Yes, this article is a homage to those first impressions with the endless talents. All hail the office staff.
Ask any headteacher who the people are without whom they could not do their jobs, and often topping the charts are the angels of the office.
These multi-talented souls are the gatekeepers of our schools. But they also often double up roles, like Miss Rabbit in Peppa Pig.
Why school office staff are amazing
They juggle multiple jobs with an encyclopaedic knowledge of hundreds of family dynamics, dinner monies, staff foibles and a magical talent for coaxing recalcitrant photocopiers back from the brink of a hysteria-inducing reprographics demise.
Smiling, calm and utterly unflappable in the face of vomiting children and disgruntled parents, our office staff set the tone and the weather for anyone who has contact with our schools.
Their ability to whip up documents from disparate sources for governor meetings is second to none.
And their technical wizardry means that every newsletter is sent out on time, and also that all parents receive the text reminders about trips, clubs and crossing patrols.
They are the voice of calm and clarity on our answering machines, and are the friendly faces who help new parents to navigate the oceans of paperwork and systems in our schools.
Finding a pen that works
Unlike many other staff, they can always find a pen that works, their scissors are never covered in glue and their hole-punches work like a dream.
Surrounded by a fluttering flock of Post-It notes, they deftly juggle dozens of messages from multiple staff and parents, while simultaneously carrying out the rest of their work.
They are known by every single parent, child and staff member in the school. They are the linchpins of the school family and the glue that binds together the work of every staff member.
Surrounded by dropped-off PE bags, forgotten lunchboxes, deliveries in variously sized cardboard boxes, and the ever-present sick bucket, their changing backdrop illustrates the hugely varied aspects of their role.
It is often to the office that a sick or injured child is sent. Then our office staff swap their computer mouse for a thermometer, and move deftly from accountant to nurse. They’ll be the ones to call home and reassure an anxious parent when a child has a bumped head or a temperature.
They move seamlessly between roles, bustling to collect the child’s belongings while still manning the phones and reassuring the small patient. With their next breath, they’ll then be signing for deliveries and liaising with construction staff or producing spreadsheets for a finance meeting.
Keepers of confidential information
They know the name and year group of every single child in the school, as well as possessing a spooky talent for identifying the owners of lost property without even needing to look at the labels.
They are the keepers of our most confidential information, and integral to the safe recruitment of our teams. They ensure that our records are all up to date, and they know all of the numbers, codes and dates that we might have otherwise lost.
If teachers are the engine rooms of the school, then the office staff are the on-board computer, the black box of the organisation, which records every aspect of the school’s work with precision, clarity and attention to detail.
They alert key members of staff to any potential impending disasters, and can be a wonderful testing of the organisation’s temperature.
They are utterly indispensable in every scenario, from ensuring the registers are collected in a fire drill to making sure the staff are in meetings at the right place at the right time.
Yes, the office staff are definitely school gems: infinitely talented, utterly unruffled and the binding agent for us all. Now, please don’t nick their pens.
Emma Turner is the research and CPD lead for Discovery Schools Trust, Leicestershire. She tweets @Emma_Turner75