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Job Photographs

  • A woman sits at a desk, speaking on a telephone.  She is looking at a large book, which is lying open on the desk.

    Telephoning a parent to find out why a pupil is absent from school.

  • A woman sits at a desk, looking at an open diary.  A man stands next to her, also looking at the diary and pointing to something in it.

    Working with a teacher to arrange a date for a school trip.

  • A woman is standing by an open filing cabinet, putting a document into one of the drawers.

    Filing pupils' records.

  • A woman sits at an office desk by a window, opening mail.

    Opening the school's mail.

  • A woman is pressing buttons on a photocopier.  There are notices attached to the wall behind the photocopier.

    Photocopying letters for pupils to take home to their parents.

  • A woman sits at a desk, typing on a computer keyboard.  She is looking at a paper document next to the keyboard.

    Producing pupils' certificates on the computer.

  • A woman is handing a school uniform through a small hatch to another woman.  Above the hatch a sign reads 'School Office'.

    Selling a school uniform to a parent.

  • School Secretary

School Secretary

Introduction

School secretaries manage school offices and provide administrative support to the head teacher and other staff. Their duties vary considerably depending on the size and type of school. Secretaries in small primary schools have more varied duties and more contact with pupils and parents. Those in large secondary schools are more likely to specialise in one aspect of the work.

Also known as

  • Secretary, School
  • Administrator, School

Work Activities

As a School Secretary, you will provide administrative and secretarial support to the Head Teacher, Senior Managers and other staff in schools and academies. You use a computer to produce letters, reports and brochures, for example. You might act as a Personal Assistant to the Head Teacher, organising their diary and making appointments. You might also be known as a School Administrator.

You sometimes take minutes of meetings (an account of what was discussed and agreed). You sometimes do shorthand or audio transcription.

You might be responsible for producing a regular school newsletter for staff and parents, or programmes and tickets for school performances or events such as an open day. You might use a desktop publishing application to do this.

You manage the school office and organise the handling of incoming and outgoing mail, record keeping, filing and photocopying. In smaller schools, you might do this work yourself; in larger schools, you might supervise one or more Clerical Assistants.

You are often the first point of contact in the school; you answer the telephone and greet visitors. In smaller schools, you might have regular contact with the pupils, for example, collecting class registers. You will also have contact with parents, for example, to follow up unauthorised absences, deal with problems or arrange meetings. You might also be responsible for simple first aid.

School Secretaries often keep computerised records of school activities including numbers of pupils, absences, exam entries and results and financial information. You might also be responsible for checking, ordering and receiving supplies. You could use spreadsheets and databases in this work.

You often handle cash such as dinner money or payments for school trips, photographs or uniforms. You might also organise supply cover for staff who are absent and assist with parents' evenings. School Secretaries support the recruitment of Teachers by sending out application forms and showing applicants around the school.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a School Secretary, you'll need to:

  • have good word-processing and IT skills
  • be well organised and able to prioritise your tasks
  • be flexible and able to manage several tasks at once
  • have record-keeping skills
  • adopt a calm, common-sense approach
  • have interpersonal skills and a sense of humour
  • be able to work under pressure
  • have excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • get on well with different people
  • enjoy working with children and young people
  • be tactful and able to keep confidential information
  • have audio-transcribing skills
  • work on your own initiative
  • pay attention to detail
  • have number and cash-handling skills

Some School Secretaries need shorthand skills. If you are responsible for one or more Clerical Assistants, you will need supervisory skills.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £15,500 - £16,500
  • With experience: £17,500 - £20,000
  • Senior School Secretaries earn £21,000 - £23,500

Hours of work

School Secretaries usually work 37 hours, Monday to Friday, with occasional attendance at evening meetings. Full-time, part-time, temporary and flexible working arrangements might be available.

Typically, you work during term-time, plus an extra two or three weeks during school holidays.

Where could I work?

Employers are primary schools, secondary schools and academies in the state and independent sectors.

