Support Staff – the critical backbone in any school or MAT

Around half of the school workforce is made up of support staff ( some schools call them Associate Staff, some say ‘none teaching staff’) whatever you call these critical members of your workforce they occasionally  struggle to get their voices heard.  There are thousands of schools where support staff are treated well and are seen as equals and are valued for their wonderful contribution. However in some schools we know that perhaps support staff are not always a priority. 

Without these vital members of staff, supporting teaching, giving pastoral support, admin support, ensuring the site is Covid secure and of course ensuring the IT infrastructure is fit for Remote Learning we wouldn’t be able to run or schools or achieve half as much.

In my own teaching school team I personally couldn’t do the job I do without the support of many support staff.

If I just think about today, so far I have called on our trust IT Lead for help, liaised with our finance team for advice, met with administrators in my own team and had a useful phone call from a teaching assistant in my daughter’s school. When I think back to my last GCSE English group I remember I had a wonderful TA who was wonderful with the students and such a support to me.

Consider the support staff you work with, How could you make them feel more valued beyond good manners?

Remember a parent’s first  exposure to your school is quite possibly the receptionist who answers the phone. We often forget how crucial these interactions are.

Does your school offer customer service training to front facing colleagues? Has SLT  Did anyone ever sit with this staff member and stress how important they are to the overall process and to the achievement of the corporate objectives?  Any support staff position that interfaces with the public becomes, in essence, a huge part of your communications strategy communicating the culture of the company by their very actions and behaviours.

We have recently consulted a number of our partner schools who would all like to us to offer more CPD opportunities for support staff/associate staff so we are really excited to share that we are building an offer……..

Our first courses for support staff  are focussed on two areas: Mental Health skills and an offer around Reading for TAs. We will be adding more and more to this though and we welcome your ideas too.

Here are some top tips for ensuring a really inclusive approach taken from @teachertoolkit

  • Keep support staff involved in all discussions and training plans to identify priorities for their own development.
  • Review support staff appraisal and line-management structure to ensure all groups of staff are supported and challenged throughout every area of the school.
  • Ensure support staff have a meaningful training programme during INSET days.
  • Have a senior teacher as the main point of contact for their staff developmental needs. This will ensure that the day is given priority and that the training is viewed as important as all the rest.
  • Include support staff in after-school meetings and twilights, but do consider their working contracts and how you could overcome those barriers.
  • Remind support staff who their main point of contact is for their own professional development. This is often their line-manger, and then the CPD leader or a combination of staff.
  • Ensure training is coordinated between the individual member of staff, their line-manager and that information is shared.
  • Support staff need an array of tailored CPD sessions. These must be planned in advance, advertised and not add-ons.
  • Contemplate utilising the skills of your teaching staff who have something beneficial to share with groups of support staff. This is a perfect way to establish a CPD and a ‘grow-your-own’ talent culture.
  • Or even better, get your support staff to lead CPD for your teaching staff. You’d be surprised how much talent is lurking away in your school offices and cupboards.
  • Whatever you do, invest in your support staff because we would all be lost without them.
Alliance for Learning
Cavendish Road, Bowdon
Altrincham WA14 2NL
Proud to part of the Bright Futures Education Trust