Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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School workforce reform helps pupils’ learning if support staff are properly trained and deployed

The wider schools workforce, including teaching assistants and learning mentors, is making a difference to pupils’ learning, according to a report published recently by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. However, the report also shows that these staff must be effectively deployed, well managed and properly trained.

The wider schools workforce includes: learning support staff such as teaching assistants who work with teachers in classrooms; pupil support and welfare staff who help outside classrooms; administrative staff; and specialist and technical staff such as librarians and technicians.

The report, Workforce reform in schools: has it made a difference?, looked at the impact in 30 schools of recruiting a wider range of staff since 2003 to raise standards and tackle teacher workload. It is the fifth report in a series by Ofsted evaluating the effectiveness of wider workforce reform since the 2003 National Workforce Agreement. This latest report shows some schools are now making much better use of their wider workforce than those visited soon after the reforms were introduced.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, Ofsted, said: 'The effectiveness of the workforce reforms put in place in 2003 depends on all school staff being valued and treated as professionals. Good headteachers see the learning and development of all members of the school’s staff as important. Staff are most effective when they have good training, when their skills are carefully deployed, and when they are held accountable for their contribution to pupils’ learning.

'Workforce reform should mean more staff working together in schools, with a strong plan for improvement. In the best performing schools in this report, workforce reform has had a considerable impact on pupils’ learning'.

Twenty-four of the 30 schools visited could show how members of the wider workforce had contributed to improving pupils’ learning. The six most effective schools had raised standards and achievement significantly since 2004 and could provide secure evidence of the contribution that workforce reform had made to this improvement.

In these six schools, leaders had ensured that all their staff had clear professional status, were well trained, were deployed effectively and were held accountable for their contribution to pupils’ learning and well-being.

The survey found that joint planning between teachers and support staff, an understanding of how support staff contributed to learning, and their direct involvement in helping to assess and record pupils’ progress led to more effective classroom work. Focusing support staff on areas of work that were directly related to their qualifications and training also had a positive impact.

In one primary school a learning mentor provided a carefully designed programme of support for pupils whose behaviour was challenging. Regular monitoring took place and evaluation sheets were used to keep teachers informed. The evaluations were sent to the pupils’ secondary schools and because they were in quantifiable form, if further support was needed, they could be used again to re-assess pupils.

However the report reveals there is still much to be done to ensure the wider workforce fully benefit pupils’ learning. Few of the schools in the survey tracked the effectiveness of such support, and problems could re-emerge when pupils who had been successfully supported at primary school moved on to secondary school or from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4. Very few of the schools visited monitored how the extra teacher time freed up by workforce reform was being used.

Despite the recommendations of the four previous reports by Ofsted, only three of the schools knew about the Training and Development Agency’s (TDA) career development framework for the wider workforce. This was seen to have delayed the development of the wider workforce as a fully trained professional body.

Notes for Editors

1. The report, Workforce reform in schools: has it made a difference?, can be found on the Ofsted website .

2. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

3. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 6864 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 08456 404040 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.

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