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28th August 2019

Support staff: do you know your rights?

Covering lessons

It seems quite common now for support staff to be asked to cover lessons. However, academy funding agreements stipulate that qualified teachers should be employed, and the 2003/2009 Workload Agreements stipulate that support staff should rarely cover. ALL schools MUST have a cover policy in place (WAMG note 22). The National Joint Council (NJC) national profiles recommend that, in a four-tier career structure, cover supervision is a level 3 activity. Specified work, however, is a level 4 (HLTA) activity. There is significant evidence that in primary and special needs schools cover supervision quickly becomes specified work. It is appropriate, therefore, that support staff deployed to provide cover which involves specified work should be trained to HLTA/ level 4 and their pay and grading should reflect this.

HLTA roles

The role of an HLTA is, to complement the professional work of teachers by taking responsibility for agreed learning activities under an agreed system of supervision. This may involve planning, preparing and delivering learning activities for individuals/groups or short term for whole classes... (Level 4 Supporting & Delivering Learning Model Job Profile - Preamble). The NEU defines short term as one week. HLTAs cannot be used for PPA cover (WAMG note 17).

Cover supervisors

The agreed definition: Cover supervision occurs when no active teaching is taking place and involves the supervision of pre-set learning activities in the absence of a teacher (WAMG Guidance for Schools on Cover Supervision). If you're a cover supervisor, you should be managing behaviour, helping students with how to undertake their work, dealing with immediate problems, and collecting the work to return to the teacher. You shouldn't be teaching, and you shouldn't be marking or assessing.

Job descriptions and evaluations

Many support staff members don't have job descriptions and evaluations, but it's important that you do. They need to be an accurate reflection of the work you actually undertake, which in turn can affect the pay you receive. The local authority has job descriptions and pay scales, so if you work in a maintained school you can request this information from your Head or Business Manager. Academies choose their own schemes, but may still use the local authority ones as part of the TUPE process; many adopt other schemes. Request the information from your HR department.

If you need advice about your role at school speak to your NEU school rep, or phone the Advice Line on 0345 811 8111 (Mon-Fri 9am-7pm). You can also phone our local office on 0116 255 5311.


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Support Staff in The National Education Union (10th November 2017)