Education and Training for School Support Staff

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2013 Local Government Service Group Conference
19 February 2013

Cuts to budgets across the UK are hitting the training and development of school support staff. Research by the Institute of Education (IoE) on the effectiveness of Teaching Assistants (TAs) has been misinterpreted by some and reports such as the Sutton Trust Toolkit to Improve Learning suggest that TAs have little or no impact on pupil attainment. UNISON’s report, ‘The Evident Value of Teaching Assistants’, demonstrates that headteachers regard TA pastoral, teaching and administrative roles as vital to pupils and schools. Some do, however, suggest that the lack of funding and training and development opportunities for support staff is a major obstacle across the UK.

Increasingly local authorities faced with shrinking central government funding are withdrawing or struggling to provide training programmes to school staff. Also, the increase in academies is further diverting resources and the lack of economies of scale in stand-alone schools means that training budgets are focussed on teachers rather than other staff.

In addition in England, the Teaching Agency, the government body responsible for school staff training, is merging with other school bodies and has had its resources cut. It now focuses on teachers with no budget for support staff. So, while still responsible for higher level teaching assistant standards, for example, there is no funding for independent assessment of them, which is now delegated to schools.

UNISON believes that training and development is a vital responsibility of employers and that our priority on training should be supporting union learning reps and negotiating learning agreements. This said, the service group welcomes regional and branch initiatives to set up training courses for school staff, supporting their professional development and recruitment and organisation.

Conference calls on the service group executive to:

1)Continue to lobby government and the Teaching Agency’s successor body on the importance of support staff training and the need for resourced national training initiatives;

2) Carry out a survey of training opportunities for support staff in community schools;

3) Raise the issue of training and career development with the National Joint Council, academy chains and other employer bodies;

4) Resist cuts to training budgets and press to ensure that training funds are available for all support staff;

5) Encourage branches and regions to develop professional training programmes for school staff;

6) Develop a campaign to achieve the above.