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FAQ for schools

Welsh author Bethan Gwanas at Ysgol Bro Cinmeirch

How do I find a patron for my school?

It is recommended you seek a professional writer who:

  • Has a backlist of traditionally published material.
  • Has an established profile with a good track record of school visits.
  • Has written or illustrated books you feel your pupils can relate to and will enjoy.

This avoids schools being approached by inexperienced and self-published authors who may be volunteering in order to further their own careers and raise their profiles. This is not what the Patron of Reading initiative is about. However, if a school has a good relationship with a newly published author/poet and feels they're the right 'fit' for them, then that's perfectly acceptable.

Information about authors can be found on various websites such as the Schools' Library Association , Authors Aloud UK, Contact an Author and Scattered Authors' Society. Schools could approach the author directly via their website, agent or publisher. However, do not be offended if writers refuse; it is not personal. They may be up against deadlines or have a thousand other reasons not to undertake the offer.

It sounds a bit long-winded. Can’t you just find us one?

Probably, but it is usually far more successful when the school looks at the patrons available and approaches the one that they feel would be most appropriate for them. We keep an up-to-date list of potential patrons, so please contact us via the website or email [email protected].

What is the financial cost to the school?

We recommend costs should be met for a patron’s visits in the same way as for any author visit. These include the author’s fee for the day, travel costs and overnight accommodation (including an evening meal, if necessary). To give some idea of costs see the Society of Authors guidance here. Discussion about fees should take place before the author commits to the school and vice-versa, to avoid any misunderstanding.

Why do I have to pay?

It is worth bearing in mind that most writers are self-employed; they receive no pension or salary. Any time taken away from writing is a potential loss of earnings. Also, the patron will probably do loads of extra stuff between visits, such as writing newsletters to the kids, for which there will not be a charge.

Does having a patron mean our school can’t have other authors in school?

Not at all; the more the merrier. Likewise, patrons will continue to visit other schools. 

We would like to work with an author who is already patron at another school. Can we ask them?

As a general rule, a writer should only be a patron at one school, so that the school has a sense of 'author exclusivity'. However, there are exceptions to this, for example, if the school is part of a federation or partnership, in a different country or is a completely different type of school. Most patrons feel that they could not offer the same level of commitment to more than one school so would probably not accept. Maybe wait until author has finished their tenure at their current school before approaching them, or have a look at some of the other fantastic writers who are available.

Can you sort us out with a patron for a couple of hours next week to help us improve our GCSE English/SATs results?

No. The patron role is to help engage children with reading for pleasure. Having said that, having more children develop a genuine love of reading will undoubtedly help boost results in the long term. It has also been looked upon favourably by Ofsted inspectors as a way of improving literacy skills.

I’ve contacted an author. Now what?

  • Arrange a meeting with the patron to discuss the role.
  • If the school has a librarian, they need to be involved too. Ideally the entire staff should be part of the planning process.
  • Once you have sorted out all the amazing things you’re going to do together, it’s time to get busy. Shout about it. Mention it on newsletters and blogs to parents. Tell the local press.
  • Don’t forget to liaise with your schools’ library service, local public library service and local bookseller so that they all can be involved, too. Big Green Bookshop is a great example of this whole community approach:
  • Appointing a designated member of staff to liaise with the patron is highly recommended. This keeps the momentum going between visits and ensures good communication and feedback. Patrons will lose heart if they don’t hear anything from the school for months.

Disclaimer: The Patron of Reading initiative is not a registered charity or affiliated to any particular organisation. The movement has grown organically and is without budget or sponsorship. There is no registration fee required to become a Patron of Reading school. Please be wary of any organisations offering to find a patron and charging for the service.