Quinn to meet schoolbook firms over frequency of new editions
EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn is to meet the publishers of schoolbooks in an attempt to stop the frequent appearance of new editions.
Mr Quinn has been under pressure from parents, teachers and welfare organisations over the cost imposed on families who have to buy new books.
As highlighted in the Irish Independent last month, new editions appear regularly even though there have been no syllabus changes in most subjects for years.
And teachers have little choice but to put a new edition on the book list because the former edition is withdrawn from sale.
It means parents may not have the option of passing down the version of the same book used by an older sibling.
The changes contained in the new editions are frequently only cosmetic and may amount to nothing more than different photos or other illustrations, or an updating of statistics in one section.
Parents are forking out as much as €350-€400 for books for a child starting first year or fifth year at second level. At primary level the annual bill is up to €100.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul has said increasing numbers of families cannot afford the schoolbooks bill and are turning to the organisation for help.
Mr Quinn yesterday told the Dail he sympathised with parents who were experiencing difficulty in paying for books. "The harsh economic reality in Ireland means money is tight for many parents," he said.
"I will see what role my department can play in ensuring that revisions of books are kept to a minimum."
The minister said that as well as meeting book publishers, he would also be talking to representatives of parents to discuss the issue.
However, Mr Quinn also suggested that schools had a responsibility in the area.
He said that apart from prescribed texts at second level, decisions on textbooks were usually taken at school level.
"It may be necessary to encourage individual schools to take a more cost-conscious approach to the selection of books in their classes," he said.
The minister also said he would continue to encourage schools to establish book rental schemes as the most effective means of lowering the cost of books for all students.
Publishers insist that they only bring out new editions when necessary.
They say information such as statistics can become outdated, while fresh design and visual content are important.
Meanwhile, a Kerry-based printing company, Walsh Colour Print, claims it has saved parents and schools more than €1m in its first year of operation as a "low cost" schoolbook publisher, trading as educate.ie.
The company, which previously had a contract with an educational book publisher, launched its publishing programme last summer and claims its prices are 70pc lower than the norm.
It started with a series of past examination papers, selling for €2.50 and has now started to produce textbooks for €12.