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Is the grass greener on the indy side?

Discussion in 'Independent' started by TheoGriff, Feb 27, 2011.

  1. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    An article in the TES this week talked about conditions of work in indy schools.
    It says, among other things, that increasing workload from SLT (voluntarily) taking on state school initiatives is increasing stress for teachers, as is the concern about job security.
    How are you feeling?
  2. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    An article in the TES this week talked about conditions of work in indy schools.
    It says, among other things, that increasing workload from SLT (voluntarily) taking on state school initiatives is increasing stress for teachers, as is the concern about job security.
    How are you feeling?
  3. Here are my thoughts:
    Teachers at state schools seem to be required to spend considerable time in planning lessons - far more than was the case a few years ago. There is also much more tracking and analysis of pupils. To allow for this they have guaranteed non-contact time and classroom assistants are available to do routine jobs such as photocopying and wall displays. And of course, their teaching day finishes at about 3.30 pm.
    At independent schools the teaching day is generally much longer, teachers do lunchtime duties and extracurricular activities, and there are few teaching assistants. We also write reports more frequently.
    If independent school teachers are required to do the same detailed planning etc as those at state schools there is simply not enough time. At my school its not a problem because lessons are regarded as being unimportant (except when the inspectors visit). But schools vary.

  4. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    I would very strongly beg to differ. The planning for lessons at the schools I have worked in has been above and beyond anything I noticed going on in the state sector when talking to friends who work there. As for there not being enough time, with very small class sizes and teaching only 60% of a full timetable, I think that is not quite the whole truth.
    This is...surprising. I have no idea which school you work in but I would suspect that the head would be very interested to learn that this was your opinion. Co-curricular activities are important in schools but everything always comes second best to the lessons.
    They are the primary reason that the school exists.
  5. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    Perhaps one or two state initiatives might not come amiss, then!
    TheoGriff. Member of the TES Careers Advice Service.
    The TES Careers Advice service runs seminars and workshops, one-to-one careers and applications advice, one-to-one interview coaching and an application review service.
    I do Application and Interview one-to-ones, and also contribute to the Job Application Workshops. We look at application letters, executive summaries and interviews.
    There is now another seminar on Applying for Senior Leadership on 13th March.
    E-mail Julia on advice@tsleducation.com for how to book a meeting with me personally.
    Look forward to seeing you!
  6. I disagree that lessons are unimportant in independent school (imagine if the paying parents heard that!) but agree that time is far too tight for the pointless levels of planning often required in the state sector. Once you have been teaching for a few years the amount of planning paperwork required is purely to satisfy regulations, it is not necessary to be a good teacher.
    I think that teaching in an independent school is better because you can replace the time spent on pointless admin with time actually spent with the children.
    My 'pro points' for where I work:
    * I have 3 pages of planning PER TERM for each class that I teach. I feel that is adequete.
    * Class sizes are no more than 18 and, in the case of my SEN set, only 10. I can spend regular individual time with each child.
    * There are fewer crazy health and safety rules. Our children are encouraged to climb trees, play in the woods, have snowball fights, swim in the sea and basically just be children.
    * Extra curricular activities have an equal importance to academic lessons.
    * It is accepted that you just can't do everything. Marking and assessment is allowed to take a (temporary!) backseat when you are doing 16 hour days on the school play or taking children on a reidential trip or an away sports tournament etc.

    My 'con points' for where I work.
    * Saturday school. I would take shorter holidays to have full weekends, no contest.
    * The ethos that, in term time, school should be your life and the faint disapproval that comes from many staff members at the very idea of daring to be otherwise engaged when in comes to a school activity or even to have a life outside school at all. I don't think 90 hour weeks should be required all the time (in special weeks I have no problem with it). The holidays don't make up for 24/7 working in term time becaue most poeple aren't teachers and you can't just pop into your social group and say 'hi, I'm here permanently for the next 4 weeks but then don't try and contact me for the next 12!'
  7. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    If you wish to be that pedantic about things, then you could say that what I am refering to is a particular independent school, in a particular country, at a particular moment in time, but let's not get too carried away shall we?
