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how to find a good school? tips appreciated!

Discussion in 'Career clinic' started by FredfromFrance, Feb 2, 2020.

  1. FredfromFrance

    FredfromFrance New commenter

    recruitment season is just opening and I need to move schools for geographic regions. I have been involved in some TERRIBLE schools before and I don't want to end up somewhere where I'm going to sacrifice my personal life, work 60 hours a week and justify my entire existence with needless paperwork.

    When I ended up in a place where I was seriously bullied before, there were absolutely no signs of what the management would be like. I asked questions about data, behaviour etc. and was reassured that the 'trust take work/life balance extremely seriously and there was no need for meaningless data etc.' That turned out to be a lie, but that's another story.

    My plea:

    -what do I need to look for to discern if a school is good or bad?
    -what questions should I ask?
    -what are the warning signs that I'm being lied to by management?

    All school websites and management tours are as informative as North Korean tour guides. I would greatly appreciate some help!
  2. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    If you want to apply, ask for a pre visit to the school.
    Even if you have to travel for this "geographic move"
    If you achieve this visit, make sure it is during operational hours.
    And just look at staff faces.
    Grey and worried? Don't work there.
    Chatty and walking at normal pace? Might be nice.
    Unable to see any staff? Don't even consider it.

    As for questions to ask should you achieve interview-the first one is "how will I be supported in my new role? You don't need to focus too much on the response as much as you need to scrutinise their faces. if they look surprised and taken aback at the question, or disappointed in you showing weakness, run a mile.
  3. FredfromFrance

    FredfromFrance New commenter

    Thanks! I never would have thought of the face reading. Unfortunately I can't get time for a visit so all I will see is the North Korean show tour...
    Shedman likes this.
  4. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Had you considered trying to get supply work in the new area?
    It is often said that it is the best education in itself as you have opportunity to go into a variety of schools in a way you wouldn't normally have privilege to do. The thing is, even if we are to advise on the signs of a not nice place to work, there is also a degree of subjectivism. You might intrinsically like a place which is uber-structured, whereas somebody else might detest the sense of micro management. Or you might prefer to work with the spark and character of kids from a more run down catchment area, whereas others might look for something more affluent and academic.
    It's as much about finding a good fit for yourself as it is about finding an intrinsically pleasant environment.
    After all, whatever the school, there are generally staff who choose to be there and not somewhere else.
  5. ld7675

    ld7675 Occasional commenter

    When I last looked round schools I deliberately timed my visit for the end of the day, say 4.30pm or so. By the time you've finished being shown round and talking to the head (about an hour), see how many teachers look like they're still stuck in to working, how many cars in the car park, does the HT look at his/her watch when a teacher says "see you tomorrow" as they leave etc etc. To me, if there's an expectation to be in school all hours is a bit of a no (my 50 hour week in school is plenty enough!)
    agathamorse likes this.
  6. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    It's not just reading the faces but reading the body language as well. Do staff walk around with their heads up and acknowledging pupils? Are they relaxed and chatty in the staff room? Or can you see tension in how they move around the school, head down and avoiding pupil contact? One of the big giveaways about a school is how the staff react in the staff room when the bell goes for the start of lessons after break or lunch; do they head off with a cheery quip or grit their teeth and get wearily to their feet.
    agathamorse likes this.
  7. VeronicAmb

    VeronicAmb Occasional commenter

    I would ask to be shown around the dept. Usually you get a feel of the energy they have. Talk to your potential team and try and get their vibe. Are they approachable, do they look tired, are they coiled up, what do their classrooms look like; good resources? etc etc.

    If any head refused you to speak to staff, I would be so weary. I think it's so important. I would also suggest speaking to students if there's a chance. But that's just me. I did all these things when I was applying for HoD, so my approach may be different to what you think you ought to do.

    Failing all of the above, do what others have suggested - read their faces. When the bell rings, the expressions of teachers, etc. Is there a buzz or a weary silence in the hallways... Pick up on what your gut is feeling and what your eyes are seeing.
    agathamorse likes this.

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