Business studies

10th November 2000 at 00:00
AS BUSINESS STUDIES. By Malcolm Surridge and Andrew Gillespie. Hodder amp; Stoughton pound;12.99


Objectives and Strategy. By Andrew Gillespie and Simon Harrison

People and Organisations. By Malcolm Surridge

Operations Management. By Simon Harrison, Ian Swift, Andrew Gillespie

Marketing. By Ian Swift

Competitive Environment and External Influences. By Andrew Gillespie

Hodder amp; Stoughton pound;9.99 each

BUSINESS STUDIES FOR AS. By David Dyer, Ian Dorton, David Grainger and Peter Stimpson. Cambridge pound;14.95

AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO BUSINESS STUDIES 4th Edition. By Bruce R Jewell. Student's Book pound;17.50 Lecturer's Guide pound;21.99 Longman

BUSINESS STUDIES, AS and A-level. By Michael Barratt and Andy Mottershead. Longman pound;17.99

This term marks a significant change in the work of sixth forms as students embark on new A-levels in two modularised parts: AS and A2. Whatever the merits or otherwise of this change, for publishers it has opened up the possibility of a bonanza as schools and colleges re-stock to meet new needs and exam specifications.

However, both publishers and authors have been faced with one difficult decision, and that concerns their target market - should they produce the familiar blockbusters covering the entire two-year A-level course, or instead aim at AS and A2 students separately?

Intriguingly, the market leader in A-level business studies texts, Hodder amp; Stoughton, has avoided this dilemma by the simple expedient of producing both blockbusters and specific texts. The TES has already reviewed Ian Marcouse et al's impressive two-year book (November 26, 1999), though the question was raised then as to whether it would remain competitive when specifically targeted AS versions appeared. Just as Hodder is backing both options, Malcolm Surridge seems to be doing the same, for not only does his name appear with Marcouse's on the blockbuster's cover, it also sits with Andrew Gillespie's on a volume entitled, with startling originality, AS Business Studies.

But this is carping. Both Surridge and Gillespie have been involved with AS development and there can be no doubting their authority. They are also good writers, with a style that is both concise and precise. My main complaint is that the book's appearance lets it down - the few photographs are quite small and almost condescending. Indeed, the lack of imaginative presentation is disappointing across the range of business studies texts. No geography book would appear without full colour illustrations these days, so why should not those for business studies - after all, the exam entry numbers for both subjects are similar?

Andrew Gillespie, a rising star in the A-level examining world, has adopted an interesting "third way" to the ASA2 dilemma by producing a series of books claiming to provide "an analytical and evaluative approach to business studies". Not before time, some might say, but I do despair of the constant emphasis on exams and the need to reach "higher skills" on "levels of response mark schemes" rather than studying the subject for its own sake. That said, the six-book series, which covers the main areas of the syllaus, or more correctly, the specification - Accounting and Finance, Objectives and Strategy, People and Organisations, the Competitive Environment, Operations Management and Marketing - marks a new departure.

Although the books so far reviewed are not explicit in their connection to the Assessment and Qualification Alliance specification, the preponderance of AQA examiners makes the link fairly obvious. Business Studies for AS (presumably the only alternative title) by David Dyer, Ian Dorton, Peter Grainger and Peter Stimpson makes no bones about its allegiance, with the words "endorsed by OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA)" emblazoned on the cover. I am not alone in expressing disquiet over such a development in a wider context (see TES, April 7, 2000), but as in the case of the authors of the AQA books, many teachers will anyway be familiar with the name of David Dyer and his role as director of the Cambridge Business Studies Trust. The book covers familiar ground, but because it is in A4 format rather than the smaller Hodder ones, it has a far more open feel. It uses some colour, which breaks up the text and highlights case studies, summaries, tables and so on. Overall, the effect encourages and supports the reader.

And so back to blockbusters. Bruce Jewell's Integrated Approach to Business Studies is now in its fourth edition. Earlier editions had a reputation for being comprehensive in their coverage and at nearly 600 pages, including an eight-page tightly packed index, this is no exception. Unfortunately the detail can also be seen as a disadvantage, for some might find the text rather daunting and unrelieved. Certainly, colour and shading help in the latest edition, but the lack of separation between AS and A2 approaches and questions would, I suspect, make the book's use in the classroom quite difficult.

Alongside Jewell's book, and presumably in direct competition to it, sits Business Studies by Michael Barratt and Andy Mottershead. Perhaps oddly, Longman publishes both, which begs all sorts of questions, some of which the authors must themselves be asking. In any event, Barratt and Mottershead take the blockbuster notion very seriously, with a book weighing approximately 4lb and occupying no fewer than 746 pages. Subject detail, then, is not a problem, but I suspect that the relatively low profile of these authors in the examining world compared with others reviewed here makes the likelihood of a profound market penetration small. I was both mystified and slightly disturbed by sections entitled "Friday afternoon" consisting of end-of-section tests and mini case studies. Even tongue in cheek, is this a serious suggestion for pedagogic activity at the end of the week?

We now wait for the market to decide, but AS examinations are designed to be a complete qualification, and there will be some, perhaps many, students who will not go on to complete the A-level. I suspect these students will demand a comprehensive text that meets their needs and which is neither too daunting, nor too heavy (in all senses). Whether school budgets can stretch to the luxury of separate year one and year two books is a different matter.

David Lines is head of business and economics education at the Institute of Education, University of London

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