OC Mark Levesley writes science text books and has just launched a series of Covid-19 inspired worksheets
Mark (S86) tells us about his career to date and what inspired his work:
After Charterhouse, I went to Durham University and studied Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, without having much of an idea of what to do in life. At the end of the course, I still had little idea of what to do, and so I did a PhD in bacterial molecular genetics thinking that I’d become a scientist. Actually, I hated it; the lab work was painfully slow and boring, and I spent hours each day tipping one liquid into another. Something I didn’t need a PhD to do! The experimental work that I was doing then, which took days to complete, now take about 10 seconds. I did however enjoy lecturing so I became a teacher and taught in a school in central London.
As part of the job I had to teach Years 7 and 8 physics. I thought the textbooks were dreadful and although the school said I could buy new ones, I couldn’t find any that I liked for the age group. So I sat down one summer and started writing my own! It was simply photocopied and bound together but served its purpose very well. A few years later, I got a call from a lady at what was then Addison-Wesley-Longman, saying that she’d seen my physics textbook and would like to publish it as part of a larger work. She asked if I'd be interested in writing another book to which I responded that as long it was biology I would. So, I decided to take a sabbatical from teaching to write. In the end that sabbatical has lasted until now, and I have made my living out of writing science textbooks for the last twenty years.
The book that I started work on at Longman (now part of Pearson Education) was "Exploring Science" for Key Stage 3 Science. I wrote the biology sections for the three books in the series (together with all the teachers materials, worksheets etc.) and also took on the role of series editor for the course (essentially designing how the course worked and taking the output from the contributing chemistry and physics authors and integrating everything). That course has now seen five editions, including one aimed at international markets.
Aside from that I have written and edited three biology GCSE courses for Pearson, including the most recent 9-1 GCSE Sciences for Edexcel. I’ve written revision guides and test materials (available on the High Street), I’ve written books on science and maths skills, written for two courses designed for students learning science (in English) in the Far East, and produced countless other textbooks, lab books, workbooks etc. I’m currently working on a course for the Middle East, which is being published in Arabic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit everyone hard. It’s particularly tough for school students having to adapt to a new way of learning, and for those in Years 11 and 13 not being able to do the exams that they have been building up to do. So I decided to go back to my beginnings and write some new worksheets that I though might be interesting and useful for teachers, parents and students and which could be used easily at home. All the worksheets are linked into the National Curriculum for Key Stage 3 and the GCSE specifications; some of the worksheets are written with supporting ongoing learning in Years 7 - 10, with a COVID-19 theme to add some topical interest. Others are aimed more at students in Year 11, encouraging them to use what they have learnt and apply it to aspects of the pandemic. The worksheets are all completely free to use and distribute and can be accessed here.
So my frustration with poor quality, boring textbooks spawned an entire career! I have to add that my interest in biology is completely down to the teaching that I had a Charterhouse, from Martin Lloyd, Chris Ellis and importantly from Robbie Allen. The last of those taught me for five years and I found him particularly inspirational. So much so that the title page of my PhD has a dedication to him (pictured below):