Well – they’ve arrived!
Collins Education proudly announce the arrival of new GCSE textbooks to support the 2016 AQA specifications. OK – this might seem a little more gushing than the usual offerings in this column but you’ll have to forgive, albeit momentarily, a modicum of enthusiasm. Last month the first of the books, the Biology one, was launched at the ASE Annual Conference at Birmingham University and this month the Chemistry book followed.
Writing textbooks isn’t quite like writing anything else. Each component has to be so carefully balanced against so many different factors – covering the specification in enough detail but not being long winded, providing examples but not making it repetitive and putting ideas into context without distracting students with an involved back story.
Being on the approved list of publishers to support AQA is a great asset – their examiners scrutinise the text and have provided invaluable feedback. ASE have already given the Biology book their ‘green tick of approval’.
Now, of course, a text book is a text book. It has a very specific and not overly creative job to do, one might imagine. Like an owner’s manual it is strictly functional, one might say. Well, actually, there has needed to be a bit of creativity brought into this. Apart from anything else we have the challenges of developing mathematical skills and the processes of enquiry – these need to lead to understanding and application, not just knowledge. Then there’s the question of developing a more synoptic view of the subject. Each of these have specific features as well as covered in context, because this takes us on to one of the biggest challenges. It’s not just that the specs have changed but also that the audience has grown. Combined Science in particular is likely to be used with a larger proportion of the cohort than the combination of ‘core + additional’ was.
I like to think we’ve come up with something that does that. The authors have worked their socks off on these (and still are doing – Physics is next to be launched, closely followed by Combined (Trilogy), then by the Gateway books and then AQA Synergy). Four sets of the Biology books have gone into schools and are yielding invaluable feedback.
You might, however, have spotted a flaw in this. With the specifications being rejected once again, how come the books are out? How can they be approved if the course isn’t? Well, the books out now are pre-publication drafts. As Baldrick would say, there is a cunning plan. We’re using the specification re-submission (and re-re-submission) time to do even more reviewing, testing and fine tuning.
You’ll forgive the pride then. I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve been involved with but there’s still a warm glow from new ones coming out. Do try and get hold of one and see what you think.