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Why do UK schools not use textbooks?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Grantcobbs, Dec 2, 2017.

  1. Grantcobbs

    Grantcobbs New commenter

    I'm in the early stages of my career but in the three schools I've worked in I've noticed that textbooks don't seem to be a thing in the UK.

    Thinking back to my own childhood in Ireland, I remember at the start of every school year getting the book list in the post and going to the store with my parents to get my books (about 7 books by year 6).

    Lessons would typically involve us reading from the book. Some kind of discussion or a teacher demonstration and then working on problems or questions given at the end of the chapter or in an accompanying work book. It seemed to work quite well.

    Now that I'm working in schools I see how long planning and sourcing resources can take. The handing out and collecting of worksheets and gluing these into books is also a bit of a pain.

    If anyone is curious this would be fairly representative of a Irish school book list


    I don't remember there being much if any differentiation. Though I can say for certain that we didn't have any SEN children in the school beyond some minor dyslexics.

    I don't understand why the English don't go for it. Ireland seems to rank higher in many rankings of results and school systems.

    Is it just not wanting to ask the parents to pay for books? Or is there a real belief that worksheets are the way forward?
  2. Landofla

    Landofla Established commenter

    I can only think it must be because they like to overwork the teachers in England.

    I know exactly what you mean and have seen in other countries how textbooks are used and guess what? They still have top doctors and other such intellectuals.

    With every Gov change, there seems to be a new educational fad introduced. Worksheets used to be a big no no, textbooks used to be a big no no, rote learning was a big no no... then they all come back round again.
  3. 50sman

    50sman Lead commenter

    If your username is your real name please change it
  4. asnac

    asnac Established commenter

    I'm not absolutely sure that I agree with your premise. I can't speak for other schools, but we regularly use textbooks for Maths and often for English.

    But allowing that you may be right, I think part of it could be that English schools cannot require pupils to buy textbooks. Therefore we would have to think carefully on whether they are really needed as it comes from the budget. And maybe the Irish curriculum is more focused, and it is probably less liable to changing every other year (the thought that the books might be out of date soon is a massive deterrent to buying them).

    There are many reasons for Ireland's higher PISA ranking. I doubt whether textbooks have much to do with it, though the additional 'ownership' of the education by the parents having to buy the books might contribute to them being more supportive than English parents.
  5. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    I work in a school where, despite having excellent, comprehensive text books, other members of my dpartment choose to spend evenings and weekends searching for and creating worksheets to replace these, generating huge quantities of photocopying. Often these worksheets overlap considerably with the textbook (ie at times identical questions); rarely, if ever, are they better than the text book.

    I have come the conclusion that this is look-at-me 'busy work' , perhaps designed to win praise from management and perhaps bonuses and pay rises, I don't know.

    Maybe it's a consequence of the style of ITT which, in my day, placed great importance on the ability to produce worksheets and heaped scorn on the use of text books.
  6. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    because stupid ignorant fantasists in the government and ofsted came to the conclusion that being made to read texts and answer questions was too much for the fragile little UK students, who shouldn't be expected to cope with as much as turning a page for themselves, and that teachers should be handing each precious little snowflake their own individualised text book page, every lesson, which the teacher had to have sat up all night carefully crafting for them, and that the best use of a teachers day was to spend hours fighting over the access to the only photocopier machine in the building still churning out the occasional unsinged sheet, and schools had so much surplus money that the only way of neatly disposing of it was by burning the books we had and replacing them with such worksheets that cost twice as much, and only get used once each.

    Sorry, tht got a bit long.

    To sum up

    UK schools don't use text books because of some stupid ignorant fad a few years ago when some body who knew nothing, did some "research" to say text books are bad ( someone not overburdened with an understanding of the word "research" I might add) and no doubt got paid enough for this amazing insight to retire on the profit.

    He was probably bribed by the photocopying industry.

