Student Wellbeing

Staff Guidance on the role of a Support Worker

Staff Guidance on the role of a Support Worker in Taught and Small Group Sessions

Newcastle University has a legal obligation to anticipate the needs of students who disclose a disability and to make appropriate reasonable adjustments. There may therefore be a number of students in your cohort who have additional learning and support needs. Specifically, some students may be accompanied by a support worker in taught and small group sessions and/or meetings with staff. The support worker has been provided as part of an identified reasonable adjustment to lessen a barrier to learning, but in some cases to also ensure the student can participate in and navigate the learning environment safely.

What is the role of a support worker?

The term support worker describes someone who provides support to a student with a disability, specific learning difficulty, autism spectrum disorder or long term mental health condition. Their role is to facilitate access to teaching and learning and provides a range of supports including:

  • Notetaking
  • Library support
  • Practical Support
  • Sighted guide
  • Reader/Scribe

Newcastle University has specific arrangements in place with specialist agencies to provide appropriately trained and qualified support workers, and the majority of support is funded directly by Newcastle University.


How can I identify a support worker?

You may not be able to easily identify a support worker. However, all support workers are required to carry an ID badge and will present this if asked. Please be aware that the support worker will not reveal the identity of the student they are supporting.

It is important to note that some students request discreet support and therefore the support worker may not always sit next to the student they are assigned to.

Conduct of the Support Worker

Students may have support workers who attend all teaching and learning activity, including some off campus activity such as field trips, while others may only have support in lectures and/or examinations.

The support worker is required to adhere to strict role boundaries, and should not act as an advocate for the student or challenge teaching staff about lecture content. The student should take responsibility for initiating contact with staff. You should ensure you communicate directly with the student, and not through their support worker where the identity of the student being supported is known.

A support worker takes no part in any learning activity other than that necessary to support the student. For example, manually handling of artefacts/ lab equipment where mobility restricts a student from doing so, or communication support such as a sign language interpreter.

Management of support workers in small group/seminar sessions

Where a student is supported in small group or seminar sessions by a support worker, and the identity unknown to you, you can ask them to present their support worker ID card. As stated above, the support worker will not reveal the identity of the student they are working with, although in some cases the support arrangement will be obvious.

It is reasonable for you to discreetly manage support worker attendance in small group or seminar sessions, particularly in explaining to attending students [where necessary] that they [provide name of the support worker] attends in a professional supporting role but takes no direct part in the session.


Please contact the Disability team if you have any concerns about the conduct of support workers on campus.

Telephone: 83799