Let’s hear it for support staff – the unsung heroes who keep schools going

We would do well to remember the canteen staff, the receptionists and the cleaners who will be battling to keep schools open in the next few weeks, writes Ed Dorrell

<p>There are 250,000 support staff in England’s schools, a number that rises to 450,000 if you include teaching assistants</p>

There are 250,000 support staff in England’s schools, a number that rises to 450,000 if you include teaching assistants

If you want to get a really good sense of a school, talk to the receptionist before you speak to anyone else. If they’re happy, welcoming and organised, then you’re likely visiting a place where the kids and the teachers are getting along pretty well in the classroom, too.

This is one of the things I learnt from nearly a decade and a half visiting schools as a journalist. Similarly, if you get a chance to speak to them, the caretakers and lunchtime supervisors normally have a pretty good idea if the head is doing a good job.

The reason their insight is often reliable is because support staff are the glue that holds a school together. Without their invaluable work – and their collective institutional memory – a school can quickly come unstuck.

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