Publisher defends role in 'new' books row
THE row over the cost of school books raged on last night as a leading publisher denied it was forcing parents to buy new editions for no good reason.
Folens was responding to heavy criticism from teacher unions and the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) about unnecessary changes to school books.
Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) president Bernie Ruane said yesterday there was no need for the constant changing of editions.
The TUI cited the publication last year by Folens of a new edition of 'Lifelines', a textbook for Leaving Cert Home Economics, even though there was no change to the syllabus. The new book costs €35.95.
The TUI argues that while this is a subject area where new information emerges on a regular basis, the core details remain broadly the same and should not require the publication of entire new textbooks within short timeframes.
In a response, Folens said the previous edition of 'Lifelines' had been available as a second-hand purchase for three sets of Leaving Certificate students.
A spokesperson said: "It was one of only four books we revised from a catalogue of about 200 products in 2010.
"Feedback from Home Economics teachers indicated that due to the nature of the subject, much of the material had become outdated and a revision was necessary".
The TUI also highlighted the practice of companies bringing out CDs to be used in tandem with the new edition of the textbooks, and only available with the new edition. Another example is the discontinuation, after five years, of an edition of the English textbook 'New Explorations', published by Gill & Macmillan, despite there being no change to the syllabus.
The primary school curriculum has remained the same since 1999, while at second-level, Irish and Maths were the only subjects that had undergone syllabus changes recently.
The Department of Education sets the syllabus -- but publishers can update books to include new illustrations, different layouts or additional workbooks. It is then up to teachers to decide whether to put the updated book on the list of required books.
Audry Deane of SVP said they were now helping a growing number of hard-pressed families to pay for school books.
"We are asking for some fairness and that teachers take a stand by not choosing new editions of textbooks when compiling book lists," she said.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is under pressure to introduce controls on the market through a system of licensing school book publishers.
Last night he put some of the responsibility on teachers' shoulders when he said decisions on which textbooks to use were taken at school level.
Mr Quinn said that he was open to meeting publishers to discuss the issue.