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Rise and rise of support army

Schools want to conserve teachers' energies for teaching, so the number of assistants is destined to increase.

THERE has been further impressive growth in the number of non-teaching school staff, according to latest figures from the Department for Education and Employment.

Their numbers have increased much faster than teachers over the past few years.

As more children under the age of five have entered school, there has been a marked rise in the number of primary-school nursery assistants. Their numbers swelled by nearly 40 per cent between 1996 and 2000. The other growth area in primaries has been in special needs support staff, whose numbers grew by just over a third.

In the secondary sector, special needs support staff increased significantly. Numbers virtually doubled between 1996 and January 2000. There are now an average of four per school.

While the number of secretaries in secondary schools grew by just over a third in four years the number of bursars remained virtually static at 2,500 - an increase of 10. This is despite the extra management responsibilities that schools have taken on as funds have been delegated.

Primary schools now have an average of five non-teaching staff each while secondary schools average 14. Special schools have about 15 support staff with 12 of them special needs assistants.

Notably, one area still lacking support staff is information communications technology.

According to the DFEE, the number of technicians of all types employed to maintain and servie computers in secondary schools increased by only 14 per cent between 1996 and 2000.

Numbers of non-teaching staff are likely to continue to rise as schools conserve their teachers for teaching and use support staff for the other tasks traditionally undertaken by teachers.

John Howson

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University

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