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Advice appreciated! Applying for a career break/sabbatical

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by just_keep_swimming, Dec 31, 2011.

  1. Hi,
    I am in my 7th year of teaching - 5 years at my current school. I am very happy there and see myself teaching there for a long time to come...however I am very eager to travel. I am more than willing to combine this with some voluntary work in schools/with children, especially if I can use what I have learnt from these experiences to benefit the school when I return (i.e. sharing good practice from schools in other countries or developing language skills as there is no MFL co-ordinator at present at my school). The timing seems perfect as my school is currently restructuring and will therefore definitely need to recruit one teacher a year for the next 3 years, however I would MUCH prefer to be granted a 'career break' or sabbatical to prevent the stress of having to reapply when I return. I don't yet have a firm plan of exactly where or when I would go, or how long I would go for as I feel I don't want to get too far down the line with planning the trip of a lifetime only for it to be kyboshed by the governors/head.
    My head is very approachable and I am keen to discuss this with her at an early stage but I would appreciate some advice from the many wise folk on here before I speak to her!
    1) Are governors likely to grant a career break? Are they more likely to grant for one, two or three terms? I think my ideal would be to leave at the end of the summer hols and return at Easter but I am not sure if the Govs would go for this. What would governors see as 'benefits' that I could bring back with me? How far in advance do I need to apply to governors for a career break? I am considering leaving in Aug/Sept 2012.
    2) How easy is it to arrange work experience/voluntary work in schools abroad? Started looking with STA Travel but I would have to pay several hundred pounds for a week working in a school through them and I am sure there must be a cheaper way to set up work placements (esp if they are voluntary!). I have a few friends scattered around the globe at the mo and it would be great if I could stay with them and work in a local school. Does anyone have any useful links/websites that could help with this?
    3) I am assuming that as this would be unpaid leave, my payments to the Teacher Pension Scheme and the Student Loan Company would be suspended until I return - does anyone know if this is the case?
    I am also keen to hear from anyone who has done something similar - any stories? Hints and tips?? Are visas needed to undertake voluntary work in Oz/NZ?
    I know its a long post with LOTS of questions but if anyone can take the time to answer even one of them I would be very grateful! Have posted this in several forums as I am keen to hear a range of viewpoints.


