28th September 2001 at 01:00
PLAYWORK. By Penny Tassoni. Heinemann pound;14.99.

ENHANCING LEARNING THROUGH PLAY. By Christine Macintyre. David Fulton pound;14.

PLANNING PLAY AND THE EARLY YEARS. By Penny Tassoni and Karen Hucker. Heinemann pound;10.99.

The Playwork National Vocational Qualification was launched in 1992 as a way of raising the quality of play provision by identifying standards and meeting the qualified staff requirements of the Children Act 1989. The award has been designed to give playworkers recognition for the work they do, through assessment of their practice, and is usually offered alongside a taught course for those needing to gain a deeper understanding of play.

However, textbooks linked to the Playwork national occupational standards are few and far between, so I opened Penny Tassoni's book with interest. This SNVQ level 3 candidate handbook, aimed at students wishing to qualify as playworkers in charge of a play setting, covers all nine mandatory units of the award and four of the 10 options.

Following a brief introduction, the author addresses one unit per chapter, providing an overview of what needs to be learned, as well as case studies. Each chapter contains a short test to help candidates check their knowledge, understanding and evidence of skills, and features sections on "active learning" and "consolidation".

At first, this approach does not offer much that sets playwork into context historically or theoretically. For example, while out of school provision has expanded massively in the past 10 years, there are still many adventure playgrounds and open-access schemes where children are not booked in by parents and carers, but come along of their own free will. However, the book does not acknowledge such settings and their contribution to children's play provision, despite their important role. Tutors need to be aware of this and be prepared to fill the gaps if the award is to fulfil its aim.

The list of useful addresses at the end of the book omits some of the more important national organisations. Overall, this text could provide a useful basis for playwork SNVQ candidates, but needs to be supplemented with theoretical texts if it is to offer a depth of learning.

Enhancing Learning through Play offers a different approach, setting out the arguments in favour of children's free play and providing a good basis for exploring children's development through play. Although it focuses on children in their early years, it could contribute to the learning of students working with any age of child. It contains a comprehensive bibliography.

Planning Play and the Early Years is essentially a student handbook, with references to theory, largely in the area of child development. The section on Play covers the history and definition and the influences on early years provision; Planning outlines types of plan and ways of producing, implementing and evaluating plans; and Early Years Curriculum contains practical activities linked to plans in the previous section that can be adapted to individuals and groups.

These three different books complement each other well and provide a good basis for learning about children's play.

Lesli Godfrey is development officer at the National Centre for Playwork Education

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