Case study: Supporting your support staff

An article in SecEd reports that in the school team, every person counts. School leader Katherine Cocker-Goring discusses her work to boost CPD and development for support staff and to more closely link student progress and staff development.

At Barnes Wallis Academy, we achieved something incredible last year. The proportion of pupils achieving five A* to C GCSE grades including English and maths rose from 32 to 66 per cent and our Progress 8 score improved from -0.14 to -0.01. However, the best thing about this achievement was the fact that we did it with largely the same staffing body as we had had the previous year.

The experience taught us the insurmountable importance of investing in people – because people improve schools. We’d invested heavily in our teaching staff through provision of quality and relevant CPD in teaching and learning and strategic planning. However, this left us with very little time to invest in the foundations of the school: our support teams.

Therefore, this year, my principal and I discussed making a commitment to investing in our support teams by improving performance management and CPD systems, and I was given responsibility for bringing the initiative into fruition.

Personal best, no excuses

My overarching aim was to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of support staff by creating a revised, challenging and supportive performance management system. 


My first step was to ensure that we unified performance management across support staff and teachers. However, the most ground-breaking thing we did was to give every member of the support staff a progress-related target, ensuring that in maximising the efficiency of our support teams, we also maximised student progress.

It takes a whole team


We were united in what we wanted to achieve: the best possible outcomes for our students to give them the greatest possible life chances. This was the perfect opportunity to introduce the first new performance management target: to maximise student progress. 

By the end of this first session, support staff saw performance management as an essential component of their personal and professional development, with a fundamental belief that our children deserve the very best out of us, regardless of whether or not the member of staff has the incentive of increased pay.


Empowering staff, evidencing impact

Finding opportunities for support teams to meet after school (when reception and Student Services still need to be staffed) and during school (when teaching assistants need to be in classrooms), is an on-going struggle.

While the initiative is still underway, the impact so far is very encouraging:

  • Improved performance management system for support staff, which is fit-for-purpose.
  • Improved efficiency of support teams with almost every member of the support team on track to achieve performance management targets.
  • Successful transition of teaching assistants into departments.
  • Increased empowerment of staff and development of culture and ethos.

So far, our commitment to investing in people has paid dividends. Every member of staff is valued just as highly as each other, regardless of their role, and every member of staff is instrumental in improving the life chances of our young people.

Read more from this study Case study: Supporting your support staff

Could this work in your school? Does more investment need to be given to support staff in your school? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or on Twitter ~ Tamsin

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