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Specific texts put focus on skills

EDUCATION AND TRAINING Tim Heaton and Tony Lawson Macmillan Pounds 10. 50. INVESTIGATING HEALTH, WELFARE AND POVERTY (Second Edition) Paul Trowler Collins Educational Pounds 8.95

These two works are excellent examples of a new style of textbook for A-level sociology and related courses. Unlike the massive, content-laden books we recommend to our students as central texts, these more recent publications foc-us on updating knowledge in specific sections of the syllabus. They also emphasise the "skills dimension" of sociology syllab-uses.

Consequently, the new-style texts encourage students to select, apply and evaluate sociological ideas through activities and exercises woven into the material. So these textbooks offer lots of up-to-date, detailed knowledge, as well as carefully-designed opportunities for students to use and critically assess that knowledge.

Education and Training by Tony Lawson (retired chief examiner in sociology for the Associated Examining Board) and Tim Heaton is impressive and reflects the authors' understanding of the exam boards' requirements.

They cover the key sub-sections with great style - legislative change and social policy, differential achievement and the role of education in society - but the real bonus is that many of the studies they refer to have been published in the 1990s. Furthermore, they integrate the newer issues in education (improvement in girls' performance, the impact of the New Right) into the flow of the text. This book benefits from its relevance to current debates. It is also good to see data presented in a wide range of forms, as well as lots of exam-based exercises.

Paul Trowler's Investigating Health, Welfare and Poverty should be useful to students on sociology and GNVQ health and social care courses. The contributions across a range of A-level topic areas will be familiar to many teachers, and maintain a high standard. It could be argued that the subject matter warrants two books, but the author provides great depth on each area.

I was surprised by the lack of reference to BSE, but many other areas are extremely well covered - the "changing face" of the NHS, the impact of "the market" in health and welfare, gender in relation to health and welfare, mental illness, and health trends, for example. At times, the content is difficult and students will need guidance, but there is much excellent material in this book.

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