New editions of costly text books show few changes
PARENTS forced to fork out for new versions of school books have to work hard to spot the difference from the old ones.
There is a growing clamour of protest from teacher unions and the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) over what they claim are unnecessary textbook revisions.
Now, comparisons done by the Irish Independent have confirmed that many of the changes are cosmetic.
New editions appear regularly, even though the only subjects where there have been any syllabus changes for years are Leaving Certificate Irish and maths.
Teachers feel they have no choice but to put a new edition on the book list, because the former edition has usually been withdrawn from sale.
It means parents may not have the option of passing down the previous version of the same book that had been used by an older sibling.
The changes in the book may amount to nothing more than different photographs or other illustrations, or an updating of statistics in one section.
Parents could be paying 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.
Audry Deane of the SVP said increasing numbers of families could not afford the school books bill and were turning to the society for help
In Northern Ireland, schools have a budget to buy books. They hand them out to pupils, who return them at the end of the year.
Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) president Noreen Flynn said schools were simply told by publishers that a book would not be produced the following year and would be replaced by a new edition.
The INTO wants the Department of Education to licence publishers to supply books to schools, which could be used as way to control prices and the frequency of new editions.
Educational publishers, however, defend their practices.
Anthony Murray, commissioning editor at Gill & Macmillan, said they would not bring out new editions unless "we had to".
He said a new edition cost about €100,000.
"In the first year, you don't make anything and you are hoping to reprint for a number of years to make some money," he claimed.
Mr Murray said statistics could become out of date, while fresh design and visual content were very important, particularly in an era where pupils were used to the web and 3D.
Asked about providing updates in a more cost-effective, online form, Mr Murray said it was only in recent years that schools had the technology for this.