To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration is being given to the creation of a national book exchange policy to reduce costs on parents; and
if he will report on the use of e-books accessed via tablet computers now being availed of in certain schools..
– Seán Kyne.
Minister Ruairí Quinn
As the Deputy may be aware I launched new “Guidelines for Developing Textbook Rental Schemes in Schools” on the 28th January last. These Guidelines provide
practical advice to primary and post-primary schools on how rental schemes can be established and operated. The aim of the Guidelines is to help as many
schools as possible to start such book rental programmes.
The publication of these Guidelines follows a survey of schools by the Department, and which I published in May 2012. This had a 99% response rate at
primary level, and showed that 76% of primary schools operate a book rental scheme. At second level, the response rate was lower, at 44%. Of those which
did respond, 88% of those in the VEC sector and 73% of those in the Community & Comprehensive sector operated a book rental scheme.
I believe these results show that we have a good foundation to build on across the country. I hope that schools that are not yet operating book rental schemes
will be encouraged to use the Guidelines to introduce them. If they do, it will result in substantial savings for parents. Schools which already have rental
schemes can save parents up to 80% of the cost of buying new books.
A special “Guide for Parents” was also published, to inform them of how the schemes operate and how parents can help schools to establish and run them. I
have been very clear in my support for book rental schemes. All of us who are parents know how expensive textbooks can be and what a burden it places on
already hard pressed families at the start of every school year.
I am pleased to see the high level of book rental schemes in operation at primary level and I believe that these Guidelines will encourage this practice
across all schools in our education landscape.
I also published a Report on Textbook Rental Schemes in Schools and the Allocation of Textbook Grants by the Department of Education & Skills in May
2012. This report presented four policy options to encourage schools to establish textbook rental schemes. None of the options are ideal, each one
involves a trade-off of advantages and disadvantages.
I will continue to monitor the number of schools operating book rental schemes, and if it proves necessary consider further steps to encourage schools to do so.
Many schools have adopted the use of ebooks and this is a decision for the schools themselves. In deciding whether to adopt ebooks there are many factors
to be taken into account. The most important factor is to consider whether e-books will support the achievement of relevant learning outcomes and enhance
the learning experience. E books have the potential to provide learners and teachers with many different ways of exploring the curriculum. The
Professional Development Service for Teachers – Technology in Education (former NCTE) addresses the use of tablets and ebooks in its training courses and is
available to advise schools on these issues and a comprehensive advice sheet will shortly be available on the PDST TIE website. Work is currently underway
on a new ICT Strategy for schools and matters relating to the use of ebooks and use of digital content will be one of the key issues explored in that strategy.