Mersh, Irene E.
Supporting children's acquisition of language and literacy: an investigation into the work of classroom assistants in mainstream primary schools.
The Open University.
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This small-scale ethnographic study reports on an investigation into the ways in which classroom assistants support the development of children’s language and literacy in a limited number of mainstream primary schools. The purpose of the study was to gain an understanding of the ways in which assistants support children, the influence of school policies on their work and how, or if, their own language and literacy practices affected their work. The study was carried out between 1997- 2000, a period, which coincided with the introduction of the National Literacy Strategy. Phase One, a pilot study documented the work of classroom assistants in one urban primary school for 5 - 11 year olds. Phase Two, the distribution of a questionnaire survey to 39 urban primary schools and brief observations and interviews in eight of those schools was based on the information obtained in phase one. The data from phase two was analysed and used to select three schools for phase three, two primary and one infant as ‘core data’ schools. This report discusses the results from the questionnaire, semi-structured interviews and observations. It indicates some of the ways in which assistants’ personal literacy practices were used to support children and the links between these and school policy documents. The findings suggest that the management style and ethos of a school affected the deployment of assistants, their access to training and their status as members of staff. The study concludes that heads and teachers need to be aware of not only of what assistants are asked to do but how they do it in order to monitor and evaluate their work, use the skills they bring to the job and plan tailored training.
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