Professional standards for school roles

UNISON believes professional standards are a key tool in raising the professional status of school support staff.

Professional standards for school roles

UNISON believes professional standards are a key tool in raising the professional status of school support staff. UNISON has played a key role in developing professional standards for teaching assistants, catering staff and school business professionals. Unlike the professional standards for teachers, the standards have no legal backing, but we believe that they help define roles and purposes. This in turn will help ensure that schools can provide the best possible experience for pupils.


Professional standards for teaching assistants were published in 2016 by a group made up of unions and educational experts. The standards help clarify the roles of teaching assistants and bring them into line with their teacher and headteacher colleagues, both of whom already have their own sets of standards. They are organised under four themes:

1) Personal and professional conduct

Teaching assistants should uphold public trust in the education profession by:

  • Having proper and professional regard for the ethos, policies and practices of the school in which they work as professional members of staff.
  • Demonstrating positive attitudes, values and behaviours to develop and sustain effective relationships with the school community.
  • Having regard for the need to safeguard pupils’ well-being by following relevant statutory guidance along with school policies and practice.
  • Upholding values consistent with those required from teachers by respecting individual differences and cultural diversity.
  • Committing to improve their own practice through self-evaluation and awareness.

2) Knowledge and understanding

Teaching assistants are expected to:

  • Share responsibility for ensuring that their own knowledge and understanding is relevant and up to date by reflecting on their own practice, liaising with school leaders, and identifying relevant professional development to improve personal effectiveness.
  • Take opportunities to acquire the appropriate skills, qualifications, and/or experience required for the teaching assistant role, with support from the school/employer.
  • Demonstrate expertise and skills in understanding the needs of all pupils (including specialist expertise as appropriate) and know how to contribute effectively to the adaptation and delivery of support to meet individual needs.
  • Demonstrate a level of subject and curriculum knowledge relevant to their role and apply this effectively in supporting teachers and pupils.
  • Understand their roles and responsibilities within the classroom and whole school context recognising that these may extend beyond a direct support role.

3) Teaching and learning

Teaching assistants are expected to:

  • Demonstrate an informed and efficient approach to teaching and learning by adopting relevant strategies to support the work of the teacher and increase achievement of all pupils including, where appropriate, those with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Promote, support and facilitate inclusion by encouraging participation of all pupils in learning and extracurricular activities.
  • Use effective behaviour management strategies consistently in line with the school’s policy and procedures.
  • Contribute to effective assessment and planning by supporting the monitoring, recording and reporting of pupil performance and progress as appropriate to the level of the role.
  • Communicate effectively and sensitively with pupils to adapt to their needs and support their learning.
  • Maintain a stimulating and safe learning environment by organising and managing physical teaching space and resources.

4) Working with others

Teaching assistants are expected to:

  • Recognise and respect the role and contribution of other professionals, parents and carers by liaising effectively and working in partnership with them.
  • With the class teacher, keep other professionals accurately informed of performance and progress or concerns they may have about the pupils they work with.
  • Understand their responsibility to share knowledge to inform planning and decision making.
  • Understand their role in order to be able to work collaboratively with classroom teachers and other colleagues, including specialist advisory teachers.
  • Communicate their knowledge and understanding of pupils to other school staff and education, health and social care professionals, so that informed decision making can take place on intervention and provision.

Download the standards


Those awarded HLTA status must demonstrate, through their practice, that they:

Professional values and practice
1. have high expectations of children and young people with a commitment to helping them fulfil their potential
2. establish fair, respectful, trusting, supportive and constructive relationships with children and young people
3. demonstrate the positive values, attitudes and behaviour they expect from children and young people
4. communicate effectively and sensitively with children, young people, colleagues, parents and carers
5. recognise and respect the contribution that parents and carers can make to the development and well-being of children and young people
6. demonstrate commitment to collaborative and cooperative working with colleagues
7. improve their own knowledge and practice including responding to advice and feedback.

Professional knowledge and understanding
8. understand the key factors that affect children and young people’s learning and progress
9. know how to contribute to effective personalised provision by taking practical account of diversity
10. have sufficient understanding of their area(s) of expertise to support the development, learning and progress of children and young people
11. have achieved a nationally recognised qualification at level 2 or above in English/literacy and mathematics/numeracy
12. know how to use ICT to support their professional activities
13. know how statutory and non-statutory frameworks for the school curriculum relate to the age and ability ranges of the learners they support
14. understand the objectives, content and intended outcomes for the learning activities in which they are involved
15. know how to support learners in accessing the curriculum in accordance with the special
educational needs (SEN) code of practice and disabilities legislation
16. know how other frameworks, that support the development and well-being of children and young people, impact upon their practice.

Professional skills
Teaching and learning activities must take place under the direction and supervision of an assigned teacher and in accordance with arrangements made by the headteacher of the school.

Planning and expectations
17. use their area(s) of expertise to contribute to the planning and preparation of learning activities
18. use their area(s) of expertise to plan their role in learning activities
19. devise clearly structured activities that interest and motivate learners and advance their learning
20. plan how they will support the inclusion of the children and young people in the learning activities
21. contribute to the selection and preparation of resources suitable for children and young people’s interests and abilities.

Monitoring and assessment
22. monitor learners' responses to activities and modify approaches accordingly
23. monitor learners' progress in order to provide focused support and feedback
24. support the evaluation of learners' progress using a range of assessment techniques
25. contribute to maintaining and analysing records of learners’ progress.

Teaching and learning activities
26. use effective strategies to promote positive behaviour
27. recognise and respond appropriately to situations that challenge equality of opportunity
28. use their ICT skills to advance learning
29. advance learning when working with individuals
30. advance learning when working with small groups
31. advance learning when working with whole classes without the presence of the assigned teacher
32. organise and manage learning activities in ways which keep learners safe
33. direct the work, where relevant, of other adults in supporting learning.

Find out more on the HLTA National Assessment Partnership website.

See also

Role profiles for school support staff


The Institute of School Business Leadership (formerly NASBM) has developed a suite of standards for school business management professionals, working with UNISON along with other stakeholders. They set out the six areas of activity of school business management: finance; HR; procurement; infrastructure; leading support services; marketing.

View the standards


Professional standards for school catering staff were launched in 2015. They were developed for a range of job roles, all who obviously play a crucial role in delivering school food, both back and front of house:

Head of kitchen (Catering Manager / Head Chef)
School Cook
Assistant Cook
General Kitchen / Catering Assistant
Midday Supervisor

The standards for the school catering workforce clearly define the professional requirements that underpin the delivery of quality school food and help to create a consistent standard for the industry. A recognition scheme is available for those using the standards. Find out more on the LACA website