Given the hasty introduction of general national vocational qualifications, and the frequent amendments to them, it is not surprising publishers have been quick to recognise the huge market potential in supplying supporting texts.
A wide range of GNVQ resources is available for tutors and students, but how effective are they in meeting the needs of the customer? Four criteria are used here to examine some of the texts aimed at the Intermediate and Advanced GNVQ leisure and tourism student market.
* To what extent are texts written to a level appropriate to the student's ability?
* To what extent is the GNVQ specification and underpinning knowledge covered?
* How effectively are activities incorporated to assist learning and understanding?
* How user-friendly is the layout and presentation?
The texts examined at Intermediate level were generally disappointing in their failure to write to a level that the average student would find understandable and interesting.
Weaknesses vary from the complex narrative in Butterworth Heinemann's and Hodder and Stoughton's texts ("People's prosperity created the demand for I more innovative travel and holiday products") to the simplistic, frequently patronising, language in Longman ("For many years transport has been the means of getting to and from your destination").
It is unlikely, too, that the presentation of some texts will encourage the student to read on. Hodder and Stoughton and Butterworth Heinemann contain daunting sections of unbroken text and all three intermediate texts adopt an unimaginative layout with insufficient diagrams or dynamic pictures to hold the reader's interest.
Coverage of the specification and underpinning knowledge is generally handled well, although Longman's text often skims the surface of important topics, preferring to focus on seemingly irrelevant tasks such as asking students to design an outfit worn in the 19th century.
Longman includes some useful statistics for Unit 1, but both of the other texts rely largely on out-of-date figures that are unlikely to be of any use to students.
There is a tendency to concentrate on a limited range of leisure and tourism examples, with the result that the student may not acquire a balanced overview of the industry. Hodder and Stoughton, for example, cites many tourism organisations, whereas Longman devotes considerable space to the niche holiday market of Trentino, Italy and, curiously, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.
Longman's is the only text to include the performance criteria number alongside headings to help the student to find specific information, but then often confuses the reader by going on to an unrelated topic. The section "Explain what is achieved through customer service" is followed by a lengthy description of "The EC Directive on Package Travel".
All three texts contain student activities. Those used in Butterworth Heinemann are particularly imaginative and support the text well, although there is a heavy reliance on the goodwill of providers in supplying information.
Longman's activities, in keeping with the general tone of the text, are often too simple ("Fill in the gaps" tasks) and sometimes display an unrealistic appreciation of the student's depth of understanding and experience. For example, "Imagine you are the local council's newly appointed leisure and tourism officer" - an unlikely first job for the average Intermediate student.
Texts available for Advanced students seem to have been more carefully planned and strike a more appropriate tone for the level of student. Butterworth Heinemann, Stanley Thornes, and, particularly, Oxford University Press use simple yet descriptive narrative without being condescending.
Longman, although thorough, is more complex and wordy, making some sections such as "Finance and Business Systems" a bit dry. In contrast, Hodder and Stoughton's text sometimes seems simplistic and tends to adopt a tone that would be more appropriate for an Intermediate student, jollying the student along with phrases such as "Now it's your turn".
Adherence to the GNVQ specification is considerably better in some of the texts than others. The Oxford University Press text is the only one that rigidly follows the specification, giving both Element and performance criteria numbers to each section and sub-section.
Although some sections are somewhat brief, information is well laid out and very easy to find, with eye-catching pictures and photographs to support the text.
Longman's is a far more detailed text than that of Oxford University Press but its failure to give performance criteria numbers initially disguises the fact that many aspects of the range statement are omitted, or listed but not explained.
Of the remaining three texts (Hodder and Stoughton, Butterworth Heinemann and Stanley Thornes), none follows the specification sequentially and once again certain aspects of range statements are not included.
As with some of the Intermediate texts, the presentation at Advanced level is disappointingly unimaginative - with the exception of Oxford University Press and Butterworth Heinemann, which use some well laid-out diagrams, charts and tables.
All five texts include a range of student activities and case studies. Both Stanley Thornes and Hodder and Stoughton's often seem complex and time-consuming, with the latter showing a strong focus on providers in the south of England - specifically Dover.
Butterworth Heinemann has fewer activities than some of the other texts but includes interesting case studies, accompanied by useful questions. Both Oxford University Press and Longman have a range of activities but those in the latter tend to be more imaginative and include some excellent discussion points about key components of the programme.
It is probably unlikely that any one text will meet the needs of all students. The relative strengths and weaknesses of each needs to be balanced against what the student hopes to get out of it. While some texts may suit the student who requires an accurate reference to all aspects of the GNVQ specification, others may be more suited to those who want to examine issues in greater depth, or alternatively test their knowledge and understanding against effective activities.
All the texts are available from the publishers, so you can order copies and decide for yourself.
Intermediate GNVQ Leisure and Tourism, 2nd Edition, by Verite Baker. Longman, Pounds 13.99
Intermediate Leisure and Tourism GNVQ by Peter Trigg. Butterworth Heinemann, Pounds 12.99
Intermediate Leisure and Tourism by Killingworth-Baird and Carter. Hodder and Stoughton, Pounds 9.99
Advanced Leisure and Tourism, 2nd Edition, by John Ward et al. Stanley Thornes, Pounds 14.99
Investigating the Leisure and Tourism Industries by John Colclough. Hodder and Stoughton, Pounds 7.50
Advanced level Leisure and Tourism GNVQ by Peter Trigg. Butterworth Heinemann, Pounds 14.99
Advanced Leisure and Tourism. Oxford University Press, Pounds 17.50
Advanced GNVQ Leisure and Tourism, 2nd Edition, by Ray Youell. Longman, Pounds 16.99