01 SES 04 C, Organisational Influences on Teachers
Parallel Paper Session
This article explores the development of support staff roles in secondary schools in England and questions whether the term ‘support staff’’ adequately describes the roles which these staff are adopting and the duties they are undertaking. Four case studies are presented from individuals who work as support staff in secondary schools in the North West, South East, Midlands and North of England. These studies reveal roles which involve strategic development of the curriculum and school policy, line management of staff, including teachers and significant management responsibilities within whole school contexts. The study is located in the context of School Workforce Remodelling in England, specifically the development of support staff to perform roles previously undertaken by teachers. The growth of support staff in schools was a phenomenon of the previous Government’s education policy and in the ten year period from 1997 to 2007 the number of support staff doubled and, as many work part-time, the total headcount is broadly equivalent to the number of teaching staff (TDA 2006). The development of support staff has been axiomatic with the dis-aggregation of the teacher role and there is a sense that support roles have been configured in terms of the redefinition of the teacher’s deconstructed position (Stevenson, 2007). Indeed education policy over the last decade has seen the teacher role increasingly constrained within a centrally devised curriculum and technocratic managerialist structure. Jones (2003:172) describes this situation as one in which teachers are ‘operationally central but strategically marginal’ and the disaggregation of the role and resultant labour substitution (by support staff) and deskilling (through disaggregation of the role) compounds this situation (Stevenson, 2007).
However, access to professional development to enable support staff to undertake these enhanced duties seems to occur in an ad-hoc, unplanned fashion often focused on informal observation of colleagues, self-selected formal learning in areas of personal interest and the acquisition of competence-based vocational qualifications which rely on retrospective self-assessment (Graves 2011).
However, it must be acknowledged that policy which defines the teacher’s role in such absolutist terms related solely to teaching and learning tangentially creates a situation where a pragmatic response is required from schools to absorb the peripheral duties previously associated with that role. In doing so it is suggested that teaching is being de-professionalised and reduced to as a series of technical interventions and strategies (Stevenson, 2007; Gunter and Rayner, 2007; Hammersley-Fletcher and Adnett 2009). If this is the case and the teachers’ role really is retracting, then the emergence of the enhanced support role may be the harbinger of this situation and the pragmatic imperatives which drive schools to deploy them in this way may reinforce this. The ad-hoc, idiosyncratic approach taken towards their development has implications for the coherence of the whole school workforce. Furthermore, in an era of austerity across Europe, the deployment of lower paid staff whose training costs are minimal may be attractive both to local and national governments and this presents a threat to the teacher role per se.
Bassey, M. (1999). Case Study Research in Educational Settings. Buckingham: Open University Press. Graves, S (2011) Performance or Enactment? the role of the Higher Level Teaching Assistant in a Remodelled Workforce in England, Management in Education, 25(1)15-20 Gunter HM and Rayner S (2007) Modernizing the School Workforce in England: Challenging Transformation and Leadership? Leadership 3(1): 47-64. Hammersley-Fletcher L and Adnett N (2009) Empowerment or Prescription? Workforce Remodelling at the National and School Level. Educational Management Administration and Leadership 37(2): 180-197. Jones, K. (2003). Education in Britain: 1944 to present. Cambridge: Polity Press Stake, R. (2000). Case studies. In Denzin N and Lincoln Y.S Handbook of Qualitative Research 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA,:Sage. Stevenson H (2007) Restructuring Teachers' Work and Trade Union Responses in EnglandBargaining for Change? American Educational Research Journal 44(2): 224-251. TDA. (2006) Developing people to support learning. A skills strategy for the wider workforce 2006-09. www.tda.gov.uk (accessed December 2009).
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