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Advice on changing schools or leaving teaching?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Piscean1, Nov 15, 2018.

  1. Piscean1

    Piscean1 Senior commenter

    Bit of background. I'm in my second year of teaching. I teach at a small primary (single-form entry) and my kids span a real range of abilities (some working at reception level) and have so many needs.

    I suffer with anxiety and depression (take medication and usually manage it pretty well). After a bit of a breakdown last year, I ended up really improving and having a very successful year. Although I don't always feel it, I know I am a good teacher for this stage in my career but currently the workload is insane again. There's a lot of scrutiny. Planning scrutinies. Book looks. The marking policy remains insane. New initiatives and additional demands on time constantly. After spouting lots about "improving staff wellbeing" last year, it doesn't actually feel like our workload is improving. My TAs (jobs are) are underskilled and lack initiative.

    I can start to feel myself relapsing again and I'm worried about it. I spoke to my line manager and I'm going to go back to the doctor because I do not want to go back to spending evenings crying.

    I've been considering my options and just want some advice/opinions really. I don't want to jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

    I think it's obvious that I need to seek a change and reduce my working hours. I love my school and it's very friendly but I'm just not prepared to work 7 days a week to get my job done and nor should I have to. So.. My options.

    Option 1) Seek a move to a 2-form entry (or more) school.

    For those of you who've made this move, how do you find the workload compares? I could probably handle a lot of the extra bull if I didn't have to meticulously plan 25 hours worth of lessons to be scrutinised. What are the upsides and downsides?

    Option 2) Leave teaching entirely.

    I don't know if this is what I want to do because I love the teaching side of everything. However, at my current school, the rewards are not outweighing the costs to my mental health so I feel this has to be an option on the table. There has to be a point where, if I can't improve my situation in teaching, I leave it behind. The only other thing I have experience in is retail and I hated that. I'm prepared to lose a few grand in salary for the sake of my sanity. I think I'd like something admin based (ironically!) but it's just how to apply for other things with a) very restrictive notice periods in teaching and b) the fact I feel unqualified to do anything else! What have others done? What are my options?

    Sorry for rambling - I just have a lot of thoughts going round in my head. I know the grass isn't always greener so I'd be very grateful for advice. Thank you in advance.
     
  2. nmason

    nmason New commenter

    I wouldn’t leave teaching completely, however I would change school. Your current school is not supporting you and is making you jump through hoops. Not all schools are the same. I’d definitely be looking out for a new post. It is common for teachers to move after 2 to 3 years in a school especially when recently qualified. You are more important, for the children and yourself then meticulous planning. Your SLT needs to updating their views on planning etc. X
     
  3. nmason

    nmason New commenter

    PS I agree the grass isn’t always greener, so take care where you apply and try to visit, however it can be. I have experience of this. X
     
    Piscean1 likes this.
  4. Piscean1

    Piscean1 Senior commenter

    Thank you for your response. It does often feel like our SLT is about 10 years out of date! Planning scrutinies were praised in our last Ofsted inspection so I think this is why they've kept them up. However, our last inspection was when we moved from RI to good... Three years ago. I feel that we, and Ofsted, are in very different places now!
     
  5. Over_the_hill

    Over_the_hill Star commenter

    @Piscean1, I’m suffering exactly as you describe, caused by work stress, again for reasons similar to yours. I am leaving my school but am going to look for a 2/3 form entry as in 1 form I have felt very alone and overwhelmed. This time I will be more careful with the schools I apply for!
     
    Piscean1 likes this.
  6. Piscean1

    Piscean1 Senior commenter

    1 form is incredibly hard! I worry about clashing personalities in 2 form or more entry though.
     
  7. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter

    I work in a one form entry and your description mirrors much of what happens - I think it's the way it is everywhere. I'm also aware that our current NQTs are feeling much as you describe. It does, eventually, get a little easier as you get more experienced, but the stresses will always remain and you are also likely to be asked to take on a range of curriculum and other roles on top of class teaching in any one form entry.
    I don't think you need to leave teaching - you clearly still enjoy it. But do start looking at different schools. Make informal visits; look at websites; think about the catchment areas. You could also think about independent schools. Take you time and good luck.
     
    Piscean1 likes this.
  8. zezmel

    zezmel New commenter

    I am in a half form entry with mixed classes (NQT). The workload is nuts! I do think my next step will be to move to a larger school. I love the idea of shares planning, being able to share the workload and bounce ideas off someone. In your situation, I’d try another school.
     
