With a wide range of school support staff roles out there, making sense of the opportunities on offer can be challenging. Several school support staff roles involve working alongside teaching teams. For example, teaching assistants, pastoral support and sports coaches. But there are other roles that don’t involve working directly with teaching teams. These range from administrative officers and bursars to ICT technicians and site managers. The variation of roles reflects the fact that schools operate much like mini-communities, with cooperation required between staff teams.
It may be that you have administrative or finance experience in an office environment, and like the idea of using your skills as part of a school community. There are positions in schools that require a wide range of skills and areas of expertise. So, the options below are well worth considering whatever your background.
But with a myriad of acronyms and role titles used, working out which school support staff role is suitable for you can be confusing. So, we’ve put together this guide to give you an introduction to the various support staff roles that you will encounter in your job search:
School support staff roles
The school support staff roles below involve working alongside the teaching teams and making a contribution to student learning and wellbeing:
Teaching Assistants (TAs) –
The term Teaching Assistant (TA) is now often used as the wider category for a range of school support staff roles. One of the most common queries we receive is on the difference between a teaching assistant and a learning support assistant (see below).
In most cases, if you are a TA working in a primary school you assist the class teacher with individual or group work and carry out general duties such as displays and admin preparation. At secondary school, TAs are more likely to be assigned to a particular student. You would be directed by the SENCo (Special Education Needs Coordinator)
Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) –
An LSA (Learning Support Assistant) is usually required to work in an intervention role with specific children perhaps with special education needs and differentiated learning. This is usually carried out in small groups or on a 1:1 basis.
The roles titles of TA and LSA are interchangeable in some local authorities, who put all support under the catchall term Teaching Assistant. Therefore, it’s always important to check in with your consultant to ensure you are clear on the expectations of the school.
Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs) –
HLTAs (Higher Level Teaching Assistant) or HLSA (Higher Level Learning Support Assistant) work in schools in close association with teachers, providing important support for teaching and learning activities. HLTAs can work right across the curriculum, acting as a specialist assistant for a specific subject or department helping them to plan lessons and develop support materials.
An HLTA does all the things that regular teaching assistants do but the biggest difference is the increased level of responsibility. For example, HLTAs teach classes on their own, cover planned absences and allow teachers time to plan and mark. Becoming an HLTA requires a qualification. In 2012 the DFE withdrew funding for these qualifications, so these will either be self-funded or funded by your school. We would suggest the Higher Level Teaching Assistant HLTA NCFE Level 4 Diploma.
Learning Mentors –
Learning mentors give support to children and young people who are having difficulties in learning due to social, emotional or behavioural problems or other issues. Mentors aim to help pupils overcome these barriers to their learning. This may include 1:1 sessions in and out of class.
Language Assistants / EAL TAs –
In this role, you would support students who use English as an Additional Language (EAL). If you are bilingual then you could put your language skills to use in support students’ learning of English. Like TAs and learning mentors, Language assistants are also required to tailor support to match learner’s needs. The ultimate aim is for students to become independent, cooperative and collaborative learners.
Pastoral Advisors and Counsellors –
Pastoral care is the provision schools make to ensure the physical and emotional welfare of all children. You would offer guidance and advice to students to enable them to make positive choices about their learning. This could include behaviour and emotional support.
PPA Teachers –
This is a common school support staff teaching role, and many primary schools will employ PPA teachers full time. At primary level, this role is likely to include a subject specialism: P.E., Dance, Music, or Modern Foreign Languages. As Primary teachers have quite regular Planning, Preparation and Assessment time (PPA) – usually a full morning or afternoon each week – PPA primary teachers usually have fixed timetables. This fits well with delivering a subject specialism across the year groups.
At secondary school level, PPA time tends to be a lot more changeable and usually in 1-hour slots throughout the week. Therefore, the role is often referred to as ‘cover supervisor.’
Cover Supervisors –
A Cover Supervisor will provide supervision of classes across the curriculum in the event of the absence (planned or unplanned) of the regular class teacher. You are responsible for ensuring that pupils are engaged in pre-set work, managing pupil behaviour and ensuring a safe environment. This is usually quite a varied role in terms of subjects covered as you will need to teach the cover work set by the teacher.
Sports Coach –
Sports coaches within schools will have responsibilities across all Physical Education delivered and will work across several year groups. They may work closely with the P.E. subject lead within a school.
Sports coaches will be expected to plan and lead P.E lessons, with a focus on competitive game sessions. They will be involved in planning and organising sports clubs and intra-school competitions. They will need to be confident in ensuring the assessment of pupil performance is recorded accurately. All school support staff working in the PE team will guide staff and students on the safe use of sports equipment. Working hours are likely to be focused around after-school commitments, for example after school sports clubs.
Support staff roles within the school office
The below roles work as part of the wider school community but not directly with teaching teams. These roles are also integral to the smooth running of schools:
HR Managers –
A vital school support staff role, Human Resources (HR) managers within schools have a wide range of responsibilities. HR managers support and advise the leadership team on the management and support of staff. HR managers are involved in ensuring schools meet all statutory employment and equality regulations. Data maintained by the school will be assisted by the HR team, including performance management of staff, performance and attendance, wellbeing initiatives. Also, HR staff play an important role in safeguarding children by overseeing procedures and maintaining central records of any incidents or concerns.
HR managers also often assist in the recruitment process, attending recruitment fairs and communicating with candidates as part of the interview and recruitment process.
School Bursars and Business Managers –
A Bursar manages and oversees financial operations of student, faculty, and staff accounts. They provide leadership and direction for tuition and fee structure, financial resources, billing, petty cash, and payments. Being a Bursar makes you are the custodian of a school’s funds.
Administrative Officers –
Administrators are responsible for providing administrative support for a school. They play a crucial role in the day-to-day life of a school by providing a wide range of administrative support to keep everything running as smoothly as possible.
Administrative Officers often act as the main point of contact for all employees, providing administrative support and managing their queries. Main duties would include managing office stock, preparing reports (e.g. expenses and budgets) and organizing school records.
Attendance / Timetabling Officers –
Attendance officers monitor and advise the school on strategies to promote all pupils’ regular and punctual attendance. They assist with the implementation of agreed strategies across the school. Attendance officers are responsible for maintaining school records, analysing attendance data and providing reports to senior managers and other professionals.
Site Managers –
Historically referred to as ‘care takers’, Site managers act as the school’s main health and safety officer. Line managing the caretaking team, they maintain the security of the site and buildings. Additionally, site managers act as the budget holder for repairs and maintenance, health and safety, furniture and fittings. This is an active role where you will have working relationships with most staff across the school.
Playground & Midday Meal Supervisors –
Midday supervisors oversee groups of children during break and mealtimes. Bear in mind, this is a social time – children will not be asked to sit in silence. Supervisors must act as responsible caring adults with the children’s health, safety, and welfare always in mind. Midday meal supervisors must show conduct that commands respect, that shows children they must behave sensibly and respectfully.
ICT Technicians –
ICT technicians look after school networks, install, order and maintain software and hardware. They provide technical support to teachers and pupils. Depending on the size of the school, ICT technicians work by themselves or as part of a team.
Examination Invigilators –
Examination invigilators ensure that examinations are conducted according to current guidelines. You would need to attend invigilator training to be eligible for work. Importantly, invigilators must be present in the room during examinations.
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