It is a matter for the Board of Management of each individual school to decide on its own policy in relation to the use of textbooks and workbooks in the school. Individual schools should adopt a cost-conscious approach to the selection of books in their classes.
In relation to textbook costs an agreement was reached with the Irish Educational Publisher’s Association which resulted in the agreement of a Code of Practice. The Code commits the publishers to limit the publication of new editions and to maintaining editions of books in print unchanged for at least six years. The publishers have also given assurances that they will sell textbooks to schools at discounts so that schools can purchase textbooks in bulk to stock book rental schemes.
School book rental schemes have an important role to play in reducing the cost of school books for parents. Approximately 95% of primary schools and 65% of post-primary schools operate a book rental scheme.
My Department supports the operation of book rental schemes through the funding provided under its school books grant scheme. Under this scheme, my Department provides funding of €16 million annually to all recognised primary and post-primary schools in the free education scheme. In addition €15.7 million seed capital was provided over three years to support the establishment of book rental schemes in primary schools.
My Department published a circular to school authorities and ETBs regarding measures to be adopted by schools to reduce the costs which include the provision of a book rental scheme. The circular can be accessed on my Department’s website at https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0032_2017.pdf.
One of the measures in the circular, under the “Principles of cost-effective practice”, which are to be adopted is that school authorities, ‘phase out the use of workbooks which cannot be reused’. My officials have engaged with the Irish Education Publishers’ Association (IEPA) to consider how best to ensure the provisions of the circular can best be implemented. It is acknowledged that the use of workbooks can be beneficial in supporting the development of rudimentary skills, such as, fine motor skills, pre-writing and letter formation skills and phonological awareness skills.
In relation to revised editions of textbooks, members of the Irish Educational Publishers’ Association subscribe to a Code of Practice which includes an agreement that publishers will not revise any texts within at least four years - unless there is a change in the curriculum, the state examination or methods of assessment, or if there is a recognised teacher-led demand to do so.
My Department continues to consider how best to implement the terms of the circular in relation to the use of workbooks.