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Blog » Nick Gibb wants quality text books, but...

Nick Gibb wants quality text books, but...

Thursday 20th November 2014. UPDATED: Friday 21st November 2014

School Reform Minister Nick Gibb has outlined how high-quality textbooks can benefit teachers, students and parents:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/nick-gibb-speaks-to-education-publishers-about-quality-textbooks

Nick Gibb's claims appear to be based on sound empirical evidence, and as such makes perfect sense. Indeed, textbooks promote reading skills, independent learning and allow teachers can get on teaching rather than spending hours producing their own materials.

What commitments are required?

At one school, despite noting the cost-benefits of purchasing books, there was never any money made available to buy an appropriate number of textbooks. The teachers were expected to produce or use the web to find teaching resources. There needs to be a commitment from government and schools to make the money available.

I have absolutely no doubt that some publishers charge extortionate sums for books and have been making lucrative sums from schools for years. Take for example Pearson and Hodder. Pearson can produce EdExcel ICT revision guides for £3.99* (available to schools for £2.00). A similar publication for OCR Cambridge Nationals in ICT; from Hodder, costs £7.99* (available to schools from £5.60). When buying many books at a time, it soon adds up. The Government should consider forcing publishers to be efficient and produce affordable textbooks.

This time two years ago, Ofsted questioned the link between exam boards and publishers. Since then, very little has appeared to have changed. "Pearson" is a big publisher. They own EdExcel, the examination board. They continue to produce books for EdExcel courses, and as far as I understand, are published before competitors can get books to market. Many teachers only feel comfortable buying materials from the publisher associated with the exam board. The only answer is to cut the examination boards from the publisher's control. (BBC News and Telegraph)

If students are to learn from a textbook, then it is true that in many cases, the quality of the content must be improved. In a digital age, there is no reason why it couldn't be linked to watching educational videos, participating in online interactive learning and, dare I mention it, apps. Textbooks are not just about text, but about posing thought-provoking questions that demand interaction. In ICT Education, what I have found is that exam boards have simply increased the breadth of knowledge demanded from students, rather than the depth. I will leave this discussion for another day! The point is that textbooks should include a suitable range of activities to engage and challenge learners, which in some books is sadly lacking.

What teachers find abhorrent is the scandalous waste of money spent on textbooks that are barely used before becoming worthless. For example, not so long ago, some schools spent hundreds of pounds on the "ICT Matters" series of text books as they worked hard to revamp the ICT curriculum. Owing to curriculum changes, such books are now completely worthless. There must be a commitment from government to keep rigidly to a curriculum for a minimal number of years.

As far as ICT & Computer Science go, it is only sensible to expect the curriculum to evolve, so a single text book that covers one course is illogical as sections become outdated. I would like to see more publishers producing smaller publications on a single topic (e.g. Legislation, Computer Form Factors etc), which could be reused for many courses.

What are your experiences with ICT & Computing Textbooks? I would be interested in your comments.

*Based on Amazon's prices November 2014