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Did I make some kind of basic mistake? Or was it just me?

Discussion in 'Independent' started by FriarLawrence, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    Hi all,

    I recently went for an SLT post at a local independent school. A bit of background:
    • I'm a former Assistant Headteacher with 5 or so years' SLT experience in comprehensive schools, one of which was outstanding;
    • My SLT experience was in the same field (Sixth Form) as the advertised post;
    • Ofsted inspected the Sixth Form I ran while I was running it and found it "Outstanding;
    • My teaching practice is outstanding (per observations) and I have a track record of excellent results including ALPS 2+ A level teaching;
    • I am not currently in SLT because I had a breakdown which led to my stepping down, and so I have been "pure classroom" for the last nearly two years.
    You can see what's coming, right? I didn't get an interview.

    My application really emphasised results and Ofsted and all the things that state schools live and breathe. Do you think this was a mistake? Or do you think my breakdown (about which I was honest, saying "a period of ill health from which I am now recovered") is more likely to have been a factor?

    Or is it just that my professional background is less likely to be of interest to an independent school?

    Sorry, I know these are probably imponderables, but any insights you can give me would be appreciated. :)
  2. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    Oh, just to clarify: the school would not give me feedback.

    The reason I ask is because another post has come up at the same school, again in an area of senior leadership of which I have experience. Would I be a fool to spend time on an application?
  3. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    It's hard to say without being able to see in the blackbox of their recruitment process. In an ideal world if you met all the required criteria they would have invited you in for interview. It may be you were a strong candidate but they knew they wanted someone else so scrapped you at the early stage as it's easier. Or as you suggest it may be the ill health thing had them worried. In either case would you want to work for a place that acted that way? On the flip side they may have had lots of candidates and could afford to bin a load of applications without reading them fully.

    If you want to go for the new post then I'd probably give them another chat and bring up my concerns. If you do apply (and I'd probably start with the old application as a basis to save time) I would double check your personal statement to see if it clearly shows you met.the requirements they're asking for.
    JohnJCazorla, steely1 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  4. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    Or although you are a very strong candidate there were some who were even stronger - we'll never know.
  5. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    Thanks both - really appreciate your time.
  6. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    I would think so. Your application should be relevant to the independent school you are applying to - discussing Ofsted and "all the things that state schools live and breathe" would quite possibly not be terribly interesting to an independent school recruiter. Sounds rather long-winded also - 1 page covering letter and no "additional" sheets should be enough to bait the recruiter and leave them wanting to know more at interview.

    There is also the lack of experience with the demographic to consider - I think an independent school would be very unlikely to recruit someone with no track record in the sector to such an important role as Head of 6th.

    As for applying for the new role, why not pay the school a visit, find out about them and tailor your application properly. They're unlikely to even remember that you posted an application for the other role if you didn't meet them or get to long list.

    Keep trying, your options will become clear through the process. Best of luck.
    pepper5 and willcott like this.
  7. ultrablondbird

    ultrablondbird New commenter

    I think in any further applications you might want to think about the wording regarding your period of Ill health. I may refer to it as a “temporary change of role to gain a different work life balance”
    or something similar . Just a thought . Good luck.
    pepper5 and saluki like this.
  8. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    TBH while I would emphasise results, I would go lighter on the Ofsted bit. Maybe, just maybe, independents have the independence to realise how meaningless and off the mark it can actually be.

    It could be that you're giving the impression that you think Ofsted is a good judge of a school and it could be that the SMT at the independent disagreee and question your judgement on what makes a school truly a good school.
    FriarLawrence and dunnocks like this.
  9. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    I never understand why people agonise so much about not getting an interview. I recon on getting interviews for about 10% of the jobs I apply for. ( and getting a job in about 10% of interviews) I've never been a day without work in my career, so nothing wrong with my approach, obviously.
  10. nighttrace

    nighttrace New commenter

    Moving from the state to the independent sector at a SLT level isn't easy. The culture is very different. Most independent schools aren't inspected by Ofsted and don't grade teachers based on lesson observations. We don't even use the word "Outstanding" at my school.

    I moved from the state sector to my current school (a well-known one) a couple of years ago as a head of department. As I'm teaching a niche subject and have a unique CV, I was able to land the job.
  11. fingertapper

    fingertapper New commenter

    I recently moved from state to independent. I've been very surprised by just how different the independent sector is in (in a good way!) in terms of attitudes, ethos and way of working. Independent schools tend to have much smaller management teams than state school, and would need you to hit the ground running - they may be concerned that you'd take too long to adapt to the independent sector. I'd suggest seeing if you can arrange a visit to show you're aware how different the sectors are.
    pepper5 likes this.
  12. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    I'm not agonising. I'm wondering if there's an obvious way in which I missed the mark so I can do better next time.
    pepper5 likes this.
  13. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    Thanks very much for everyone's help, btw - appreciated :)
  14. sabrinakat

    sabrinakat Star commenter

    Less state school stuff, more emphasis as to what you can offer an independent school :)
    pepper5 and FriarLawrence like this.
  15. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    Yes, agree with those who’ve advised you to focus on what an independent school might want from its Head of Sixth Form. I’m guessing here, but I suspect it could be along the lines of familiarity with the Oxbridge entry system, applying to American universities, your own networking with university admissions tutors, knowledge of gap year opportunities, the additional academic, pastoral and life skills programmes you have developed to give your sixth formers a holistic experience. Also dealing with highly aspirational, ambitious or demanding parents.
    I’ve known people to appear in managerial or leadership roles from the state sector (with no independent school experience). From my perspective I would have to say that most of these were not successful and some were a disaster. It’s difficult to lead and gain the respect of colleagues and the trust of parents if you’ve never worked in the system before parachuting into an important role.
    sabrinakat likes this.
  16. missbrody

    missbrody New commenter

    If the school won't even give you a reply about why you were rejected before, why are you still interested in working for them?
    Even the most prestigious schools normally have the decency to explain about what may have been missing from your background.
    Think carefully about whether you would want to work at a school which considers some teachers not worthy of a decent reply.
    pepper5 likes this.
  17. jenhet

    jenhet New commenter

    Don’t forget that the independent sector is still very much based on the old boy network and that there may very well never have been a real job there - it may well have been reserved for an acquaintance of the Headteacher, or someone who was known to the school in some way. In one school where I worked, the Head left under odd circumstances, having told us all that he had had a breakdown and was leaving teaching. Less than 3 months later, he reappeared as Deputy Head of another independent school. Independent schools don’t have to follow fair recruitment procedures.
    pepper5 and annascience2012 like this.
  18. foxesandwolves

    foxesandwolves New commenter

    I have moved from a SLT position in the State Sector to a SLT position in an Independent School. It was a long hard process. It was a long hard graft to move. My advice would be to get into the Independent world - go on a few BSA courses, learn the lingo. See if you can get some shadowing experience in an Independent School. In the end I took a less well paid job, just to move into the Indie system and then within a year moved back up to SLT level. The two systems at a SLT are I have to say, completely different. Don't be too hard on yourself, I have heard there are 70-100 applicants to most decent posts and only 6 or so go through to interview. Good Luck.
    pepper5 likes this.
  19. flibbertigibit

    flibbertigibit New commenter

    Some advice that I got when applying to independent schools was to really emphasise which extra-curriculars you can offer. I can’t speak for all schools but at the two where I’ve worked SLT (aside from the head) are still expected to run some kind of activity at lunch or after-school, as well as show a willingness to lead or join residential trips.
    pepper5 likes this.

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