A DECISION to replace trained school librarians with pupils has been slammed by education groups, parent organisations and unions.

Last week we revealed Scottish Borders Council had terminated the contracts of library staff at Galashiels Academy, Peebles High and Kelso High.

And in their place was volunteers and pupils.

Education bosses hoped the trial would lead to the scheme being rolled out across the region's six other secondary schools.

But following our exclusive story, national leaders from across the education sector have condemned the move.

Representatives from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) have now written to Scottish Borders Council chief executive Tracey Logan with a list of unanswered questions.

Duncan Wright, CILIP in Scotland Trustee Board Chair, told us: "The decision by Scottish Borders Council to replace school library staff with pupil volunteers is exceptionally disappointing and highlights a complete lack of understanding of the role of the school librarian by council officials.

"Indeed with a national strategy for school libraries in Scotland due to be launched in the autumn, backed by the Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney, it would appear no research has been done by council officials on the important role national Government places on the role of the school library and school libraries."

Scottish Borders Council had already operated two school libraries - Peebles High and Priorsford Primary - with volunteers during staff illness ahead of the three-school trial beginning.

And they believe similar schemes in other parts of the country are proof that the move can be successful.

But the plans have been described as 'misguided' by the Scottish Book Trust.

CEO Marc Lambert said: "While we understand the financial pressures councils are under, we can only see this deeply misguided idea as a false economy, and the first step in getting rid of school libraries altogether.

"It is important for everyone involved to acknowledge facts backed by rigorous evidence – that a school librarian plays a central role in ensuring the best educational outcomes for pupils, and that nothing can replace the expertise they represent, with all the proven benefits that come from their professional knowledge, and the care and attention with which it is delivered."

Unions have also added their voice to oppose the new school library systems.

Kaymarie Hughes of UNISON told us: “This decision will prevent pupils from reaching their full potential.

"Librarians have professional skills that support children of all abilities to learn.

"Replacing essential staff with the unpaid labour of pupils is an absolute disgrace.

"Scottish Borders Council should hang their heads in shame.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Education Institute of Scotland, added: "School librarians are a critical part of any school’s professional staff.

"Seeking to replace such staff with the unpaid labour of pupils is folly of the highest order."

Defending the decision, Scottish Borders Council bosses believe the move to have volunteers and pupils behind the library counters is recognition of 'the changing way in which pupils study and access information'.

But the reasoning doesn't wash with parents organisations.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "Librarians are trained professionals who have a particular skill set, so parents are rightly concerned that their secondary school youngsters are being expected to step into a role they have no training for.

"Librarians do not just open the library door and check out books: they have the knowledge and skill to support learners in their study and research, and to support literacy skills.

"Not only does this approach remove that support for school pupils, it also places an unrealistic expectation on fellow pupils.”