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Who's who in the staffroom

The days have long gone when schools were run by a head, some teachers and the trusty caretaker. Susannah Kirkman reveals the cast of characters who have joined them and the roles they might play


At Beacon primary school, which has 370 pupils, there are 35 support workers. Mrs Pedagogue, the head teacher, says she could not run the school without them.

The school secretary, Mrs Friend, has excellent people skills. She often sorts out problems raised by parents. As well as answering the phone and dealing with parents and other visitors to the school, Mrs Friend organises the head's diary and keeps her correspondence up to date.

The financial secretary, Ms Addit, orders equipment, deals with invoices and settles the accounts. She also monitors information on the school budget received from the education authority every month and follows up any queries from the head.

Ms Addit has regular meetings with the governors' finance committee and helps to set the school budget. She organises lettings and co-ordinates fundraising activities such as the selling of school photographs.

School security is not the only responsibility of Mr Handy, the caretaker. He is also the in-house property manager, dealing with any contractors and carrying out maintenance.

He has just redecorated the school's interior and put up new shelves. Mr Handy takes the football club, organises fixtures and runs the school office if the secretary is not there.

Mrs Mouse is responsible for data inputting. She collates and tracks pupils' results for the head teacher.

Ms Backup is the special educational needs administrator. She takes minutes at all the meetings involving the special educational needs coordinator (Senco) and helps with administration.

Teaching assistants at Beacon School have many different roles.Their main aim is to build their pupils' confidence and self-esteem so thatthe children all leave the school independent, literate and numerate.

Mrs Aid works with a named child who has a statement of special educational needs. She attends all the individual education planreviews with the class teacher andthe Senco.

Mrs Aid adapts what the class teacher is doing so that it is appropriate for the named child; she also works with three or four other pupils in the class who need extra support.

Mrs Target uses specific literacy and numeracy programmes with small groups of children. She follows learning objectives defined by the class teacher and fills in feedback sheets so the teacher can follow pupils' progress. Mrs Target is also involved with the teacher in planning lessons.

Mrs Stretch works with a group of able pupils in Years 5 and 6 to extend their maths skills. She is also a qualified first-aider. Mrs Stretch has been trained to administer emergency treatment for anaphylactic shock and diabetic hypoglycaemia.

Improving communication skills is the main role for Mrs Talk. She runs speech and language groups for children who need extra support, as well as social skills groups for pupils who find it difficult to communicate with their peers. Mrs Talk also works as a counsellor with troubled children.

Ms Little is the nursery nurse. She works in the reception class and attends all the planning meetings with the teachers. Ms Little uses an intensive literacy programme with small groups of pupils who need extra support with reading and writing. She keeps the class register and takes the class for a story.

Mrs Cook is a dinner lady. Beacon School has not handed its school meals service over to contractors, so Mrs Cook prepares lunches in the school kitchen, serves them and clears away. Mrs Break is one of the lunchtime assistants who look after the children while they are eating and then supervises them in the playground, showing the children new games. She also helped to draw up the school's behaviour management policy.

With thanks to Bar Hill Community primary school, Cambridgeshire


Scity Community College is an inner-city secondary school with 1,000 pupils. Mr Leader, the head teacher, relies on a raft of teaching assistants, who aim to meet the emotional, behavioural, learning and language needs of all the pupils who need extra support in class. The assistants work with teachers to make sure the lessons are accessible to all the students.

The teaching assistants are generally based in specific departments. Two of them, Ms Magnanimous and Mr Helpful, work with the access and inclusion teacher in an on-site centre. Some assistants help the teachers to write individual education plans for pupils with special needs. They review the plans with students every term.

Their other duties include writing reports for the teacher after each lesson, describing how pupils have worked. Assistants who are training to be teachers sometimes take lessons.

But there is also a huge range of support workers who fulfil other vital roles. Some of them work part-time and are funded externally, like the school liaison worker, Mr Link, who helps underachieving black and bilingual pupils. He works with students' families and monitors attendance.

The ethnic minority achievement assistant speaks Bengali and works with Bangladeshi, Afro-Caribbean and bilingual pupils.

Mr Young, the pupil support coordinator, liaises with outside agencies. He is a youth worker who counsels students in small groups or on a one-to-one basis.

The secondary support service worker, Ms Self, offers individual support to pupils at risk of exclusion. She also tries to build students' self-esteem through work experience projects and social skills courses.

Ms Aspirin, the school nurse, offers health education sessions, plus counselling and confidential advice for individual students at a drop-in centre.

Mrs Love, the support worker for looked-after children, has good links with local agencies like Connexions and social services. She supports refugee children and pupils who are in foster or council care.

The library assistant works with the chartered librarian so that the library can stay open from 8-5pm every day.

Science and technology technicians order and maintain equipment, repair textbooks, prepare chemicals, set up experiments and organise work which has been left for supply teachers. They carry out safety checks and one, Mr Fizzle, is a qualified first-aider. They sometimes work with small groups of pupils who are carrying out experiments.

ICT technicians service computers and deal with software problems, offering support with IT applications throughout the school.

Arts technicians are graduates in art and the performing arts, who work closely with teachers in lessons.

Midday supervisors can be site officers, teachers or teaching assistants, who are all paid extra to run clubs and activities for pupils during the lunch hour.

Catering assistants prepare food on site, including snacks for meetings and conferences. They are employed by outside contractors.

The caretaker, Mr Sergeant, is in charge of security and customer care on site, which is open every day to allow access by the community. Two site officers are responsible for day-to-day maintenance; they report to the estates manager.

In the school offices, there are two finance administrators. They order equipment, deal with invoices and payments, monitor the budget and report to the head and the governors' finance committee.

Four other full-time administrators collate staff data, check pupil groupings, input pupils' data and assessment results, administer exams and collect information on pupils with special needs. There is an attendance and admissions officer who deals with the reception of new pupils and monitors attendance.

The head's PA, Mrs Righthand, carries out personnel work, including resignations and new appointments, administering threshold and upper spine payments and police checks.

City College also has volunteer support workers. These include business mentors, who work with individual pupils to boost achievement. There are also stimulus students from the local university, who carry out enrichment work with gifted and talented pupils.

With thanks to Chesterton Community College, Cambridge

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