  2. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    Yes, of course you would!
    But, of course, the only way that you normally can get this is if you go on maternity leave. Nowadays, with uncertainty about funding, schools are a tad wary - or more than a tad - making a commitment "We shall deffo employ you in 2/3 terms' time".
    And the other side of the coin is your replacement. Bit sad for them to be on a short-term contract, to be turfed out when you get back from your lovely long holiday. And the governors would be concerned about the possible disruption to learning and achievement, they might feel that they would find it hard to replace you with the sort of person that they want, as it is not a permanent post that they would be offering.
    The sad truth is, of course, that there are so many desperate unemployed teachers out there that they probably would be overwhelmed with applicants, even for a temporary position.
    I know that I am going to sound harsh here, but you are thinking of having a jolly. A nice, long holiday. And ALSO thinking of them keeping your job warm for you, so that you can come back with a guaranteed job instead of facing the cold waters of job hunting.
    A good question to which I have no answer, as I am not sure that your plan actually suggests much in the way of benefit to the school:
    What would the attitude of YOUR school be if you turned up with a friend from, say, NZ, to do some voluntary work and share your good practice? Apart from the CRB issue, that is, and by the way: do you know what the regulations are about this sort of "Turn up and Work" system in the countries that your friends live in?
    I am just not convinced, and am sorry to be throwing cold water over your happy post, full of excitement about this plan that you have. But throwing cold water I am.
    So how can we warm it up a bit?
    Now, if you were looking at it from a different angle, thinking of working with some aid organisation in an underdeveloped country, of offering youir services to help deprived children, living in a mud hut or similar, then the Governors might feel more moved to listen sympathetically, especially if first you set up a project in your school, twinning it with the school where you would be going to work, with both a curriculum and personal development/social awareness angle for your pupils.
    You talk of language learning - if you went to South or Central America, or French-speaking Africa, this might do this. But again I would expect you to have set up beforehand links, curriculum-based and fitting in with agreed SoW, for a couple of terms beforehand.
    If I got this idea, I would ask: "Have you been able to consider it from this point of view set out above, and thought through some places, identified some schools, some tasks for you while out there, the strong curriculum links, looking at what the different year groups will be doing in the 2 terms before you go, the 2 terms that you are away, and the term (at least) on your return, so that you have a whole package to present?" And I would be taken aback to discover that visiting friends in Oz or NZ were part of the plan.
    But just giving you a guaranteed job on your return from an extended holiday/gap year?
    I doubt it, I'm afraid.
    TheoGriff. Member of the TES Careers Advice Service.
    I do Application and Interview one-to-ones, and also contribute to the Job Application Seminars. We look at application letters, executive summaries and interviews, with practical exercises that people really appreciate.
  3. Thank you for your considered reply! Yes it's cold water but cold water is partly what I expected ... and probably what I needed! Can totally see how my post came over as, shall we say, optimistic!
    Having re-read my late-night post I can see that it does sound like the focus of my trip would be Oz/NZ but that really isn't my intention!
    The 'Turn up and work' idea was borne out of a conversation with a friend who did precisely that on a voluntary basis on a south Pacific island whilst travelling. I have already established a link between my school and a friend's school in the US and was hoping to develop that in some way. However you raise some obvious and important points that I would probably need to explore further so that I can present this as a valid proposal to my headteacher rather than a vague idea.
    However, the place I would ideally volunteer in would be Central/South America - perhaps Ecuador or Peru. I appreicate your advice to set this up beforehand, planning how to create a longer lasting link between the two schools and also how to embed this within the curriculum. Of course, I understand that my headteacher is more likely to consider a sabbatical for a definite proposal but like I say, I don't want to get too far down the road with planning something that is then turned down flat. I suppose I am asking if you think it would be advisable to approach my head to informally discuss this soon, before I have all the details, to see whether it is something that she would consider supporting, or whether I should wait until I have planned things a little more.
    Also, as a headteacher, how much notice would you expect/appreciate? I love working at my school (which is why I am so keen to return there, not just have any old job when I get back - although I appreciate any job would be considered a luxury to many in the current job climate) and respect the headteacher - I wouldn't want to mess her about or to be seen that way. However, I suppose there is a small part of me that thinks I'd like to make the most of my time away and see parts of the world I may not otherwise have the opportunity to see again. But of course that isn't of interest to my headteacher or school!
    Like I mentioned in the above post, due to restructuring, the school will be in a position to recruit for the next few years anyway. Would this factor into the decision at all?
    Thanks TheoGriff - appreciate the time you've taken to reply!

  4. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    I've also posted a response on the workplace dilemmas thread, having already seen Theo's on here. I do bear out all that Theo said, by the way.
    I've said on the other thread that you should give as much notice as possible, so you must go in and discuss it asap with the head. If she's not keen, then the idea's dead in the water - unless you simply resign.
    By the way, as for turning up places and working - do remember that a tourist visa in most countries is only that and you can get yourself into deep trouble if you work, even unpaid. I can't see how you could work in the US withut a green card, which would require you having a job already, I think - and in the US, they have regulations regarding qualifications of teachers which you might not meet.
    I'm a bit unsure as to why you think your school needing to recruit more teachers in the next few years is good for you - could you explain that?
  5. Why don't you test the water first by doing some voluntary work abroad in the summer holidays.
    Last year i taught in a school in Tanzania for 5 weeks and this year I volunteered in orphanages in Uganda and Rwanda.
    Just a thought
  6. Thanks Middlemarch - you are right about the idea being dead in the water if they refuse as I really don't want to resign - the school is fab!
    I hadn't realised that you would need more than a tourist visa to do voluntary work so I clearly need to decide on locations and do some more in-depth research. I wasn't thinking that I would work as a teacher in the US - more that I could perhaps shadow my friend who is a SN teacher there for a few weeks, whilst setting up a twinning project betwen the two schools. But this is prob a little naive of me.
    With regard to the future recruitment at the school, I suppose I'm thinking that if I were to resign I would do so knowing that there are future openings at the school which I could apply for. However I think there are probably rules about promising jobs to familiar faces!!! And like I say, I'm not keen on the resigning and reapplying idea - seems a little too risky in the current job climate!
  7. Thanks, that's certainly a great idea if I can't figure out a way to make 'plan A' to work!! How did you go about setting up these placements?

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