    I have taught in 5 independent schools in 4 countries. I have also visited many independent schools in the UK in one capacity or another. I have friends and ex-colleagues at a number of schools around the world and what I am refering to is general conditions of employment that I have experienced or know of. I have taught at schools where my timetable was about 70% and I have taught in others where it was about 50%. I have friends who are on roughly similar workloads.
    As for lesson planning, submitting an A4 lesson plan for every lesson may or may not say anything. If it is generic then it is hardly specialised. Most lesson planning, once you are experienced enough, goes on in the head and in the gathering of resources. It is knowing what is going to cause problems in a particular topic and then making sure that procedures are already in place to deal with any such problems.
  8. As someone working in the state sector and applying to independent schools, here is my two penny's worth:
    I work really long hours in my state school - about 12 hours a day, and I mean working, not chatting over a cup of coffee. It is true that the teaching is (mostly) done by 3:30, but that is with only 10 minutes morning break and 30 minutes for lunch, so you rattle through the lessons giving a real feel of intensity to your teaching. Understandable, both kids and teachers are ready to explode by last lesson. I fully anticipate that I will work just as hard at an independent school, but what I am hoping (naively, perhaps) is that the type of work will be different: I don't want to write 2 A4 sides for each lesson that year as a Scheme of Work and then never look at it again, I want to be able to spend time planning interesting lessons with interactive activities and up-to-date resources; I don't want to data track students every week, I'd rather write more frequent reports that mean something to parents; I don't want to produce pie charts and overviews and summaries and breakdowns (yes, I know they should be the same thing) of the courses we teach, I want to focus on teaching them and making sure that the students are learning. What do you think- will I be disappointed? And how can I tell, when visiting a school (if I am invited for an interview) what the workload will be like without seeming like a work-shy dosser?
  9. Having made the leap at the start of term, here's what I reckon
    • Teaching my subject to a high level - the opportunities to go "beyond the mark scheme" crop up far more frequently
    • Less poor behaviour (although not none)
    • Highly motivated students
    • Extremely supportive parents
    • Awesome resources
    • The 'best bits' of the National Curriculum/DFES initiatives, without the stupid bits
    • Less acronyms
    • Extra-curricular activities that the kids really go for - I had to add extra sign-up sheets for my first one
    • Slightly more generous timetable (although not hugely different)
    • Ofsted aren't ever going to turn up for an unannounced monitoring visit
    • No SIPs or consultants
    • Basically, just being able to teach the subject I love to kids that love it, and have pride in everything they do
    • Helluva long day! I'm used to a 2.50pm finish, whereas now it's much later
    • Marking, lots more marking - I rarely knock off before 8pm, Monday-Thursday
    • Parents' evenings all the time that go on forever
    • I've put on about a stone due to the dinners
    • The odd Saturday morning, marking the entrance exam for example
    I'm prefering it so far, but my indie appears more progressive than others I've seen, and my state school was one of the "most challenging" so it's certainly a big contrast.
  10. Sorry but Im far from being pedantic......
    As Ive said TG himself has said that working conditions vary massively in the Indy sector - exactly the same as the state sector...... his words, not mine.
    So to say your experience isnt indicative of the whole sector is about as sensible as it gets...... at the very least far from pedantic! And although I dont have the Indy experience that you do - in fact I have none - I do know several teachers who do teach in the Indy sector, of which a couple do say what the article says. I dont see how the opinions of my friends should be viewed differently from yours.
    What I do have through my own and colleagues experience, is a good knowledge of the state sector. Similar to the Indy sector their situation varies..... and TBH you only have to read through the forums to see this is patently true. The fact that most lesson planning goes on in the head is irrelevant..... if you have to document that then whether you have 20 years experience or 2 years, it takes time to type out an A4 plan.
    Ask yourself the logical question....If the article was such tripe then why on earth did TG decide it was threadworthy? Additionally, if it was such tripe, why did TES themselves decide it worthy?
    Perhaps because there are teachers to which it applies to and perhaps because it does raise an important issue...... are state school initiatives and ideology slowly but surely creeping into the Indy sector?
    Just a thought..... debate provoking
  11. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    Don't let that hold you back though.
    I don't remember saying that their opinions should be disregarded. However going from no knowledge to what a couple of your mates have told you is not really stretching the boundaries now is it?
