There has quite rightly been a significant focus in the last decade on building leadership skills in education – of both principals and the broader leadership team, and an improving focus on more distributive forms of leadership. The requirement for greater knowledge and capacity to manage the growing legal obligations on schools – legal liability, negligence, compliance, child protection legislation – presents one of the largest areas of professional development focus for this group.
Teachers have been subject to rising expectation to deliver greater student focused learning, particularly ‘individualised’. Behaviour management and building knowledge and skills in disability and other special needs areas, such as in autism, are still top areas of professional demand. Building ICT skills has also been an ongoing area of focus.
But what of our school support staff?
The growth in numbers of support staff has been a key demographic change in staffing in Australian schools over the last decade. The numbers of learning support staff in primary schools, for example, has been growing steadily, and the diversity of roles and actual numbers of staff in secondary school has almost doubled. The growth in independent schools is particularly significant.
Classification structures for school support staff – be they developed through enterprise bargaining agreements, or those relying simply on the modern award for general education employees – are under constant focus, with unions seeking to modernise them and ensure a fairer and more accurate valuing of the work of this growing sector of the education workforce.
Classification structures for school support staff need to both reflect the duties, capacities, judgement and decision making responsibilities, qualifications and experience of employees. A classification structure that is clear and based on the jobs people are actually doing can assist in the provision of better career path opportunities and assist with professional development focus.