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The primary aim of this work was to understand the roles, responsibilities and tasks that classroom-based support staff working in primary schools were asked to undertake.

Main findings

  • The main motivation for support staff in undertaking their role is to contribute to pupil learning and this is highly valued by schools
  • Support staff are now a large element of the workforce in primary schools. Most staff have been in employment in the same school for a relatively long period of time, with most reporting they had worked for five years or more at their current school. However there is still a strong dependency on grant funding to employ this workforce.
  • The importance of ongoing access to professional learning opportunities was widely recognised.
  • Although the level of qualifications held by support staff has improved over time, the research evidence indicates that many staff lack sufficiently high enough level qualifications for the roles they are undertaking.
  • There is recognition that support staff have a positive impact on reducing teacher workload, supporting and developing pupil wellbeing and social skills and links with the community.
  • There is also a recognition that support staff play an important role in developing ‘softer skills’ in pupils. This includes self-confidence, developing pupil’s social skills, enriching the pupil experience of school and supporting pupils with specific needs or emotional and behavioural difficulties. These impacts were highly valued in schools.


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David Roberts

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