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All booked up

How would you spend pound;5,000? Mary Cruickshank finds out what last year's Education Show books prize winner did with her windfall.

Imagine visiting the Publishing Village with a pound;5,000 cheque in your pocket. That is the sum Wendy Brady walked away with last year when she won the Education Show secondary books prize draw, donated by 10 leading publishers who each contributed pound;500 worth of vouchers to be spent on books from their catalogues.

For Mrs Brady, head of mathematics at Christ Church CE school, Finchley, in the north London borough of Barnet, it was her second windfall since joining the 11-16 voluntary-aided comprehensive three years ago. Insurance money to cover the damage caused by a burst pipe meant she started her job with four or five times her usual annual budget. Years 8-11 benefited from that pay-out, so it was agreed that the show prize would go on improving Year 7 resources.

Although information and communications technology is taking up more of the school budget, books are still a priority, says headteacher Marion Paige-Hagg. But there has been a change in the way they are used - instead of ordering large sets of one book, departments are more likely to select from a range of resources to suit different classes. Differentiation is a key to their work and, as knowledge about special needs has developed, so they are able to cater more precisely for individual pupils.

Each head of department was invited to put in a bid for a share of the vouchers contributed by the BBC, Collins, Heinemann, Oxford University Press, Stanley Thornes, Nelson, Usborne, Wayland, Longman and Watts, so the pound;5,000 was fairly split throughout the school. Wendy Brady's portion virtually doubled the amount of money she would have spent on aths books last year.

She chose three class sets of Year 7 maths texts for different ability levels: Maths Direct (Collins), Nelson's Secondary Mathematics and Stanley Thornes's Key Maths. "It was a great opportunity to trial three approaches throughout the year - all of which have their strong points. However, we've now decided to adopt Key Maths as the core text as it caters for all ability levels well," says Mrs Brady.

The school's library selected information books from Wayland, Watts and Usborne to boost research materials for project work, particularly bearing in mind the school's multicultural intake. One-sixth of the pupils come from homes where English is not their first language and, like other schools in Barnet, it has an increasing number of refugee children.

The special needs department chose reading books from Heinemann's Impact series and Collins's Skyways for their adult look and unpatronising style. Modern languages went for starter books in French and German from Usborne. In English, where recent syllabus changes have made current stocks obsolete, the choice was Starting Shakespeare in the Longman Imprint series and Geoff Barton's Grammar in Context (OUP). Both geography and science spent their share on the BBC's popular Bitesize Revision for GCSE, while the home economics department selected Nuffield Longman Food Technology, and Food Around the World and Food Tables and Labelling from OUP. The music department opted for materials from OUP for teaching Indian music and jazz.

Mrs Brady describes herself as an inveterate show-goer, both for the displays and the seminar programme. She plans to be there on Saturday, again putting her name in for the books prize draw, which this year is on stand PV1.

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