AQA Business Studies B, 2nd edition / GCSE Business Studies for AQA
AQA BUSINESS STUDIES B, 2nd edition, Neil Denby and Peter Thomas, Hodder and Stoughton, 2001, paperback, 230 pages, 14.99, ISBN 0 340 80116 6, Tel.Tel. 01235 827720.
GCSE BUSINESS STUDIES for AQA, Alain Anderton, Causeway Press, 2001, paperback, 240 pages, 14.95, ISBN 1 902796 29 2, and associated Teachers’ Guide, 173 pages, 35, ISBN 1 902796 30 6,Tel. 01695 576048.
GCSE textbooks have changed. The question is whether market oriented publishers are matching the needs of their customers more closely, or are we into monopolistic sub-markets? Instead of general coverage of GCSE Business Studies, texts are now designed to match the needs of particular market segments or specifications.
Both titles are updates of well known textbooks. I have used Anderton in the past but as a faculty we recently changed to Denby and Thomas. The most obvious feature of both is their association with a particular AQA specification. The preface to the Anderton text makes the point that, since the content of all specifications is broadly similar, it can be used for any specification. However, the temptation to go for the text related to a specification may be the most important determinant of textbook choice; hence my question above.
Denby was originally associated with the NEAB Business Studies syllabus. Now both books follow the order of their particular specifications, in the case of Anderton to the extent both of main topics and sub-headings. There is little doubt that they cover the material required in great detail. Anderton covers the material for the A specification options with additional units, while Denby claims to be suitable for both the full and short course of the B specification.
The Anderton text continues the well tried format of a double page to a unit. This is probably quite motivating for students and teachers; there is a distinct satisfaction in turning over a page and mentally ticking another box. This edition is divided into colour coded sections for ease of use. The great strength of Anderton’s book has always been its range of case studies, which are generally interesting and relevant. This edition maintains the tradition with material which can be used in a variety of ways in class or for homework. Colour is also well used to divide up the information into sections and make it manageable. There are key terms and checklist questions to review understanding. With direction, students could certainly use these for revision.
Denby and Thomas follows the Business Studies B specifications very closely. Again, the pages are subdivided, with bright sub-headings, though the lay-out is more traditional. There is a useful introduction, explaining to students how to use the book, with a colour coded scheme for different types of help. My feeling is that students will need to be directed to look at this – or perhaps other people’s students are unlike my own!
Some of the drawings have a faintly old fashioned look to them. The pictures mostly relate well to the text though some do not add hugely to student understanding, e.g. the merest mention of the name Heinz accompanied by a disproportionately large picture of one of their products (ketchup) in a section on aims and objectives. Like Anderton, important terms are defined in boxes, here called ‘codebreakers’. There is also a ‘points to remember’ summary at the end of each unit which helps student learning and is a good revision aid.
Both books meet the need for a variety of sources to be selected, organised and interpreted through the use of statistical and graphical data as background to the text and question stimulus, though it would be good to see this developed further. Some of the graphs are rather small, probably to fit the maximum material on each page. Interestingly, while enterprise is one of the options for the A specifications, it is one of the best sections in the B specifications text. One particular point: in Denby in the section on privatisation it is suggested that monopolies can charge what they like. I spend much time trying to stop my students writing exactly this, so it is dismaying to find it large as life in print.
One of the best features of Denby is the way tasks are differentiated, with arrow signs indicating the level of difficulty. For anyone faced with a very mixed ability group this is a godsend when setting homework; the harder tasks are very challenging.
Both texts are detailed. Some sections would not be inappropriate for weaker AS students and are likely to be quite difficult for less able GCSE candidates. In Anderton, the pages are still very busy. This can be attractive for able students but possibly difficult for others to navigate. Denby has several long sections of text, for example the introduction to sources of finance. The relatively small font used will be off-putting for weaker candidates.
Given that both texts are closely related to specifications, I would like to see some very specific examination preparation and practice; and likewise for coursework. Denby has sections at the end of the book dedicated to both, with past examination questions used to illustrate. Actual exam type questions for practice would be a welcome addition. Anderton provides case study questions, written to cover particular units. These provide an excellent unit assessment.
Most teachers spend much time training their charges to write to the mark allocation anc manage their time in examinations; it is a pity that neither text provides questions with marks for this purpose. The Anderton teachers’ guide provides excellent suggested answers, but no mark scheme. It does include a list of useful websites related to to ics.
Despite the close link with their specifications, because units mainly stand alone, it is possible to rearrange the order of teaching. Colleagues and I usually teach costs, production, breakeven and business plans early in the course because they seem to be a basis for many other topics: the importance of costs in a location decision, for example. Marketing is an ideal topic for year 10, but is at the very end of the B specification. I would certainly teach this earlier in a course.
GCSE books seem to have moved into the price range vacated by A Level texts not so long ago – or does advancing age make it seem recent? If the criterion is value for money in terms of volume of content per ,C, then both texts score highly. There is little difference in price. But does the link with a specification tie us into a particular text?
The definitive word was sought by some consumer testing; we are, after all, a market-oriented faculty! A cleverly worded questionnaire was devised, with no bias, ambiguity, no leading questions etc etc. The result, in this case, was that market research failed to provide a clear message. According to our year 10 respondents, Anderton is both more clear and more confusing, as also is Denby. Both use colour well. There was a 50/50 split as to which was easier to use. So there you have it. They are both very good core texts, as they claim, probably more suited to able students, and substantially meeting the requirements of their related specifications. The choice probably comes down to one’s market segment.
Sue Turner, Verulam School, St. Albans.
Copyright Economics and Business Education Association Spring 2002
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