Research and analysis on the changing role and influence of senior support staff in schools

Further information

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In recent years the educational landscape has shifted from one in which schools were very much single units, focusing only on teaching and learning, to the current situation where schools are required to work in partnership with other schools and agencies, in order to deliver the best possible outcomes for their pupils.

The Every Child Matters agenda, Extended Schools and the Children’s Plan have all placed schools at the core of an educational delivery system where it is no longer possible for one individual (the ‘headteacher’) to lead on everything, but where leadership on key tasks needs to be distributed to those with the appropriate expertise.  In parallel, workforce reform has greatly expanded the number of non-QTS staff working in schools and the roles that they fulfill, supported and enabled by the workforce agreement and the Training and Development Agency for Schools’ work on remodelling.

In the context of school and workforce reform, and expectations that non-QTS support staff will continue to contribute to the realisation of the DCSF vision of a ‘21st Century School’, the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services has commissioned the NFER to conduct timely research into the changing role of senior support staff in schools.

Research aims

The overarching aim of the study is to establish a comprehensive picture of the range and roles of non-QTS staff in schools who are members of the school Senior Leadership Team (SLT). The research will provide the National College with valuable information on how non-QTS support staff can move into leadership roles.

Specific objectives for the study include an assessment of the:

Research and design methods

The research will employ two distinct but complementary strands:

  1. Strand 1: Scoping of national data and research literature and identification and selection of case-studies (November-December 2009) – The initial scoping stage will comprise an analysis of current national data and existing research literature pertaining to the deployment, development and impact of senior non-QTS staff in schools. The findings from the scoping exercise will inform the identification and selection of the case studies, and the design of the research instruments used in Strand 2. 
  2. Strand 2: School case studies (January-February 2010) – Strand 2 will comprise up to 20 in-depth case studies with staff in both primary and secondary schools. It will seek to explore good practice examples in the deployment and impact of senior non-QTS staff on school leadership teams. It will be particularly valuable in helping to explore the impact of different support staff role types. The findings from the case studies will be collated on a themed basis to provide overarching key messages from the research and to provide ‘vignettes’.

Impact and outcomes

An interim report highlighting key findings from the scoping study will be submitted to the National College in December 2009. A final report, bringing together findings from the scoping stage and the case-study interviews, will be submitted in March 2010.


It is anticipated that the findings from the research will be of interest to policy makers, senior school leaders, teachers and school support staff.

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