FRESH calls have been made to increase the number of secondary school librarians in the wake of falling standards of literacy.

Earlier this week the Scottish Survey of Literacy highlighted a fifteen percentage point decline in writing skills in the second year of secondary school since 2012.

The number of school librarians in Scottish secondaries has fallen by 28 per cent since 2010 from 334 to just 240.

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, has promised to bring forward a national strategy on school libraries, but stopped short of direct intervention in an area which is under the control of councils.

However, campaigners said the only solution was the reinstatement of a professionally-trained librarian in every school.

Wider cuts to libraries across the UK have already attracted concern from a number of high profile authors including Julia Donaldson, the writer of the best selling children’s book The Gruffalo.

Duncan Wright, from the Save Scotland’s School Libraries campaign, said: “We welcome the intervention by Mr Swinney, but it is now important for him to provide detail on how he plans to develop the strategy, how it will be delivered and the timescale for it to be in place.

“We need a dedicated professional in every school who has a knowledge of literature and the skills to help pupils identify books that interest and challenge them throughout their school career.”

A spokesman for CILIP in Scotland, which represents librarians, added: “We believe that the latest figures showing a fall in literacy levels of Scottish pupils further highlights the need for a national strategy for school libraries and we welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s intention to formulate such a strategy.

“Professionally staffed school libraries matter because they contribute to the successful delivery of curriculum outcomes and the promotion of literacy and reading.”

Dr Lauren Smith, a research associate from Strathclyde University’s computer and information sciences department, said studies had demonstrated the valuable role of school libraries and librarians in the intellectual development of learners.

She said: “There appears to be a correlation between several factors of school library provision and intellectual capacity and academic attainment.

“These factors include the number of library staff, the presence of full time, qualified librarians and the frequency of library instruction activities.”

Speaking to the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee last month Mr Swinney said school libraries should have a prominent role in the life of a school.

He added: “I cannot conceive of how teachers will be able to adequately convey the importance of an appreciation of literature and information literacy without being able to exemplify that in a library.

“I have to be careful I do not over-prescribe to local authorities what I require them to do.”

The issue has been passed to school quango Education Scotland to prepare guidance.

A spokeswoman said: “The new guidance... will help library staff evaluate key aspects of a school library’s work, including support for literacy.”