Continuing our series on teachers who write textbooks Jane Taylor is a part-time biology teacher at Sutton Coldfield girls' grammar school. She is the author of an A-level biology textbook for the Bath-Macmillan Science Education Project (now with Nelson), a GCSE biology textbook (HarperCollins), and contributed to HarperCollins's recent 'Science Connections' series for key stage 3. She edits 'Catalyst', a GCSE science magazine (Philip Allan publishers) In the mid-80s, I was one of a group of science teachers asked to produce worksheets relating science to everyday life for a Department of Trade and Industry project. I quite liked doing the research, and enjoyed working collaboratively.
After that, I answered an advertisement for writers for the Bath-Macmillan Science Education Project, and was initially unsuccessful. But six months later, and on the same day that I was turned down for a new job at my school, Macmillan phoned and asked if I'd write a book. That was terrific. I produced an A-level text, Micro-organisms and Biotechnology, which is still in print, and was part of the first generation of interactive science texts. Unlike other books around in the late 80s, we wanted to help students be more independent: we gave them learning objectives, summaries and plenty of questions with answers interspersed in the text.
I contributed to HarperCollins's key stage 3 course, Active Science, rooted firmly in pupils' day-to-day experience. I also wrote a GCSE textbook, Biology, for HarperCollins which even schools teaching balanced science find useful because of the broader content.
Science Connections also bases science in real life contexts, but we've included more facts than in the past, because key stage 3 pupils now need to know these for standard assessment tasks.
Working on Catalyst is wonderful because it's a chance to take science that bit further, unshackled by the national curriculum. The magazine ties in with GCSE studies, but also moves out to see what scientists are doing in the real world, to see how science is applied.
Writing work comes in rushes, and I find it good for my self-esteem. Teaching in a grammar school helps, because I think it's easier to try things out on more able pupils - you know you can remedy anything that goes a bit wrong.
Working on the books keeps me up to date, a bit like inservice training. The income helps with a part-time salary, and it suits me because it's work I can do in the evenings once my children are in bed.
Jane Taylor was talking to Diana Hinds.