Opportunities for School Secretaries occur in schools in towns and cities, and some rural areas, around the UK.

This career could include working for an agency.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on the LGJobs and individual local council websites, on job boards, in local newspapers, on Universal Jobmatch and at Jobcentre Plus.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

New entrants usually have secretarial qualifications. A variety of courses cover secretarial and IT user skills such as text processing, shorthand and audio transcription.

Courses lead to OCR, City & Guilds or BTEC qualifications, and are available at local further education colleges.

An alternative route is to find employment as a School Office Administrative Assistant and learn on-the-job, with part-time study towards nationally recognised secretarial qualifications.

An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is also great place to start. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

Training

If you would like some training, BTEC offer a level 2 qualification in business administration. This course has a range of units, which include:

  • communication in a business environment
  • handling mail
  • providing reception services
  • providing administration support in meetings
  • managing diary systems
  • collating and reporting data
  • producing minutes in meetings
  • using email
  • participating in a project

Other courses could be available in your area.

Many School Secretaries go on short training courses to learn how to complete the computerised school information management records.

You might be able to take the level 2 award in support work in schools, or the serco school administration foundation certificate.

Progression

Some School Secretaries take further training to become Business Managers or Bursars, managing the school's finances. The National College for School Leadership offers a programme for existing and aspiring School Business Managers/Bursars, resulting in the level 4 certificate of school business management.

Work Experience

Some entrants have a relevant background, such as in office and administrative work which would be really useful for this career.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to. This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.

Qualifications

The entry requirements for secretarial courses vary depending on the course and the college. Some might ask you to sit an entrance test.

Employers are likely to look for about 4 GCSEs at grade C/4 and above, including English. A relevant work-related qualification in a business subject, such as a BTEC level 2 qualification, might be accepted for entry.

In general, employers want to see evidence of fast, accurate typing skills (at about 40-50 words per minute), together with general IT and office skills.

To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Entry

Some entrants have a relevant background, such as in office and administrative work.

Courses

Some college courses are aimed specifically at people wanting to gain or update their keyboard and secretarial skills. These can be organised on a one- or two-term full-time intensive basis or taken part-time.

Colleges will usually consider applications from adults who do not meet their usual entry requirements. You should check the admissions policy of individual colleges.

Distance learning

The School of Educational Administration (SEA) offers the National Certificate in Educational Administration by distance learning. Schools will normally fund the candidate; however, where this is not possible, candidates can apply for a bursary from the SEA to cover part of the costs.

Other distance learning includes secretarial skills and administration courses offered by a number of colleges throughout the country.

Statistics

  • 46% of school secretaries work part-time.
  • 8% have flexible hours.
  • 6% of employees work on a temporary basis.

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400

Email: nationalhelpdesk@findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk

Website: www.apprenticeships.org.uk

LGjobs

Local government vacancies

Website: www.lgjobs.com

Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 9178000

Email: info@skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk

Website: www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships

myjobscotland: Scottish local government vacancies

Scottish enquiries

Email: myjobscotland@cosla.gov.uk

Website: www.myjobscotland.gov.uk

Institute of Administrative Management (IAM)

Tel: 020 7091 2600

Email: info@instam.org

Website: www.instam.org

City & Guilds

Address: 1 Giltspur Street, London EC1A 9DD

Tel: 020 7294 2468

Email: learnersupport@cityandguilds.com

Website: www.cityandguilds.com

School of Educational Administration (SEA)

Address: Hamilton House, Earlstrees Court, Earlstrees Road, Corby, Northamptonshire NN17 4HH

Tel: 01536 399007

Email: Sam@admin.org.uk

Website: www.admin.org.uk

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

People Exchange Cymru (PEC)

Public sector recruitment portal for Wales

Email: peopleexchangecymru@gov.wales

Website: www.peopleexchangecymru.org.uk/home

Croeso i Gyrfa Cymru

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Cymraeg

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