    You are assuming that an A4 plan needs to be typed out. An experienced teacher doesn't need to do this. In fact most experienced teachers - for their general teaching - only need to sketch broad outlines of what will be covered, usually amounting to no more than a few lines, plus odds and ends to do with prep.
    Again, since we are using logic, you might want to read through my post and look for the bit that refers to the article. You will find that no such bit exists. That is because my post was a response to another posting, not the original post. I also don't recall writing that the article was tripe. Since we are being logical, you might also find it useful to be truthful.
    The Independent sector has never had any qualms about taking on board state school initiatives that work. It would be rather short sighted of them if they didn't.
    Since you are mentioning the original article, one should really refer to it, don't you think? What does it actually say as opposed to what one assumes it says ( since you know all about assuming )?
    After painting a cliched picture of an independent school and an equally cliched picture of an inner city state school, it draws our attention to the tragic story of a teacher committing suicide due to work pressures. Is that really the truth though? What is also subtly emerging is the fact that the teacher was unqualified and may have had to take a salary cut while going on training. It could be that rather than work pressures - which occur in every environment - it was financial pressures that led to the tragedy.
    The article then makes the leap from this event to highlight the story of a housemistress who was exploited. However if you look deeper into the story, you discover that she was the only housemistress at the school working under these conditions, which makes you wonder why she agreed to them when no-one else did.
    It then quotes the fact that 21% of Independent school employess had consulted their GP about work related stress. This means that 79% did not. It could also be that those people who responded to this survey are those more likely to have taken time off for stress, so it might not even be a representative sample.
    As for the 40% who claimed to work longer hours, 40% of what? How many people were surveyed? What are the real facts and figures? Mere percentages rarely tell you anything.
    An article is just that. An article. It is not a research paper nor a legal document. If we are lucky, it might tell us something truthful and relevant, but I wouldn't count on it. The TES can be just as guilty of lazy journalism as any newspaper.
  12. The fact that I dont have Indy experience doesnt mean I dont have an insight into the workings.... after all I dont own a Ferrari but I sure as hell know a good car when I see one....
    Actually the impression that I get from your posts is that yours is the opinion that counts, why else would you go about teaching in 5 different countries etc etc. Sorry to say it but the opinions and experiences of my friends in the Indy sector are just as valid as yours... however much youd like to believe For example I found out before half term, through a PE teacher that I know, that 2 teachers have resigned from a good prep school in West London because of unreasonable working conditions. Is this invalid? Unless Im mistaken you are only one person?!?
    No Im not assuming that the A4 plan needs to be typed.... this is what I know is the case from one of my best friends in teaching..... like I said these situations are far from uncommon. I know of teachers having to fill out APP sheets for every class they teach and have every piece of work marked by the end of the day.... with a class of 30 kids. Check out the forums and see all for yourself. State schools vary just like Indy ones...
    The fact that you didnt refer directly to the article is by the by really - the thread deals with working conditions in schools, specifically experiences in the Indy sector. You have chosen to comment in that thread and I choose to comment on your comment... thats how it is. If you have no interest in the article then why not start your own thread?!? You know what they say about heat and kitchens.....
    What I find peculiar is your denial of the obvious.... that working conditions vary greatly in both the Indy and the state sector. The fact that you are in a Swiss private school with everything catered for and great working conditions is totally irrelevant. There are a great many teachers in both sectors whose lives are not so peachy..... maybe not in Switzerland but thats the point though isnt it?
    As regards the article you are the one that is assuming that its lazy journalism, and trying to alternatively interpret findings..... I on the other hand go on facts..... an article has been published that backs up what many on these forums (including you forget TG himself) have commented on - that conditions in the Indy sector do vary and that state initiatives are inching their way in further.
    All in all this seems like a fairly mild and obvious observational article to write in TES, but it has clearly irked you, so we will have to agree to disagree.

  13. Yes. In the last year the school where I work has gone down this route. In fact I commented as much few weeks ago. I could have written the article ( I didn't).
    My school is not going to close any time soon but we took a pay freeze two years ago from pay scales slightly lower than state schools because SMT argued that our benefits ( long holidays and small classes ) were greater.
    Now they are messing with the timetables which will mean shorter holidays but longer days. They argue that the actual contact lesson time is being cut but the re arrangement of the school day leaves us all working longer days not shorter ones.
