School Administrator

The Job and What's Involved

A school administrator is responsible for providing administrative support for a school. They may also be known as a school secretary or clerical/administrative assistant. They are likely to be the first point of contact people have with a school.

The role varies depending on the size and structure of the school, but a school administrator's responsibilities may include:

  • Welcoming visitors to the school, including parents, governors and sales representatives, dealing with their enquiries, asking them to sign the visitors book and directing them to classrooms.
  • Answering the telephone or a small switchboard, and activating an out-of-hours answering service.
  • Administration relating to pupil attendance, including following up individual absences.
  • Word processing letters, memos, reports, newsletters and school prospectuses.
  • Monitoring stationery supplies and re-ordering when necessary.
  • The maintenance of office equipment, such as printers, computers, scanners and photocopiers.
  • Opening, logging and distributing incoming post.
  • Overseeing outgoing post, including franking mail and arranging for parcels to be picked up.
  • Taking minutes at meetings.
  • Collecting money for school meals, events and functions, banking money and chasing up late payments from parents where necessary.
  • Completing statistical returns and reports.
  • Dealing with lost and found property.
  • Maintaining filing systems and photocopying documentation.
  • Ensuring both computerised and hard copies of records are accurate and up to date.
  • Supervising pupils using office equipment, such as the photocopier.
  • Taking responsibility for health and safety issues, and, possibly, the first aid room.
  • Issuing bus passes and travel tokens.

In some smaller schools, administrators may take on additional business management and financial duties.

School administrators come into contact with a wide range of people including teachers, pupils, parents and carers, education welfare officers, social workers and school governors. They may work alone or as part of a team, and usually report to the head teacher or a school business manager.

School administrators usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4pm. Some occasional evening work may be required. Many administrators work during term time only. There may be part-time and job share opportunities. Holidays must be taken during school holidays.

The role is office based. A large amount of time is spent sitting at a desk or workstation. Smart-casual or business dress is usually expected.

Starting salaries may be around £15,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 55,000 administrators employed in nursery, primary and secondary schools throughout the UK. Opportunities are to be found in state and private schools. The number of administrators is fairly stable, and there is often a lot of competition for jobs as the hours of work and holiday allowance can be attractive.

Vacancies are advertised in local and national newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices and school newsletters. They can also be found on local authority and school websites, as well as on the websites of job agencies specialising in education.

Education and Training

There are no formal entry requirements. Schools are likely to ask for five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths. Some entrants may be educated to degree level.

Office skills and experience working in an educational environment may be an advantage. Applicants need to have a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) or Disclosure Scotland check.

In large schools it may be possible to start as an administrative assistant.

An Apprenticeship in Business and Administration may be available. The Council for Administration (CfA) can provide further details.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is on the job. Schools may arrange for administrators to attend external courses, and local authorities may organise relevant training.

The School of Educational Administration (SEA) runs the National Certificate in Educational Administration, a structured training programme for school administrators. This is a one-year, distance-learning course for school administrators. The course is recognised by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and CfA. It is validated and awarded by the Institute of Administrative Management (IAM), and is a recognised step towards the Certificate of School Business Management run by the National College of School Leadership.

SEA also offers a two-month introductory course in key aspects of school administration. From 2008, this will also be available to people who are not school administrators, but who want to enter the career in the near future. Further details can be obtained from SEA.

SEA and IAM are currently working together to set up a Foundation degree for administrators and other non-teaching staff.

The IAM also provides a Continuing Professional Development scheme, offering various qualifications in administrative management.

Qualifications from other training providers include:

  • NVQ's/SVQ's in Business and Administration at Levels 1 to 4.
  • City & Guilds Award or Certificate (Level 2), or Diploma (Level 3), in Support Work in Schools.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A school administrator should:

  • Have excellent spoken and written communication skills.
  • Have strong interpersonal skills to establish effective relationships with pupils, staff and parents.
  • Be patient, calm and tactful.
  • Have good organisational skills and be able to multi-task.
  • Be able to use their initiative.
  • Be able to prioritise their workload and work to tight deadlines.
  • Be accurate in their work.
  • Be a team player and able to work alone.
  • Have a good telephone manner.
  • Be confident handling cash and working with numbers.
  • Be able to work efficiently.
  • Have good IT skills.
  • Be discreet dealing with confidential information.

Your Long Term Prospects

School administrators may be able to progress to senior administrator, either within their existing school or by transferring to another school. They may move into a teaching assistant or learning support assistant role.

Some administrators transfer into secretarial, reception or general office work outside of the school sector.

Get Further Information

Council for Administration (CFA),
6 Graphite Square, Vauxhall Walk,
London SE11 5EE
Tel: 020 7091 9620
Website: www.cfa.uk.com

Institute of Administrative Management (IAM),
6 Graphite Square, Vauxhall Walk,
London SE11 5EE
Tel: 020 7091 2600
Website: www.instam.org

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA),
Customer Relations, 83 Piccadilly,
London W1J 8QA
Tel: 020 7509 5556
Website: www.qca.org.uk

School of Educational Administration (SEA),
Earlstrees Court, Earlstrees Road,
Corby, Northamptonshire NN17 4HH
Tel: 01536 399007
Website: www.admin.org.uk

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