What should you call staff that aren't teaching staff? By Sarah Jones

Support staff: What’s in a name and does it matter? By Sarah Jones

There has been quite a lot of discussion in recent times about what to call those who work in schools but are not actually teachers. I must admit to initially being somewhat perplexed, wondering if it really mattered but then a colleague asked me what I called them. My answer “support staff”. She then asked me why I was grouping staff into such a category. Didn’t this categorisation by definition create a divide into “us and them”? and in doing so, didn’t it create a lesser category of staff? It doesn’t take a massive leap to see how this could be taken as a negative i.e. for those in the “support staff” category to see themselves as lesser and it isn’t a huge step further to see how this could demoralise, demotivate and lead to feelings of under-appreciation.

The purpose of all school staff is to help young people

No-one will argue with the statement that the primary purpose of a school is to teach young people and the main people doing this will be teachers. That’s a fact. However, I think we would all agree that teachers would find it very difficult, if not impossible - to teach in a dangerous building, with no resources, no ICT, no administrative, no behavioural support, etc. The support that teachers receive from “non” teachers is vital for them to do their job properly. It is not lesser – far from it.

Schools are wonderful places. They are vibrant, full of energy, challenging and inspirational. Every person working in them is there to provide the best possible education for the young people in their care – that’s the common goal. People working together towards a common goal is actually the definition of a team, so I think it is fair to say that all those who work in a school are part of one team. Isn’t it time then to move away from the support staff grouping and move towards classification by specialism? Towards teams?

Teams have strengths that you must play to

It is known that a motivated, well-constructed team will produce greater results than the sum of its parts and that is the joy of it – just look at Leicester in the 2015-16 football season! In any successful sporting team, each position is crucial. No role is greater or lesser than another and each player has their own qualities to bring. What benefit would come from minimising defence over attack? You won’t taste success with a team full of strikers nor will you with a brace of goalkeepers. What you need is the right balance and an understanding that each team member is equally important at different times in the game. If you accept this analogy then logically we should cease the “support staff” categorisation and think of everyone in school as part of the team, each knowing what position they play, what they need to do, playing different positions depending on strengths and attributes e.g. teaching team, business management team, learning support team, etc all working together focused on a common goal. No part seen as lesser? All cogs in the same machine? What do you think? Let’s go! #teameducation


Join the debate on Twitter by mentioning @AccidentalSBM and @gls_education in your tweets.