My Question: Should I purchase brand new text books for the new Science GCSE courses (in 2006) and more recently the new A'level specifications

Background: My observations over several years of teaching were that on book return day the vast majority of text books (purchased at great expense) we returned by pupils in their original condition and had been little, if at all used, over the 2 years of the course. With the introduction of new GCSE courses in 2006, and more recently changes to the A'level specifications, I have, as head of department, been bombarded with flyers and phone calls from publishes to purchase 'essential new books'. The schools I have worked in have actively prompted the idea that 'all pupils are provided with their own textbook' but evidence seemed to suggest that they were not really used by the pupils.

If I was going to take the perhaps unconventional route of not buying new books, and hence saving initially over £1500 I felt that it was necessary to spend some time asking pupils about their views, and ensure that their progress was monitored effectively to ensure that this decision would not be detrimental to them.

Brief summary of findings (For a summary of the questions I have asked and conclusions I have drawn see )

Very very few pupils said that they used text books during the two year courses.

Many pupils relied heavily on the internet for information

Pupils 'wanted' revision guides and were willing to purchase their own

It was challenging to provide ideas and resources without a textbook, but lessons and homework tasks have evolved. Debate has opened up in the department regarding the use of textbooks and we have collectively developed a wide variety of activities.

Results did not go down - (in fact we have seen a 20% increase in the A*-A pass rate across the department since 2004)


In response to the original question I asked we have strong evidence to suggest that not provided textbook does not harm pupil performance in exams.

We have provided revision guides for each pupil (at a cost of approx £2 per pupil compared to £20) and the cost saving has been used creatively across the department.

This work has led me to ask what I might do to help pupils revise more effectively and I have been exploring active revision strategies for my pupils, including some resources specifically written to help pupils to engage more actively with their revision guides.

Penny Robotham September 2009