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Education & Young People Committee
Provision of Textbooks & Learning Resources (pdf)
Published: 19th July 2018
“To be told by pupils and teachers directly that resources are lacking, that books sometimes don’t arrive until part way through the school year, and that Welsh language provision is so inconsistent, is very concerning. Also concerning is the lack of clarity over who is responsible for ensuring our schoolchildren have the learning resources they need in the format that suits them best.”
– Committee Chair, Lynne Neagle AM (Lab, Torfaen)
1. Confusion over who’s responsible for textbooks
The WJEC is the primary provider of textbooks for pupils in Wales, though as most textbook publishers are based in England, the Welsh Government provides funding for Welsh language textbooks.
Qualifications Wales are responsible for deciding if there are enough resources available to deliver a particular qualification.
Ultimately though, the textbook market is commercially driven with different publishers producing different titles and it’s often down to individual schools and teachers to decide which textbook and learning materials to use – though there were concerns that using textbooks endorsed by a qualifications body encourages “learning to the test”.
The Committee called for Qualifications Wales to publish a list of core resources needed for each subject, published before courses start.
2. There’s a shortage of Welsh language textbooks and teaching materials
The reliance on commercial providers of textbooks (as mentioned) has caused problems for Welsh-medium students; an example’s given of a GCSE Geography textbook being available in English four months earlier than in Welsh. Teachers in Welsh-medium schools are sometimes said to translate teaching materials themselves, putting additional work pressures on them.
The WJEC have expressed an interest in taking on a more hands-on role in the publication of Welsh-medium textbooks and teaching materials if regulations were changed. Another idea on the table is to withhold publication of English language textbooks until the same time as Welsh language ones. An additional £500,000 for Welsh language teaching materials was made available in the 2017-18 budget too.
3. Some subjects have particular problems
It’s not only Welsh-medium schools in general that have issues, but also some subjects across the board.
There was a large delay in the publication of A-Level Religious Studies textbooks for 2017-18, meaning students were left to use teacher’s notes. There were also problems with A-Level Geography.
The report says:
“Estyn reported issues in the provision of A-level support material in mathematics, religious education, history, French, English, computer science and physical education and Welsh medium GCSE resources in physical education, music, problem-solving in mathematics-numeracy, drama, French and Spanish.”
Where textbooks were currently unavailable, the WJEC used digital teaching materials instead, free of charge to schools.
4. Lack of teaching materials causes stress
Students and staff told the Committee that the lack of appropriate textbooks and teaching materials had a generally negative effect on their learning and mental health.
Some of the specific concerns include being put at a disadvantage to pupils in other schools studying the same subjects, Welsh-medium pupils being forced to learn through English, teachers lacking the confidence to believe they’re covering course content to its fullest depth and an increased workload.