The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has called for school book publishers to review their sales strategies to show greater sensitivity in recognising the pressure on parents.
The TUI has called on the Department of Education and Skills to introduce protocols to regulate the issue.
TUI president Bernie Ruane said that the tactics used by publishing companies are leaving schools with little option but to use the very latest edition of textbooks.
“Parents should be clear on what is happening — some publishers have adopted a stance that makes it almost impossible for teachers to stay with a particular edition of a textbook for any longer than one cycle.
“In both Junior and Leaving Certificate cycles, new editions of books are released every other year even when no syllabus change has taken place, and in many cases content has only been slightly reorganised as opposed to changed.”
Irish educational publisher Folens announced earlier this year that it would be holding prices of its Primary and Post-Primary publications to those set in 2008 to reduce the pressure on teachers and parents.
Folens was also the first Irish educational publisher to integrate technology with textbooks by providing teachers with an interactive version of the curriculum textbook online at no cost.
However, the firm has released a new edition of a key textbook for home economics senior cycle, Lifelines, without any change to the syllabus.
According to Folens, feedback received from home economics teachers indicated that due to the short currency of a significant proportion of home economics material, a revision of the textbook was necessary.
A spokesperson for Tánaiste and Education Minister Mary Coughlan said that Ms Coughlan has advised school authorities that textbooks should be changed only when it is deemed absolutely necessary.
They added that apart from a small number of prescribed texts at second level, school textbooks are not approved or prescribed by the department, and the decision on which books to use are taken at school level.
However, TUI education officer Bernie Judge said that the perception that it is the teachers who make the decision on what textbook edition to use is incorrect.
“The fact is that a teacher may decide to stick with a particular edition... but with the frequency of new editions, in any one class there may be three or four editions of the one book.
“The onus is then on the teacher to struggle with students having different layouts in their textbooks.”
Ms Ruane added that new textbook editions containing updated content should be published separately from the main textbook and sold to schools at a much lesser charge.
“Such an approach would allow schools and families to recycle the main edition of a textbook, saving money for parents, ensuring that teachers would have access to new resources while the publishers would still have a ready market for the newer material,” she said.