Happy New Year!
This is a rather cheerier new year blog than the one I had expected to write.
On Friday 17 December, we were told that funding for the national bookgifting programmes, Bookstart, Booktime and Booked Up was to end on 31 March 2011.
Our reaction was incredulity, sadness and dismay. This unique, and internationally acclaimed, public/private partnership surely typifies the aims of the ‘Big Society’.
The programmes are hugely successful, well received by families and greatly valued by professionals. Of course we had expected cuts, but we had not expected to lose all the funding. How could this possibly be correct? But it was correct – irrefutable, right there – in black and white.
In 2009/10, the £13m invested by Department for Education leveraged support worth £56m, derived from publishers, in kind support, and Booktrust’s not-for-profit status. The programmes are delivered by committed professionals in every local authority and primary care trust in England.
We passed on the news on 20 December. Within 24 hours the word was out and we experienced a tsunami of support the like of which we have never seen. It was quite overwhelming to witness the strength of feeling engendered by bookgifting from all sorts of professions and from every sector of society.
For just a small sample of the messages, take a look at the Booktrust Twitter page.
Things have moved on apace – we now we have a joint statement between the DfE and Booktrust and a commitment to work together in the new year to ensure that every child enjoys the gift of books. We will also seek to enhance our additional layered support for disadvantaged children and families so that they can benefit more fully from the national bookgifting programmes.
There is a great deal to do in the new year. Rest assured that Booktrust and our partners will strive to provide the very best quality programmes that we possibly can and we will keep you informed every step of the way.
Over these exceptional weeks, two things have stuck me as ironic; firstly, Bookstart in Germany used our Social Return on Investment study to win eight years of funding from the German government.
Secondly, on 19 November the Cabinet Office wrote to say that the Prime Minister proposed to submit my name to the Queen recommending that I be appointed MBE in the 2011 New Year honours list for services to education. How ironic to have another letter only a month later to say bookgifting funding was to be cut by 100%.
Well, I guess, all’s well that ends well. Actually, there is still plenty to be negotiated in the new year and we still need partners to support us, but at least things are going in the right direction now.
A new Bookstart baby
Having received such awful news on 17 December, we were very pleased to have good news on the 18th when my granddaughter Isabel Neve was born. For just a little while she was the latest Bookstart baby in England. In the two weeks since many more babies will have been born, all precious, all needing encouragement and support on their reading journey.
When I present Bookstart overseas, I start by saying, ‘In England, this is how we celebrate our children – we give them a love of books.’
I’m glad that still holds true.
Have a good month,