    Piscean1 likes this.
  9. becky70

    becky70 Occasional commenter

    I've spent virtually all my career working in larger schools - typically 3 form entry. Shared planning does cut your workload a lot and subject responsibilities are less because there's more staff to do it.
    Having said that, Piscean1 makes a great point - I have experienced the clashing personalities and it is horrendous. Ultimately, I'd always go for a larger school.
     
    hammie and Piscean1 like this.
  10. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    You could also try independent schools.
    They aren't always better per se, but the workload is very different.

    Even if everything was identical to what you have now, having a class of 16 children compared to 30 makes a lot of things easier.
     
    Piscean1 likes this.
  11. Piscean1

    Piscean1 Senior commenter

    This year, I have been given quite a bit of additional responsibility. My subject hasn't had a leader for 2 years (and there's no policy or anything) so a lot to do and I've got a whole school project to lead as part of a leadership course.

    I'm not sure I'd be ready to make such a big change as going to independent just yet. I think a larger school is definitely my best bet and I think I will probably have a much better idea of red flags around workload! It's so good to hear different people's thoughts - thank you!
     
  12. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    It seems to me that more and more of us are feeling just like you regardless of school, size, management. There are still schools out there where it is possible to thrive as a teacher but far too many where it is not.
     
  13. ElizaMorrell

    ElizaMorrell Occasional commenter

    I moved to a two form entry this year and have found it worse than the one forms I've always worked in. Working with a partner teacher who puts in minimal effort means you're constantly editing plans they've done, or spending ppa trying desperately to get them to engage. My workload is much the same as in previous years. At least in one form you can do it your own way (or maybe I'm grumpy and difficult to work with!).

    Ridiculous SLT policy is not a thing in every school, you've just got to be selective, visit as many schools as possible before applying and do some digging with the staff. A lot of schools seem to be doing this now but there are a few nice school left that don't make you jump through stupid hoops.
     
  14. MsOnline

    MsOnline Occasional commenter

    Leave. Have a break and rest. Recover your body and mind.

    I really sympathise with you - feeling down seems to (unfortunately) be common but no job is more important than your health.

    Listen to your GP. Have you considered CBT? I hope you get some support.

    Also, there are alternative careers, which could use your teaching skills. All the very best.
     
  15. Northern_Miss

    Northern_Miss New commenter

    I worked in a three-form entry school last summer term, after only ever teaching in a one-form entry school. We spent 2 hours each week planning English (very little time for marking that night!), each teacher was then asked to resource 1 or 2 lessons in their own time - differentiated worksheets 3 ways, plus SEN resources, and Flipchart. Maths was still independent planning (we had ability sets for Maths). Science/Topic etc were planned together at the end of each half term, and again responsibility for resourcing them was divided up. Some days, this was a good thing. Someone else had done all my prep... except their Flipchart/lesson didn't always suit my class, so then I'd end up altering it slightly. Other days people would be late putting things on the staff drive - leaving me with no lesson to teach and a class of 30 kids to face. Those were the days you had a mad scramble for the photocopier (with your partner teachers) and then a cue for the slicer...

    Also, a small note of caution. A friend of mine works in a two-form entry school where they are forbidden from doing joint planning / sharing resources. So do check that the schools you're looking at actually allow joint planning!

    In short, if you want to teaching things your way, tailored to your kids and if you hate long, drawn-out meetings, maybe avoid the whole 'three-form' entry thing. Otherwise, give it a whirl.
     
  16. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Northern_Miss has suggested avoiding the "three-form" entry thing. I would suggest avoiding teaching in the UK. I have been teaching overseas since 1998 and it is much better than teaching in the UK. As well as the poor salary for teachers and the high living costs, in Good Old Blighty you also have things like Council Tax, lousy weather and Ofsted. It is not surprising that British teachers have mental health issues.

    I absolutely agree with hammie's comment: "There are still schools out there where it is possible to thrive as a teacher but far too many where it is not."
     
  17. Northern_Miss

    Northern_Miss New commenter


    Can I ask which country you plumped for?
     
  18. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    I have taught in one or two different countries around the world, Northern_Miss: Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Romania, the UAE, Qatar, China and, as from 3rd January, Bulgaria.
     
  19. Piscean1

    Piscean1 Senior commenter

    Thank you for responses. Sorry for no reply but have been rushed off my feet!

    I cannot move abroad as I have too many ties here so teaching abroad is not an option for me. My partner, who is the main earner, is very happy in his job and given that I'm intending to have children in the next few years, I'd rather be in my home country with my family easily accessible.

    I think I will start looking for other schools next term ready for the May deadline.
     

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