A SCHOOL in Portchester facing funding cuts is giving away free copies of Neil Gaiman’s latest book - thanks to support from a financial firm.
Pupils moving from their last year of primary school to Portchester Community School have been given a free copy of the Graveyard Book by the Portchester-born author.
The school approached London-based financial firm MoneySprite to fund the giveaway, as it faces a £140,000 gap in funding, due to government cuts and an increased number of pupils.
The incoming Year 7 will form the largest year group in the school, with the 140 new pupils increasing the size of the school roll by 20 per cent.
Assistant Headteacher Josie Grew said: ‘Our priority is reading, and we would love to give out more books.
‘Being able to give kids from disadvantaged backgrounds these books makes a big difference.
‘We approached MoneySprite - with school funding being cut, you have to seek out solutions that are not traditional.’
More than 30 per cent of children at the school are on pupil premium, with all children receiving a free book.
Headteacher Richard Carlyle said: ‘We have a specific focus on literacy in young people.
‘Neil Gaiman was born here, but now he’s gone off to write for Hollywood films - what an epic story.
‘So we wanted to use him as a role model for reading.
‘If you have a gap between your age and your reading age of more than four years, you will fail your GCSES.
‘And we take this message to parents - we give a presentation comparing Obama’s reading habits to Trump’s.’
Annabell Toogood, 11, will be joining the school after leaving Castle Primary, and said more free books would encourage her classmates to read.
She said: ‘If they keep giving away free books, more students will read.
‘Maybe the school could create a questionnaire to find out what we liked and what books they could get in the future.
‘I do a lot of reading before bed to calm my brain down.’
The school used Twitter to contact Neil Gaiman, whose book Good Omens has been adapted into a Amazon series, with the author yet to respond.