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