    I do actually have teenage student now who are not familiar with the way page numbers work....
  7. Wotton

    Wotton Lead commenter

    We used text books for Maths and English. It was the constant changing of the curriculum which killed the text book in many primary schools.We kept ours even if they related to the old curriculum as most of what you needed was there. Also there were teachers who started at page one and worked through the book with very little actual learning.
  8. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    Independent schools still use text books. The last state school I worked in had a new head who got a skip to clear out some old furniture and instructed the staff to put all their text books in it too. My career in state went in with them.
  9. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    We have textbooks for each year group for maths. Up to teachers to choose if, when and how they use them.
  10. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    Hey- you can always copy bits out of the textbooks and print them off as worksheets claiming that it is all of your own work.
  11. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    My poems go into school classrooms in 188 countries from my 5 internet websites, and I can add voice recordings to help children who are learning English as a second language and also younger children who are learning to read. Poetry, too, is better listened to first and foremost. There are many countries in the world where children and their schools just cannot afford books - so I'm pleased to give them my poems freely. The children can also access the poems at home without the need to buy or carry books. Children aged 5 and 6 asked me to make the websites - not "can you get the poems published via a publisher". 400 were published in 2010, but stopped in recent years as the publisher retired - so the children everywhere can still get the poems.
  12. MadHatter1985

    MadHatter1985 New commenter

    I've gone back to using textbooks recently after years of being told how evil they were! Whilst no textbook is perfect, they are a very good base for both the teacher and the class.

    I have found that work in the textbook is usually superior to downloaded worksheets or a worksheet I have created as most textbooks have been proof-read, trialled and tested. The newest textbooks are also differentiated, which was one of the criticisms levelled at textbooks in the past. Many textbooks are also quite interesting as well- the children like the colour and the security of knowing what they have learnt and where they need to go. Some textbooks come with other resources, such as web-site based resources, too.

    I'm finding the textbook particularly useful in maths. The one I used has a core textbook, a booklet of support activities for the less able, an enrichment booklet for the more able or those who have finished, an assessment book and a teacher's book. It has everything I could ever need- and more!
  13. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I've not taught in any school (secondary, middle, primary, prep) which didn't have textbooks for maths.
    Yes some teachers also use worksheets and/or practical activities to supplement, but most have textbooks in the classroom and use as appropriate.

    Can't imagine the need for a textbook in English, other than maybe some SPAG activities.
  14. TEA2111

    TEA2111 Established commenter

    Taught overseas for years and in comparison, teaching in England is unnecessarily complicated and difficult, actually to some extent a nightmare. Similar experience to OP overseas.... "I don't remember there being much if any differentiation. Though I can say for certain that we didn't have any SEN children in the school beyond some minor dyslexics. " I too used textbooks. If the children in England were better off for the stress and workload teachers here experience, then fine, but they are not and in many cases, especially SEN and lower ability children, are worse for it.

    Attached Files:

  15. tsarina

    tsarina Occasional commenter

    Secondary science textbooks (back when i started teaching 12 years ago) were pretty good; useful diagrams and pictures to stimulate inquiry and good key points. The questions were pretty well designed also. Then the PTB decided that using textbooks was a major indicator for a lazy teacher.

    I underwent coaching to try and get from satisfactory to good (voluntarily) and during the process I learnt that if i needed to use a page from the book i should photocopy it so I didn't have the textbooks out (as the SLT who did the observations automatically classed any lesson with a textbook on the table as not good enough). I wasn't particularly popular with him when i fed this strategy back to the department :)

    It seems a criminal waste of resources and time to have to find and photocopy diagrams and questions when you can just say open to page... .

    Of course as we weren't using the books, they then decided we didn't need more than 1 set of new books when the new specs came out.:mad:
  16. Ellakits

    Ellakits Established commenter

    The ridiculous thing about this no text book rule is that by the time you've been teaching for five years you know which ones work. You'll also have added differentiation to them and (if you're wise) have them saved on a memory stick.

    What this means is that you've effectively written your own text book and hand the same pages out year on year, bar minor tweaks to hide what you're doing.

    And the photocopying bill costs more than a set of text books.
  17. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    about 10 times more
  18. T34

    T34 Established commenter

    When (political) regime change occurs the text books have to be changed too, in order to promulgate the new ideology.
    This does not happen overnight, so there will be a period when the old textbooks are prohibited but producing and approving new ones takes time so they are not available.
    Some justification has to be found for the removal of the old text books, so any old relevant 'research' is dragged out of the box, or just invented.
    This ploy actually slows down the reintroduction of the politically approved text books when they do become available.
  19. zappaphillius

    zappaphillius New commenter

    Maths textbooks do not date. Maths is maths is maths...
  20. elder_cat

    elder_cat Established commenter

    Unless of course it's new maths, that wasn't available when the book was published, or alternatively something that is presented in a different way to make it more accessible.
    Lara mfl 05 and BetterNow like this.

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