It's a question of confidence. In the classroom, with the teacher there and people's brains to pick, it all seems crystal clear, but faced with the same exercises for homework, confusion can set in.
The idea of being able to help students with their homework without the burden of running a homework club or squeezing in consultations at break and after school seems an excellent one; supporting learning without making extra demands on the teacher. That is Inside English's starting point.
It has a systematic plan of aids and exercises covering every aspect of key stage 3 for the student to work through indepen-dently. The book is well set out and illustrated, with clear, thoughtful prompts, ranging from tackling spelling difficulties to writing about Shakespeare's character-isation. It attempts to target a range of abilities and is, for the most part, successful.
The problem is not the book but how to use it. In order to make sense for the student, the exercises should be linked to the programmes of study being followed in school: there is no point in going through exercises on Macbeth before having read the play.
Here is a book designed for independent study which cannot easily be studied independently - the student needs guidance as to which chapter to tackle when.
Inside English would work best as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, home-work that is part of existing programmes of study. As a way of refreshing interest and enhancing confidence in Year 9, it could prove invaluable.
Sarah Matthews is a former head of English at Chipping Norton School, Oxfordshire