Who does what at school
Staff in different schools may have different titles, which can be confusing. Make sure you know what they mean and under what circumstances you need to have contact with them.
The more important members of staff are:
- Subject Teachers
- Head of subject
- Tutor or student support coordinator
- Head of Year or Key Stage coordinator
- Examinations Officer
- Head teacher and deputy head
The first person to contact with questions about a particular subject such as homework, exams, progress made and any areas of weakness that your child needs to focus on.
Head of subject
Contact them if you can’t get in touch with, or don’t get a satisfactory response from, the teacher. Of course, your teacher may be the head of subject
Tutor or student support coordinator
The first person to contact about non-subject topics, such as changes in your child’s attitude. In many schools, each student will have a tutor who stays with them throughout their time at the school – from year 7 through 11. That way they get to know both student and parent well. They are normally responsible for the general well-being of each child in their group, which might include regular attendance, personal appearance, progress in work, records, regular contact with parents and relations with teachers and other children. Make sure to check out what their responsibilities are and how your child can use them.
Head of Year or Key Stage coordinator
Contact them if you can’t get in touch with the tutor.
Examinations officers, or managers, are usually not teachers. They administer the whole exam process for the school – creating exam timetables, making sure special requirements are met and liasing with exam boards. They will be able to tell you what exams your son or daughter has been entered for. But they won’t have this information until the teacher gives it to them, which might be close to the last entry date, so the teacher is your first call. However, the examinations officer may be easier to contact. Personally, if I want to find out about the course or exams a new student is taking, I always contact the EO first.
Head teacher or deputy head
Contact them if all else fails!
There are other staff and non-staff roles that are worth knowing about.
- Teaching assistant
- Higher level teaching assistant
- Cover supervisor
- Learning skills mentor
- Parent support advisor
The role of a teaching assistant (TA) varies from school to school. They work under the supervision of the classroom teacher and may support an individual or a group of pupils. Some schools employ TAs who have a specialism, such as literacy, numeracy, English as an additional language, the creative arts or special education needs. They are not required to lead lessons but may supervise a class if the teacher is temporarily unavailable.
HLTAs have had extra training to enable them to take on limited teaching responsibilities. As schools find it increasingly hard to find money, there is a fear than HLTAs, or even Tas, may be ‘encouraged’ to lead classes, saving the school the costs of hiring expensive supply teachers or using over-worked or absent cover supervisors. Like teachers, good teaching assistants are worth their weight in gold – bad ones can be dreadful. Ask your child what they think of their teaching assistants and what they actually do in class. If they start to take over responsibilities from the teacher, it may be time to get in touch to find out what’s going on.
Not all schools employ cover supervisors. If they do, they are usually permanent members of staff and therefore get to know students well. But they are not trained to teach. They look after a whole class of children and conduct pre-planned lessons for teachers that are absent, providing guidance, advice and classroom management. Again, ask your child how often cover supervisors take over from the teacher and what do they do.
Learning skills mentors
They work mainly with children who experience what are known as ‘barriers to learning’, including poor literacy or numeracy skills, under-performance, poor attendance, disaffection, danger of exclusion, difficult family circumstances and low self-esteem. They work with such pupils one-to-one outside the classroom helping them to create an agreed action plan for overcoming their difficulties. Part of their role is to talk to parents and carers. They also work closely with teachers and other professionals, such as social workers, educational psychologists, education welfare officers and Connexions personal advisers. If you feel that your child is not doing well, find out it there is a Learning Skills Mentor and get in touch.
Parent support advisors
If your school has them, they are not members of staff. They’ll be available throughout the day at school or can visit home. They can work with parents and carers to help them become more involved with the school. They also support parents and carers to take up learning opportunities themselves if they feel that would help. They can offer support to parents when children first show signs of social emotional, health or behavioural difficulties. They can let parents and carers know of other agencies and support in the community – And offer one-to-one support and parenting programmes to parents needing additional support. They can also point you in the direction of specialist services
So, make sure you know if your school has a PSA if you feel you may need support of any kind.
Again, these are not members of staff. The board of governors plays a strategic and monitoring role, meaning it concentrates on the issues of school leadership, leaving the day-to-day running of the school to the Headteacher, who remains accountable for school performance to the Governing Body. Governors are, however, involved in reviewing exclusions and dealing with any cases of staff disciplinary appeals. Although the composition of the Governing Body reflects a wide range of community groups, members have a collective responsibility for decisions made. So, individual members are unable to act as a representative for anyone in an individual case.
If you have questions about this topic, do ask me. Use the contact form below.