This year's Saltire SocietyTES Scotland award for educational publishing was contested by a healthy batch of publications produced for the Scottish curriculum.
There were good, meaty textbooks for pupils in many key subjects and practical back-up materials for teachers. English, maths, science, geography, modern studies; 5-14, Intermediate and Higher - they were all covered.
Each year sees a different trend among publishers for the Scottish schools market. Last year, it was Scots language books: children's, grammar and secondary school readers. This year it was much more core curriculum, with a substantial number of entries coming in for S1 and S2 in particular. This is a trend that was enthusiastically welcomed by the judges.
In the past, Scottish publishers have often produced worthy black and white materials, on account of the high cost of catering for a small market. Here was an influx of bright, attractive materials from the likes of Nelson Thornes and Hodder Gibson as well as a host of niche publishers such as Itchy Coo (a Black and White imprint), targeting Scots language students, and Barrington Stoke, targeting reluctant readers.
However, a problem for a lot of schools is the rising cost of books. How many can afford to invest in a new maths scheme or even class sets of a single curriculum subject textbook? One secondary principal teacher recently told The TES Scotland: "I have a budget of pound;700 for my department and pound;500 of that goes on photocopying."
For those who can afford them, there was a good choice of science materials for S1 and S2. Teachers considering new courses would do well to compare Spotlight Science for Scotland from Nelson Thornes, with pupils' books and teachers' CD-Roms, and Hodder Gibson's Science 5-14 with a pupils' book, teachers' book and assessment pack for S2. The authors on both courses include Scottish classroom teachers and, for Science 5-14, Jordanhill lecturer Rae Stark, who is known for her research on the Assessment and Achievement Programme in science. The Saltire Society award judges felt more should have been made of the writers' credentials.
The pound;500 prize this year has gone to Nelson Thornes for its modern studies textbook People in Society by Helen Grant and Stephen Sinclair.
Aimed at S1 and S2 classes, the book goes a long way towards meeting the national priority on citizenship by developing pupils' political literacy.
It adopts a broad brush approach and has good, well-focused tasks in it. It is well designed by David and Jenny Hunter.
Two commendations were made. Nelson Thornes was praised for New Maths in Action: S2 (series editor E.C.K. Mullan) for continuing its outstanding work in secondary maths. Differentiated materials are carefully targeted at various levels of ability. (Nelson maths titles are now used in 70 per cent of secondary schools in Scotland.) The other commendation was to Itchy Coo (Black and White Publishing) for Eck the Bee, with its impressive variety of fun activities for primary children studying Scots. These include songs, stories, riddles and games.
To nominate any book published between September 2003 and August 2004 for next year's awards, contact Kathleen Munro at the Saltire Society e-mail email@example.com
Nelson Thornes People in Society: Modern Studies S1-S2 by Helen Grant and Stephen Sinclair
Nelson Thornes New Maths in Action: S2 series editor E.C.K. Mullan
Itchy Coo (Black and White) Eck the Bee by Ann Matheson and James Robertson illustrated by Karen Sutherland