Is learning for me?
Taking a course and gaining a new qualification can boost your self-confidence, raise your profile among your colleagues and lay the best foundation for developing in your current role or moving onto a new one. It can also, in some cases, increase your pay. Many courses are now flexible so you can study at your own pace and in your own time so there is no need to give up work or miss out on being with the family.
Don't think about it as going back to school, especially if you couldn't wait to make your escape from the classroom when you were younger: learning as an adult is a completely different experience.
You get to study with people working in the same role as you, on courses where most people find that everyone looks out for each other.
You get to pick up ideas about the job you do, which you can share with your colleagues and help the school take on board.
And you get the satisfaction of brushing up old skills or acquiring new ones, which can help you develop in your current role or move on to another one - and in some cases can even lead to a bigger pay packet, depending on local circumstances.
Whether you're a cleaner thinking about brushing up your reading skills or a science technician interested in further professional development, we hope that this website can help you find the courses and qualifications that are right for you.
I've never worked in a school. Should I change careers?
School support staff come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some choose work in schools after having a family or to fit in with childcare arrangements. Many have a strong desire to help in their local school and find helping children develop to be a very fulfilling career option.
Whether you're behind the canteen counter encouraging pupils to eat a nutritious lunch, helping children with a computer problem, preparing the grounds for a sporting activity, ordering library books or supporting a child with special needs in the classroom, schools can be enormously rewarding environments to work in.
Many of the roles don't usually require formal academic qualifications and some jobs can be applied for without the need for previous experience, although there are obvious exceptions (e.g. teachers, school business managers, librarians and many technicians).
What are the different types of school in England?
All children in England between the ages of 5 and 16 are entitled to a free place at a state school. The most common types of state school in England are:
- community schools, controlled by the local council and not influenced by business or religious groups
- voluntary-controlled schools, faith schools (usually a Christian denomination) funded by central government via the local authority (LA). The LA employs the school's staff and has primary responsibility for admission arrangements. The land and buildings are typically owned by a charitable foundation.
- foundation schools and voluntary-aided schools, where the governing body employs the staff and has responsibility for admissions to the school. A foundation or trust (usually a religious organisation for voluntary-aided schools) contributes to building costs and has a substantial influence in the running of the school. In most cases the foundation or trust owns the buildings.
- academies, run by a governing body, independent from the local council - they can follow a different curriculum.
- free schools, a type of academy set up to meet a specific community need.
- grammar schools, run by the council, a foundation body or a trust - they select all or most of their pupils based on academic ability and there is often an exam to get in.
- special schools, which help students with a range of needs including social, emotional and mental health needs, physical needs or learning needs.
What is an academy?
Academies are publicly funded independent schools. Academies don’t have to follow the national curriculum and can set their own term times. They still have to follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as other state schools.
Academies get money direct from the government, not the local council. They’re run by an academy trust which employs the staff.
Some academies have sponsors such as businesses, universities, other schools, faith groups or voluntary groups. Sponsors are responsible for improving the performance of their schools.
Academies are run by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts, which employ the staff. An academy trust that runs more than one academy is called a multi-academy trust. Roughly two-thirds of academies are run by multi-academy trusts.