I’m finally back on The Landing after the summer hiatus. That time of year always has a strange effect on my routine and good intentions and unfortunately, my blogging pattern has suffered as a result. I have however, been trying to get back on the straight and narrow now that the autumn term has begun. September has always seemed to me to be more of a ‘fresh start’ opportunity than the gloom of January. It’s a time of crisper mornings, new exercise books and timetables. September is the only time I feel any sort of nostalgia for my school days, when I remember the novelty of having a purpose to my days after the boredom of the school holidays. And, as I went to school in Birmingham, that was only six weeks holiday, not the three months that my daughter just finished here in Dublin.
There’s just one snag in all of my new term euphoria, the perennial issue of the weight of the back to school bag. In fact, I should say ‘bags’ since it took three days and some help from me to ferry all of the required books to my daughter’s school at the beginning of term. Recently I wrote an opinion piece for The Journal.ie prompted by memories of last year’s culture shock of being bagged up for secondary school.
I was interested in the fact that several years ago, a government working party had investigated, reported and concluded and yet still successive governments have done nothing about the problem. The 1998 report contained much optimistic speculation that technology would improve the situation. However, the reliance of screen based learning opens up a completely new set of problems that I won’t go into here. Suffice to say that the ipad versus books question featured in a school debating session a while ago and the book side won the point.
In the absence of any government, school or educational publisher lead on the matter, one mother of four became so fed up that she researched her own solution. Margo Fleming, who is based in County Wicklow, got in touch with me after spotting my Journal piece and told me about her efforts to find a workable solution. I was intrigued to discover her idea, so I thought I’d talk a little about it on The Landing in case any readers from Ireland have similar school bag issues. I’ll put links below if you want to follow up the information.
Margo Fleming came up with the idea of dividing textbooks into halves, temporarily rebinding them and then rebinding them later to sell back to the bookshop. From this idea, she developed her own product and a company to market it, called BookSplits. The concept is blindingly simple and with the use of Margo’s sturdy covers, you can have two perfectly serviceable textbooks that will survive the rigours of the school year. As she explains in her recent press release,
Both halves can be in school each day for class, but the half not required for homework that evening can be left in the school locker. Some of the schools currently using BookSplits have advised students to leave the other half at home for a month, a term or even a year in some cases. By taking this simple action, the weight of the schoolbooks can be halved, instantly – far better for young, developing spines.
As far as I can figure out, this is bound (no pun intended) to be much more economical than the usual solution of buying duplicate copies. Even second hand, the cost mounts up and the condition of some texts offered for sale is poor to say the least. I was lucky this year and was able to buy some excellent second hand copies (before hearing from Margo!) but I could have saved money while reducing the bag weight with the use of her BookSplits.
Check out the links below if you want to know more. I’ll be keeping an eye on BookSplits progress and wish Margo Fleming good luck in her endeavours. It just goes to show you what can be done when someone decides to take matters in hand and find a solution without waiting for the powers that be to wake up and smell the coffee!
Here’s Margo Fleming’s links: http://booksplits.ie/
NB: I’ve just discovered another report after a survey by the Maltese Education Department which I haven’t had chance to read yet:
Clearly this is a problem that other governments have had to grapple with…
Picture Credits: Clipartbest.com and Margo Fleming (with thanks)