New school textbook with picture of "army accident" in it

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Outrageometer at full scale deflection.

Like every secondary school at the moment, we are looking at new textbook for Key Stage Three, as we have a new curriculum rolling out with effect from September.

One book has annoyed me intensely today. On a two page spread about acceleration there is a large aerial photograph of that tragic accident five years ago when armoured vehicles came off a lorry and rolled into oncoming traffic on the M1. The picture was soon after the accident when the casualties, some of them, must still have been in the vehicles.

In my anger I have dashed off the following message to the publishers, Heinemann, part of the Pearson group:

"I refer you to page 120 of the new Go Science Book One text book, for the new KS3 curriculum.

At the top of the page by the title “Speeding up and slowing down” is a large photograph titled “A pile-up on the motorway”.

This is exceedingly offensive.

This accident happened almost five years ago on a road in this country and resulted in multiple fatalities.

Five people died, and a greater number were injured, some horribly.

In your book a Spartan armoured vehicle can be seen rolled against the cab of a Ford Transit van, the driver would have been utterly crushed.

Given that this accident was so recent it must be blindingly obvious that there will be children in schools who were affected. Perhaps a brother, father or uncle… There might be a child who was related to the driver who caused the accident? Can you imagine the distress this would cause in a classroom? Can you imagine the impact on a child? A lot of people were affected by this accident, not the least of which were the emergency services who had to deal with the most horrendous injuries.

I refer you to a BBC news report of the accident:

I appreciate that a photograph of a motorway accident is needed, but you could so easily have chosen one in which it was not obvious that there were deaths, and which was sufficiently old to not affect any child in school.

It is not unreasonable to expect you to change the picture for something more suitable before any more copies of the book are printed. You ought to give serious consideration to pulping any already printed."

The picture in the book does rather tend to give the impression that the army was responsible, well, I think it gives that impression. It does not indicate that the accident was the fault of a 60 year old in a Honda Civic, who got off with a £130 fine and 7 points on his licence, or that the army were in no way involved I should have added in my message that the inquest was only held four MONTHS ago, and relatives are still calling for further charges.

I have had an automated response from the publishers promising me a response within 48 hours.

Any thoughts, comments, suggestions?

I should add that my colleagues are as disgusted as me - now that they know about it.
I agree, at least use an accident with no fatalities, perhaps some crash-test footage or something.
putteesinmyhands said:
It wouldn't be this picture, would it?

I can't see why it would be necessary to include a picture of any grisly accident. The principles of acceleration can be found in more everyday events.
Spot on puttees, that's the picture. The newspaper version is cropped somewhat compared with the one in the book though.

I am deeply concerned that this picture has been used in a school textbook intended for children aged 11-12. In all my 40 years in this job I have never seen such a picture in a textbook. Thanks to those of you who have replied - proves I reacted in the right way.

I'll wait for a response from the publisher, and will post it here. I also intend copying it to my MP (ex-TA), and the Association for Science Education. Time perhaps, for a campaign to get teachers to choose another publishers books...
WTF are you getting so upset about? A motorway accident is a perfect way of getting a lesson of consequencies of momentum across. It shows very clearly what happens when things aren't under control.

For those conspiracy theorists dribbling about the fact it has Army vehicles in.......keep taking the mushrooms :roll:
in_the_cheapseats said:
WTF are you getting so upset about? A motorway accident is a perfect way of getting a lesson of consequencies of momentum across. It shows very clearly what happens when things aren't under control.

For those conspiracy theorists dribbling about the fact it has Army vehicles in.......keep taking the mushrooms :roll:
Fair comment, at least it would be were it not for the fact that momentum is not a concept taught at this age. A few years before that idea rears its head. The content being taught is that speed equals distance divided by time, and that stopping distance increases with speed. That's all.

I see your point about an accident picture - but a simple fender bender accident would be enough, and there is such a picture on the next page. I fail to see the need for such a graphic picture, one in which some of the dead are still in what is left of their vehicles. The five men who died had children - they could find themselves looking at a picture of their fathers crushed vehicle, knowing dad is still inside it. Is that acceptable? I think not. Given that books take some time to prepare for printing there can be no doubt that the decision to use this picture was taken before the inquest had been held, and while calls for further prosecutions were continuing. I don't think that is acceptable.

As for it having army vehicles in it - well, most 11 years olds I have taught would look at the extent of the devastation, see armour, and presume the armour was responsible.

Let one of the "affected kids" get their parents to sue - I'm sure there'll be damages cash aplenty if they were directly affected by the original accident. I'm sure the current "ambulance chaser" litigious society will encourage such a claim.

In the meantime, why should we get upset on someone else's behalf? They're more than capable, I'm sure, of making a fuss themselves.
May I please offer my thanks to all who offered an opinion - all of you were very helpful.

My concern was to prevent anyone getting upset, rather than get upset and then sue. I tried, as an experiment, asking an A-Level group to look at the picture and then tell me what they thought had happened. Without knowing any of the details all came to the conclusion that the accident had been caused by the way the military vehicles had been driven, ie blaming the army. When I told them what the truth was, all were very angry about it, and wanted to write to the publishers to complain! You guys have a lot of support out there in Civvyland.

The publishers wrote to me in a rather dismissive way, and I made it clear I was not going to give in, telling them I would pass it to my MP. This morning the Managing Director has contacted me to say that they are reprinting the book with a different picture and will replace free of charge copies already purchased by schools.

As a result, we won't have kiddies getting the wrong idea about The Green Machine, and kids who lost their dads won't get hurt again. Result.

Again, thanks to all for their thoughts and comments.

That's a fantastic result mate.
The publishers must have known their culpability to offer a reprint and replacement but I wonder how broadly they will advertise their offer.

Others will have their view about why that photo was chosen. I beleive it wasn't a particularly clever socialist attempt to influence our youth's view of the armed forces.

Again, well done.
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