This week, we speak to Frances Rickford, the publisher and editor of Learning Support. Aimed at teaching assistants in primary schools, Rickford tells us why her readers are unique and how they play an increasingly important role in primary education.
About the publication:
How do you differ from other publications in your sector?
We’re the only title aimed at teaching assistants in primary schools. My partner and I launched Learning Support five years ago, and publish it independently.
Describe a typical reader for us:
A primary school teaching assistant. Research shows these are typically middle aged white women, educated to GCSE or O level. They often live very close to the school they work in, have a good rapport with parents, love their work, have closer relationships with pupils than teachers and are very committed to their welfare. Teaching assistants are taking on a growing range of responsibilities within schools, attend staff meetings and contribute to decision making.
What stories are you most interested in covering in the publication?
Stories about primary school teaching assistants: how they are supporting children’s wellbeing and learning in specific ways, or how they could develop and improve their practice.
Check our website to see lists of features in past issues www.learningsupport.co.uk/backissues.html
How does the editorial process run? Do you have specific days when you focus on different aspects of the magazine, or is the planning on a much more ad-hoc basis?
We publish six times a year, at the start of each half term. Planning is ad hoc, from issue to issue.
How do you decide the content, front covers and headines?
I look for interesting, relevant feature ideas from many sources. They must be very specifically targeted at and relevant to primary school teaching assistants.
<strong?Do you produce a features list? (If not, why not)
No. Never seen the need, I like to keep the schedule flexible.
Do you work closely with PRs?
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Our field is a bit esoteric. If a PR can set up a visit by a journalist to a school where their client has done work with teaching assistants, it can be useful. Or if we get nice high resolution pictures from organisations running activities that our readers might be interested in, such as RSPB’s Big Schools Bird Watch
What’s the best starting point for a PR who wants to tell you about their client?
Send me an email. There’s only me in the office so please don’t call.
Do you have a PR pet hate?
People who ring you up to ask if you’ve received their press releases.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you & when is your deadline for contributions?
Any time is ok, by email.
Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
We commission features from professional freelance journalists with an understanding of primary education or children’s welfare. We also publish material from people with other areas of special expertise, eg an expert in play, or behaviour management.
Describe a typical day at work: What are your editorial duties/responsibilities at the magazine (e.g. commissioning, nibs, subbing, features, interviewing etc)?
I’m the publisher, the editor and the only editorial staff member. I commission everything, do all the picture research, edit everything, write about eight pages of each issue including four pages of news, and sign off the proofs. Also maintain the web site, including our News Update pages.
What do you love about your work?
I’m proud of Learning Support, and even more proud of our readers who make a huge, positive difference to the lives of vulnerable children. And I like the variety of being a solo editor.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I started as a news reporter on the Morning Star in the 70s. Since then I have freelanced for national newspapers, women’s magazines, and professional magazines doing news, features, subbing, editing. I also taught journalism part time at Goldsmiths College for a couple of years. My last job was as launch editor of RBI’s now extinct magazine 0-19, a spin-off from Community Care, where I was previously features editor. I left RBI to launch Learning Support – a big gamble, but it has come off.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Find out what’s going on and tell people.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
Write a biography.
What media do you seek out first thing in the morning?
The Guardian, hard copy version.
What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
Too many ideas to mention.