High-quality Textbooks – A luxury Or An Essential?
High-quality textbooks and teaching methods are increasingly seen by many curriculum experts as an essential part of ingredients for quality learning outcomes. However, that is not a view that is universal. You only have to look at blog articles bemoaning the use of textbooks. “Why textbooks don’t work and hurt schools.” Mathews J ( 2012). Many of these articles are written by those directly involved in teaching. The highest performing jurisdictions tend to rely on highly structured textbooks.
The UK organisation called, Policy Exchange recently completed a report entitled, Completing the Revolution: Delivering on the Promise of the 2014 National Curriculum, they make the point that there are issues with the adequacy of materials for teaching the National Curriculum. These constraints are holding back pupils in England and increasing teacher workload.
The report highlights that:
Only 10% of teachers use textbooks in more than half their lessons, and even fewer expect to be doing so by 2020;
Teachers have been trained to believe that they need to make as many of their own resources as possible, adding significantly to their workload;
Many teachers rely too much on unregulated and free online resources, many of which are poor quality.
The implementation of the 2014 National Curriculum has stalled. Without rigorous curriculum materials, there is no guarantee that all children will receive the broad and balanced range of learning promised by the law. This damages social mobility by denying children from poorer backgrounds the best education possible and holds back the economy by failing to equip our future workforce with a command of the basics.
It is not for a government to produce curriculum resources for schools; Policy Exchange believes that confidence is likely to be higher in the quality of the materials designed by high-status institutions such as museums, the Royal Societies, high-performing multi-academy trusts or respected academic publishers. The recommendations for Completing the Revolution include:
The government’s £7.7 million curriculum fund should be used to provide seed funding for rigorous ‘oven-ready’ resources by trusted institutions already involved in education, and for a “match-making” exercise for teachers who may wish to expand the reach of their own high-quality resources.
The Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund and the Strategic School Improvement Fund should be merged into a single “School Improvement Fund” with a curriculum strand from which primary schools and schools in Opportunity Areas could bid for funding to deploy resources.
Ofsted should include assessment of curriculum quality in its new framework – due for review in 2019.
Achievement of Qualified Teacher Status should require teachers to demonstrate that they can create small-scale resources, but the majority of teaching by newly qualified teachers should be based on material created by others.
All schools judged to be “coasting” or “requires improvement” should be compelled to use externally-provided resources.
Those who do not textbooks have a large array of examples to support their argument. There are many textbooks that are not fit for purpose. the key message has to be ‘quality textbooks’
- Completing the Revolution: Delivering on the promise of the 2014 National Curriculum report by John Blake from Policy Exchange
- Why Textbooks count Lecture notes by Tim Oats
The audio podcast below delves into the report as it explores the wider theme of “What makes a coherent curriculum?”