    We have taken on APP and AFL ( both failed and with no supportive research to commend them) in the state sector. We are getting mountains of paperwork. We are told our results are not good enough yet the school out performs all state schools around us and is listed in the top 50 nationally ( state and private). It seems change for change sake.
    I could go on. I wont, but in a nutshell, the article rings true here.
    I still like my school but mess with the holidays at peril because I will go to an indy that isnt messing around even if it means a pay cut ( there are some). I put it down to us having recruited too many state schoolies in our SMT over the last three years to be honest. They dont know how else to work.
  14. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    Some interesting points made here, Jabed.
    What I find curious, however, is that yours is a school that is doing v well indeed academically
    yet seems not to be strong financially.
    If you don't mind my saying so, this seems rather inept on the part of SLT if they cannot use the outstanding results achieved by Jabed and Co. to ensure that pupil numbers are solid and thus strengthen the finances. They need to learn how to position themselves better in the market.
    A sound financial footing for a school enables it to provide good working conditions and good conditions of employment for its most precious asset: its staff.
    You in a Union, Jabed?
    TheoGriff. Member of the TES Careers Advice Service.
    The TES Careers Advice service runs seminars and workshops, one-to-one careers and applications advice, one-to-one interview coaching and an application review service.
    I do Application and Interview one-to-ones, and also contribute to the Job Application Workshops. We look at application letters, executive summaries and interviews.
    There is now another seminar on Applying for Senior Leadership on 13th March.
    E-mail Julia on advice@tsleducation.com for how to book a meeting with me personally.
    Look forward to seeing you!
  15. polly.glot

    polly.glot New commenter

    I had written post about financial viability of independent schools when it disappeared in a ***** - will start again.
    I cannot overestimate the importance of doing your homework about any school you apply to. In my experience, some schools will promise you the world to get you there, and once you are safely in their clutches, they refuse to honour the promises made. In these circumstances, you have few options:
    1) complain, consult your union for help, and become the target for dislike by the SMT - this threat, and its concomitant effects on future employment tend to keep more timid staff in line
    2) leave.
    The problem seems to be that many schools have been underpaying their staff for years, using the savings to create glamorous stage sets in the school - indoor heated pools, gyms, performing arts centres....The present economic climate has caused salary freezes/cuts/staff's not being replaced, creating a heavier workload and untenable working conditions for the remainder. After 38 years of very distinguished teaching, hugely successful public exam results, secondment to the Ministry as an adviser, writing materials for A level courses - to be paid well below the top of the scale was nothing less than an insult, and the results for my pension disastrous.
    I have loved the children in the schools I have taught, but I have been very unhappy about the ethical behaviour of some of the senior management. The assumption that we should be happy with a below-state rate because the school is a pleasant place to work is ludicrous - there are plenty of very pleasant state schools whose staff are not treated in this way. The long hours - 8 a.m. to 6.10 pm for a basic day, the requirement for one evening a week on duty, another for an activity, saturday lessons and games, saturday evening duty and a full day on sunday once a term on top of that means that your life is not your own. To find that senior management falsified documents in personal files to avoid the possibility of legal action over some highly questionable actions on their part is a scandal.
    In short, in the 5 independent schools in which I have worked, there have been some stars and some total disasters - the kids generally are fantastic, the parents supportive (if demanding and pushy at times), the focus on learning stimulating (though the putting first of sport in some schools, at the expense of academics is a very real scenario). On the negative side, there can be stale teaching, where people have been in the school too long, fear of innovation or "the different" and exploitation of good will.
    Chacun a son gout, but take care in your decisions.
  16. Theo, I am sure you will appreciate I cannot comment too much. I am aware that recently one member of staff was disciplined for " bringing the school into disrepute" for saying something very like what I have said here. Union or no union. Like many independents, the management do not like or recognize unions happily.
    I like my school. It is a good one. I value my job and the "perks" I have. For that I trade off the slightly lower pay. Normally if asked I would have mouthed the mantra , which I suspect a lot of us independent teachers have , especially those of us in school like mine, that we are far better off in pay and conditions that other schools and the state sector (you caught me on a bad day when I had just been asked to go in to work one hour on a day which being part time is normally my day off [​IMG] and found myself unable to refuse. My timetable is difficult enough without adding that to it. ) I digress.
