“Unfashionable” textbooks dramatically cut workload and improve student progress say teachers


Using textbooks cuts teacher workload, helps students make better progress and frees up teacher time for one-to-one support in the classroom, according to new research with just over 500 teachers.

The research carried out by Collins surveyed teachers using resources from the main educational publishing companies, and found that eight in 10 teachers (78%) who use them said textbooks cut the amount of unpaid overtime that they would otherwise have to do.

Almost half (44%) of teachers estimated they save up to five unpaid hours a week, which they would otherwise have to spend on activities such as creating questions, tests and assessment, putting together worksheets and searching online for resources. Teachers also said that having textbooks meant they spent less time creating differentiated resources or writing lesson plans from scratch. 84% of teachers agreed with the statement: “Investing in good quality textbooks is an important way that schools can reduce teacher workload.”

Collins also found that 70% of textbook-using teachers said using textbooks gave them more time to plan and think creatively about how they deliver lessons and 56% said having textbooks as a resource gave them more time to support individual students in the classroom.

Two thirds of teachers stated they believed their students make better progress with textbooks than without.

As well as clear classroom benefits, the research showed the positive impact of textbooks on teachers’ work-life balance. 46% of teachers said that being able to spend more of their free time outside of school with family and friends was a direct benefit of using textbooks. 82% of teachers agreed with the statement: “Knowing that I have planned lessons and resources available is essential for my work-life balance.”

Despite these benefits, the Collins research found that many teachers felt that textbooks had fallen out of favour within teaching. More than half of teachers surveyed (52%) believed that “there is a view within teaching that using textbooks is lazy and unimaginative” and 1 in 6 teachers (15%) even said “using prepared resources makes me feel like I am cheating.”

Colin Hughes, Managing Director of Collins Learning said:

“It is encouraging to find that textbooks are playing such a key role in reducing teachers’ overtime hours, supporting classroom practice and helping students to make progress. Teachers who took part in the survey told us they “love textbooks”, they “ensure children have all the information they need” and they are an “enormous aid to the teacher”.


“But unfortunately the research also confirms that textbooks have fallen out of favour and some schools could be missing out on the extensive thinking and expertise that goes into their development. At Collins we would expect to invest around £1 million in every large textbook scheme, encompassing both print and digital components. A GCSE Science or primary Maths series will involve 35 people and 44,000 work hours. Our textbooks focus on building learning in the most effective way, use innovative subject leaders and are developed and tested with schools across the country.


“We believe that textbooks have a central role to play in the classroom – they’re designed to enhance teaching practice, not take away from it. We hope this research will open up the debate and allow teachers’ voices to be heard.”


The research also found:

  • Teachers said the most important factors they look for in a good textbook are:
    • Curriculum relevance/ exam board approved (65%)
    • Provision of core knowledge, context and practice (46%)
    • Inclusion of testing and assessment materials (42%)
    • Suitability for use with all abilities (40%)
    • An engaging design with lots of visual content (33%)


  • 65% said that textbooks made them “feel confident that I’m passing on my subject knowledge in the most effective way.”
  • 84% said investing in good quality textbooks is an important way schools can reduce teacher workload.
  • 67% believed their students made better progress with textbooks than without textbooks.
  • 72% had already or would consider using textbooks to engage parents with what their child is learning at school.
  • 66% said that there is little teacher training or CPD which addresses how textbooks can be used as an effective teaching and learning resource.

Teachers taking part in the research also said (subjects that respondents use textbooks in are shown in brackets).

Secondary/Sixth Form teachers

“I LOVE textbooks, although it’s seemingly unfashionable to invest in them. Personally, the time saved is priceless.” (Secondary MFL)


“I think that every department should have suitable, quality text books to support learners. Furthermore, I think they are a vastly underused and undervalued resource.” (Secondary senior leadership)


“[Textbooks are] most useful for ensuring that students have all of the information they need in one place for independent study – reading ahead, consolidation, revision or if they miss a lesson.” (Secondary Sociology)


“Worked solutions included in the textbook are an important part for me. It minimises unpaid working hours and gives the students more opportunity for independent study.” (Secondary Maths)


“Textbooks which cover the exam board specification, provide a well-structured basis for planning in any subject and the teacher can then adapt chapters or concepts according to their pupils’ needs and abilities.” (Secondary senior leadership)


“This idea that textbooks are static and not appealing to the current realities is erroneous. I think that a good quality textbook is an enormous aid to the teacher and also to the student, and should never be abandoned. A student can gain very much from having a textbook if he/she does not have internet resources and for that reason, the textbook is always a wonderful tool to have in one’s classroom and home.” (Secondary senior leadership)


“I strongly believe that textbooks are essential to teaching and learning at A level, so that students can access reliable, exam board relevant material for independent learning tasks, and revision.” (Secondary Sociology)

“Worked solutions included in the textbook are an important part for me. It minimises unpaid working hours and gives the students more opportunity for independent study.” (Secondary Maths)


“We always review textbooks when there is a specification change. We look to see they complement the new course, including new material and skills that are being assessed. It is important that pupils can use them independently, at home, or in school for set work. They are an additional resource to support the scheme of work. Quality of information is more important than quantity. However, budget cuts are a major concern and is having more and more of an effect on whether we can afford to buy textbooks.” (Secondary Science)


“Working in a special school I teach outside of my subject specialism quite a lot and textbooks are most useful (if not essential) for filling gaps in my own knowledge and making it clear what I have to deliver to pupils from a specification with which I am not particularly familiar.” (Secondary Maths and ICT)


“Good texts need lots of carefully curated exercises. Subject content is easy to find. Well thought out exercises are hard and time-consuming to produce.” (Secondary Maths and ICT)


Primary teachers


“I use them to help me challenge high attaining pupils. The problem solving and application opportunities allow these children to make really good progress as there is always an extension activity available.” (Primary Maths)


“Textbooks work as a resource in our school, teacher subject knowledge and children’s gaps are the key to good learning and progress.” (Primary Maths and Science)


“Textbooks with links to the national curriculum objectives are quite good; especially for newly qualified teachers.” (Primary all subjects)