THE TEACHING ASSISTANT'S HANDBOOK. By Janet Kay, Continuum pound;14.99.
TEACHING ASSISTANTS: Practical strategies for effective classroom support. By Maggie Balshaw and Peter Farrell, David Fulton. pound;16.
The long-overdue recognition of the important role played by teaching assistants has led to a new wave of publications. The publisher David Fulton has led the way, building on the success in the early 1990s of the pioneering A Handbook for Special Needs Assistants, by Glenys Fox, now in a new edition as A Handbook for Learning Support Assistants (David Fulton, pound;13).
Anne Watkinson's new guide, similar in style and appearance to Glenys Fox's, offers practical support to the general teaching assistant. The first two chapters look at what new LSAs need to know, while later chapters focus on learning in the classroom and the school.
Finally, there is a look at the wider education context and a useful section on professional development, which covers appraisal, the new occupational standards and qualifications.
The no-nonsense approach is rooted in the author's awareness of the realities of school life. This book helps teaching assistants to understand the boundaries and responsibilities of their role.
Janet Kay's Teaching Assistant's Handbook adopts a more theoretical stance. The handbook is aimed at those studying for the Council for Awards in Children's Care and Education (CACHE) specialist teacher assistant award or the new foundation degree for early-years practitioners.
Three useful chapters on supporting English, maths and science in key stage 1 draw heavily on national curriculum documents and literacy and numeracy guidelines. But essentially this is a reference book, providing supplementary reading for a higher-level taught course.
Similarly, Maggie Balshaw and Peter Farrell's Teaching Assistants: practical strategies for effective classroom support is aimed at teachers or more experienced teaching assistants undertaking a course of study. It outlines the findings of the 1999 Manchester University research into the management, role and training of LSAs, which was led by the authors and funded by the DfEE. There is a good chapter on developing clear job descriptions and accountabilities.
All three books precede the debate on the proposed "super teaching assistant" role and the current Government consultation. Each addresses a slightly different audience, but all are useful to those who work with teaching assistants as line managers or training providers.
Whether teaching assistants engaged in day-to-day classroom work will find the materials easy to access is far less certain. Unfortunately, these books are so dreary in appearance that only extremely motivated assistants will want to read more than a few pages.
Sarah Gale develops teaching assistants' training for the London borough of Tower Hamlets.