellent track records and with no illusions about the challenges we face and what is required to meet them so we can have some confidence that the improvements of the last twelve months will continue.

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There is one response to “ Reading Ahead”

  1. Interested Manc Says:

    There is a long history of engagement of Trade Unions in supporting mass self directed learning both through their own educational provision and through partnerships with libraries and similar institutions. It came out of necessity, if the general population was to be able to speak up for itself, challenge non accountable authority, have the chance to step beyond grinding poverty and aspire to more than what was generally considered to be "their lot". The need is still there today and libraries remain a powerful way of enabling self education... even in the world of the internet and immediate access to bite sized bits of information.

    It isn't a romantic yearning for the past to represent libraries as a safe place for anyone and everyone to come and seek out learning, whether that be the pursuit of basic skills, specialist interests or just for the joyous hell of it. This is the core purpose of the library and was the fundamental principle that led to the philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie to invest in the creation of a network of magnificent libraries open to all and serving all.

    It is sad that this primary purpose can be forgotten and is vulnerable, especially in a world of austerity and budget cuts, coupled with a media that is far more interested in entertainment than learning- this really is no sort of effective substitute.

    We continue to be governed by a remote ruling class who care little for the educational and cultural development of the population as a whole. There is a danger that in order to balance the budget bottom line, we forget just how much power there is in knowledge and the institutions that enable everyone to acquire it.

    Please don't use the libraries as a soft target when reducing budgets- to do so would be to prioritise short term expedience over 150 years of investment and building to meet the basic needs of an entire population. To let our libraries whither and close would be to lose them forever.

    It would be wonderful if a Labour authority remembered that the nurturing of public libraries has always been a socialist principle.

 

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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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