    To your points though:
    "TheoGriff" : the school out performs all state schools around us and is listed in the top 50 nationally ( state and private) yet seems not to be strong financially.
    I would not mind you saying this at all except that in reality, as far as I can see we are sound financially. If not, I would like to know why. Parents and pupils do count up our revenue and believe we are all paid well. They do not know. The management reacted very aggressively ( they argued pro actively) when the recession hit a couple of years ago, even though there was no evidence it would affect our figures. They asked us to take a pay freeze to enable them to cope with any loss of revenue from pupils being pulled out. It didn't happen. In fact we have more pupils now.
    I would say we have a higher than normal ratio of scholarship pupils ( the very able on reduced fees as well as other scholarships , sport etc). However, I came a cropper with a colleague here when I pointed out that we also took some pupils who really didn't pass the entrance exam on "ability to pay". He said no one does that. I didn't want to argue. We also found out recently that some of our potential pupils are being "poached" by another school nearby who it seems lowered their entrance requirements quietly. Since they have kudos, not necessarily supported by results, if you get my drift, we have taken a hit in terms of student ability and applications recently but it hasn't affected our outcomes or numbers because we recruited elsewhere it seems as another school hit the dust. So there is a lot of jockeying going on.
    I think if anything our management have been over cautious financially. I agree though the management need to position us better. They seem to think all these state initiatives will let them do that because it gives them figures but all it is doing is making staff disgruntled and looking to leave. But I don't think they have realized that yet. Since the job market is tight at the moment, we have really only lost the older staff who have had enough and took retirement.
    As I said, I think a lot of our problems come from having too many state school teachers who havent a clue how we work and are trying to introduce inititives which are failures from the outset but with which they have been indoctrinated.
    I am in a union but its not much use in my school.
  17. I should add in fairness that whilst unions are not liked, the management have had until recently a very strong ideologue with staff via our own staff association. We have kicked many ideas into touch in the past by pointing out the problems and we are listened to usually. Much of the disgruntlement I have now is with impositions that seem to have suddenly taken precedence.
  18. Yes, this I can relate to.
  19. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    While accepting that what you set out is your own experience, I take issue with this point.
    Some schools, without doubt. Many schools? I do doubt this.
    I know very very many schools where staff are paid substantially more than in state schools. In the basic. In extra bits of money - sometimes big bits - for extra duties.
    It is my belief that most staff, in most independent schools, are paid more than their state school equivalents.
    And I also believe that some schools pay less.
    Best wishes
    TheoGriff. Member of the TES Careers Advice Service.
    The TES Careers Advice service runs seminars and workshops, one-to-one careers and applications advice, one-to-one interview coaching and an application review service.
    I do Application and Interview one-to-ones, and also contribute to the Job Application Workshops. We look at application letters, executive summaries and interviews.
    There is now another seminar on Applying for Senior Leadership on 13th March.
    E-mail Julia on advice@tsleducation.com for how to book a meeting with me personally.
    Look forward to seeing you!
  20. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    All three of the HMC schools in which I worked have their own salary scales, which are included with the application pack and built into the contract of those employed. All paid at least 15% above the state sector, but comparisons are difficult because the increments tend to extend over a much longer period - one object being to retain good assistant teachers rather than seeing them decamp for an HoD post elsewhere, the other being the delightfully large increments made after 30 and 35 years service, in order to bump-up pension entitlements.
    Then, as you say, there are the many extras - HoD allowance, allowances for running teams, DoE schemes, allowances for heads of year and housemasters/mistresses, and so on. Plus a large number of perks - real coffee (free), free meals, secretarial assistance etc.
    Clearly some schools have got themselves into financial trouble, but I suspect they are mainly ones that have kept their fees too low to cope with a downturn in the economy.
    It's worth noting last year's report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, stating that fees for Independent Day Schools went up 83% (after adjustment for inflation) between 1992 and 2008, compared with an increase of 30% in household incomes over the same period. That really ought to have been more than enough for wise bursars and governors to ensure they could invest in order to ride out problems such as the current downturn - and, indeed, the vast majority have, without resorting to pay freezes and the like.

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