Support Staff

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How would teachers survive without the work of our support staff?

Do not underestimate the importance of having support staff working around you and within your school. Without these vital members of staff, supporting teaching and learning would have its limitations.

This month, we lose a member of our support staff to pastures new. Without their work and their support –  I (personally) would not be able to do all the work that I do: the policies; whole-school appraisal; staff development for over 200 people; administrative tasks and so forth. 

Unsung Heroes:

But even working as a senior leader, I consider all the support staff I have worked with at various stages throughout my career. Working with over 100+ support staff in the secondary schools I have worked in, the list of expertise goes on …

  • classroom teaching assistants
  • IT technicians
  • subject (design technology, science) technicians
  • site team, premises staff, cleaners
  • learning support assistants
  • finance and human resources
  • counselors, therapists and social workers
  • office staff and administrative support
  • library and out-of-school staff e.g. bus travel home

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Image: Shutterstock

We all know support staff are the backbone of any school and in many, the unsung heroes.

These members of staff are – fundamentally in place – to support the teaching and learning of the school and their job roles are wide and complex. In short, they are experts in their field and need just as precise, if not, tailored, targeted-training and recognition as much as teachers do. But, how do we recognise the impact support staff have on our schools?

What Do You Know?

It always breaks my heart when a member of support staff provides feedback in a staff survey or in an exit interview, that teaching staff often ignore them; that some staff make no eye-contact and don’t even say ‘hello!’ In my experience, some teaching staff view support staff as people who ‘just do the photocopying’ or ‘ move tables and chairs and close the windows!’

I’m sorry, but this is just not good enough.

We are all busy people, but good manners and a ‘thank you’ costs nothing!

How well do you know your support staff?  Who is the person that cleans your classroom?  Do you know them by name?  Do you know anything about them?  Do you say ‘good morning’ and ‘goodnight’?  Just the simple things can make the difference …


Why not consider support staff working in your school? How could you make them feel more valued beyond good manners?

  1. Keep support staff involved in all discussions and training plans to identify priorities for their own development.
  2. Review support staff appraisal and line-management structure to ensure all groups of staff are supported and challenged throughout every area of the school.
  3. Ensure support staff have a meaningful training programme during INSET days.
  4. 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.
  5. Include support staff in after-school meetings and twilights, but do consider their working contracts and how you could overcome those barriers.
  6. 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.
  7. Ensure training is coordinated between the individual member of staff, their line-manager and that information is shared.
  8. Support staff need an array of tailored CPD sessions. These must be planned in advance, advertised and not add-ons.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

*note, the member of support staff is not leaving because I have failed to say good morning and goodnight.


8 thoughts on “Support Staff

  1. Couldn’t agree more. As I trained to be a drama teacher the first thing drummed into us was the importance of our relationship with the caretaker. When I first started teaching there was minimal support staff, the teacher did everything -dinner duties, displays, collecting dinner money etc. Now staff have more time to concentrate on actually teaching. I was very annoyed when my son worked for a while on the caretaking staff of the school and a colleague made a disparaging comment to him.
    I have always been one first name terms with all support staff and particularly when there is a TA attached to pupil accept they know far more than I about that particular pupil and I refer to them.
    From a teaching point of view: I attended a Buddhist meditation course which reinforced that we are all interdependent and often use this in form period PSE etc. Ask the pupils how many people helped them come to school today? From experience the most pupils say is 3 or 4. Ask them if they came by bus – that adds the bus driver, mechanics, petro-chemical industry, etc. Those who walked, were the paths clear? That brings in all the council workers etc. Are you wearing clothes? Did you create the material, tailor them? Did you eat anything? Did you grow the food, was it packaged, delivered etc. They then start to realise that we are interdependant, and I always stress that there are no “lowly” jobs as we need all of them to be done.

  2. Agree wth you on all f your points. Adults in schools should be good role models and manners cost nothing. I especially like number 3. Tidying the cupboards should be banned on development days. Replace with high quality, appropriate training.

  3. …and start paying them the correct rate for their skills & experience, rather than devaluing the roles via exploitation of apprenticeships & lack of union membership, and constant bolting-on of extra responsibilities without amending job roles & wages to match… that’d fix a lot of the discontent quite rapidly!!

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Academies are the worst for exploitation of staff in general, support staff in particular.

  4. Well said! Having been Head of Faculty of Drama working with support staff (who have been priceless to my work life) and school cleaner I have seen this from both sides. My teaching career would not have been sustained without the help and support from these unsung heroes. My work as a cleaner was enhanced by those staff who recognised me as a human being and made me proud to undertake this work.

  5. It would be lovely if your site had a section for support staff who don’t teach but support teachers’ work and work alongside them in different roles. I’ve been looking online for such as blog or twitter account and not found one yet!

    1. Hi – that’s a good point. We have written some blogs for support staff, but not often enough. Please send ideas to Holly (editor) on Contact[AT]TeacherToolkit[dot]co[dot]uk – Thanks, Ross

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