More people are working in schools than ever before, including almost half a million support staff. Support staff who are well trained, fairly rewarded, and clear about their distinctive contribution, can be instrumental in the work of raising standards and enriching the lives of children.

Recent announcements have shown how the government intends to help create conditions in schools and early years settings that enable all staff to realise their potential: a culture where all staff are valued and enjoy high morale and job satisfaction.

SENCOs should be aware of these latest steps in developing the children’s workforce, with whom they are closely involved in supporting children with special educational needs and their families.

Transformation fund for early years training

Children’s minister Beverley Hughes has announced a new Transformation Fund of £250m, which would be used to secure high quality early years provision and better outcomes for children and their families by investing in a better-qualified early years workforce. The proposals include the development of an integrated qualifications framework.

The new fund will support the growth of a cadre of graduate-level early years professionals, who will use their specialist early years skills and knowledge to lead change in childcare settings.

The Transformation Fund will:

  • stimulate the supply of early years professionals through the development, delivery and accreditation of appropriate training routes and by covering the costs of fees, bursaries, mentoring and supply cover
  • provide a recruitment incentive for full day care settings in the private and voluntary sectors to employ graduate professional leaders for the first time
  • provide a quality premium for settings with an existing level 5 or level 6 professional leader to support the training and development of non-graduate staff
  • enable a higher proportion of the early years workforce to be trained to level 3 and above
  • train more staff to work with disabled children and those with SEN.

There will also be skills development of the early years workforce below graduate level and increased training available to those working with disabled children and those with special educational needs. The Children’s Workforce Strategy proposes the following key actions:

  • build an integrated qualifications framework, based on the common core of skills and knowledge that will help improve career pathways across the workforce. Simplified, streamlined, more transparent qualifications and development frameworks will also increase the confidence that employers, employees, students and children, young people and families have in the workforce
  • develop new roles and new opportunities at graduate level in the early years workforce. This is intended to help the government deliver its pledge to have a graduate leader in every full daycare setting by 2015
  • use the joint DfES/DH Options for Excellence review to agree the challenges and way forward for social work and social caresupport the development of local workforce strategies.

School workforce development

Meanwhile, steps are being taken towards similar developments in training support staff within schools. The school workforce development board (SWDB) is the sector-wide body concerned with training and developing the wider workforce. It was established in the autumn of 2004 to guide the TDA’s work on training and development for support staff.

The SWDB consists of representatives from all the national bodies most closely involved in funding, promoting learning and skills, and providing training. The SWDB three-year strategy presents a vision for a sustainable increase in workforce skills over the period 2006 to 2009.

The strategy is based around three objectives:

  • to support schools as they develop new ways of training and deploying their staff
  • to create a framework of standards and qualifications to enable schools to develop the potential of all support staff
  • to extend training opportunities to meet the development needs of all support staff.

It is designed to provide a high-level direction for all SWDB partner organisations and networks, including local learning and skills councils and local authorities, who will use the document to set the context for their own planning and delivery.