Educational publishers complain that British schools spend less on textbooks than anywhere else in Europe. But one sub-branch of the industry is booming - the writing and selling of revision guides for GCSE and A-level.
No doubt the advent of league tables and Office for Standards in Education inspections has something to do with this, but one also suspects that the buying of books supplementary to the provided course text is on the increase from both parents and pupils, as the extra grade point is hunted down. Some teachers may feel their professional expertise is being impugned by such topping-up off-limits, but I suspect a greater number are happy to acknow-ledge positively any support to their teaching that is helpful.
Pearson offers Liz Taylor's excellent A5 pocket-size revision guide to GCSE geography at the amazingly low price of pound;1.95 if more than 60 copies are ordered - a clear indication that they hope for an official "seal of approval" and school-organised purchases. It should be tempting, even as a speculative impulse buy for those drifting to the last-chance saloon. The book seeks to cover GCSE syllabuses in general, but has much good sense to offer and is designed helpfully so that, for instance, pupils can read one half of an important factual or conceptual statement and test themselves as they cover the other half of the page. Case studies are peppered through the text.
The two books by John Smith (said to be a "teacher and examiner", though the books are coy about revealing where and when) are more closely NEAB targeted. They abound in concise, relevant information and illustrations, and are more specific about tackling types of exam questions.
All three guides represent good value for the concerned through to the desperate, though perhaps they will lead to predictable answer forms - not quite the stuff of an A*.
Rex Walford is a geographer in the School of Education at Cambridge University