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Questions about working in a prep school

Discussion in 'Independent' started by RuLee, May 6, 2019.

  1. RuLee

    RuLee New commenter

    Hi everyone,

    I took a break from primary teaching in state schools last summer after a 7-year career. I left because I wanted to take a year to study and pursue a creative interest. I loved teaching and working with children but the relentless governmental pressures, constant testing of children and workload were making me feel disillusioned. I now do some private tutoring, which has given me some income during this year.

    I have recently seen a job advertised at a local day school (prep) which I'm considering applying for. It's a well-known school in the area and it could offer a secure position with small classes of 15-20 pupils. There's also the option to join the Teachers' Pension Scheme. Posts in this school don't come up very often. I have a few questions though, as there are some worries I have and I would appreciate some advice.

    1) I'm anxious about the parents and their expectations. The school has an open door policy which includes parents being able to email teachers, something I've never experienced. In my previous teaching jobs, I came across some very demanding parents who rang the school office often with minor concerns and the thought of those types of parents having 24-hour access by email is worrying. Do you find that parents overuse email or are they quite reasonable?

    2) Are Parents' Evenings very different to the state sector? I am used to long evenings, sometimes running to 7.30pm but I've heard stories of teachers in independent schools staying until 9pm. As there are fewer children in a class, are the individual appointments longer than 10 minutes?

    3) The school seems to employ a lot of subject specialists and you seem to teach core subjects to your form and the other subjects are covered by the specialists. The job advert mentions certain specialisms being an advantage so is it likely that they are looking for the prospective teacher to act as a specialist and teach across the whole school, as well as teach the core subjects to a form group? I'm unsure how things work and everything seems so different. The school doesn't offer pre-application visits so I am unable to find out before the interview.

    I would appreciate any insights. I expect there will be a huge amount of interest in this job and I am probably at a disadvantage as I have taken a year out but it seems like a good job in a nice school and I have been looking to work in the independent sector for a while.
     
  2. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    1. Parents might have access to your work email 24/7, but it is highly unlikely you will be expected to be available to answer them 24/7. Our parents can email us, and we encourage it, but our policy says we'll answer within two working days and that staff may answer outside working hours, but are not expected to do so.

    2. Nope. Parents evenings are largely exactly the same. The 9pm ones tend to be senior schools, in both state and independent sectors.

    3. Yes, is the answer to your question, depending on the subject. So science might teach the specialism to years 5-8, but PE from Rec- Yr8. Or it could be that you are a form teacher and simply lead the specialism across the school.

    If it looks like a nice place to work and you can offer what they are looking for, then go for it.
    Good luck.
     
    RuLee and drvs like this.
  3. RuLee

    RuLee New commenter

    Thanks for your reply @caterpillartobutterfly , really helpful.

    I was reading through the school's curriculum policy and it mentioned that all members of staff have at least 4 formal observations per term. That seems quite a lot to me. Obviously it varies in each school but are observations generally carried out the same way as they are in the state sector in your experience?
     
  4. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    No idea about observations...
    I've had none this year.
    I had one last year, but that was a governor who happened to be visiting the school and had half an hour spare on her timetable. As she knew me via some work I was doing elsewhere in the group of schools, the head thought I'd like to host her in my class.

    Four formal observations a term does sound an awful lot. But if they are positive and useful it could be a good thing.
     
    RuLee likes this.
  5. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    There's a lot of variation across independent schools. I teach a core subject in a 3 form entry independent day prep.

    1) Our parents are in email contact direct with staff. The great majority don't use it at all, or use it appropriately. There are a handful of filterless helicopter parents who use it completely inappropriately and dealing with them requires fortitude and backing from leadership. More generally, indie schools are much more open and chatty with parents than the guarded approach that was trained into me in the state sector. It takes some adjusting to.

    2) My parents' evening run from 6-9 p.m. and this year I've done 6, last year I did 8. That's as a specialist though, Yr 3 and 4 class teachers have a shorter evening with longer appointments - it sounds like this is the job you're heading for.

    3) Yup, standard model in my experience is that yr 3 and 4 have a class teacher for core subjects and split for most specialisms. From yr 5 the schools round my way move to the secondary model.

    Regarding observations, my experience is that good teachers are left to get on with it after a suitable period of checking, but it's best to have a good number of observations in the policy to smooth the way when dealing with bad ones :)
     
    RuLee and caterpillartobutterfly like this.
  6. RuLee

    RuLee New commenter

    It sounds very different from the state sector, especially the part about parents having direct email access. From reading the school website it seems as if they expect a lot of extra duties from their staff (evening and weekend events, sleepovers, frequent report writing, etc.) It would be a lot for me to get used to. Something to think about when considering whether to go for it, I suppose. Your posts have been helpful so thank you.
     
  7. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Often, the events are really quite pleasant and not arduous - attending concerts, school plays, fund-raising events, swimming galas, open mornings, etc. If sleepovers are required (i.e. boarding duties) there is normally a quite substantial additional payment, although I have heard of poorly funded schools where day staff are expected to take part in some aspect of boarding as part of the job.

    With regard to parents' evenings - ours started at 7pm and finished at 9pm, but the school provided a free evening meal for those who wanted to stay on after school.
     
  8. dts

    dts Occasional commenter

    I have heard of a prep school running a similar number of termly observations. They have a reputation locally as a pipeline to Eton, Harrow, etc. and I'm told that all observations are expected to be graded as Outstanding. It's not somewhere I'd want to work - but as others have said, if the observation regime is supportive, it might well be fine.
     
  9. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Absolutely.

    There is another similar kind of thread around somewhere at the moment.
    Someone posted something like this on there
    What would you rather spend your Sunday afternoon doing? Taking children to a swimming gala or marking endless books?
     
  10. RuLee

    RuLee New commenter

    Thanks, yes I saw that on the other thread. It's not so much the type of events that concern me but I don't live near the school and it would be a long commute for me, especially if there were weekend duties. Unfortunately, there is not much information about the job in the application pack, which would help me to decide. There is a similar prep school that is a bit nearer but they aren't currently advertising and jobs in independent schools seem to come up so rarely in my area.
     
  11. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I have a long commute and sometimes spend more time driving to and from an event than at the event itself. Irritates sometimes, but not mostly the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. (Even on a day when I left home at 6am and arrived home just after 8pm and will need to leave about 6am again tomorrow.!!)

    There aren't anywhere near as many independents near me as state, so hey ho.
    And, people don't leave independents as often as state.
    That's life.
     
  12. Flyingcarpet

    Flyingcarpet New commenter

    Go for it. It will give you the chance to have an overall better balance in your life.
    Do not expect it to be ALL wonderful, but it will feel great to start with, and then you will get so used to the extra time ( ie non-contact time and fewer books to mark) that you will actually enjoy being able to offer your services and time in the extra-curricular life of the school.
    Yes, you do need to have an understanding that parents are paying customers and you will need to be able to be extremely professional in that respect.

    Also, forget the over reliance on support staff that seems endemic in state primary schools. There will probably be far fewer TAs etc. And teachers teach classes- TAs are not put in front of classes as "PPA cover".

    These are just my opinions based on a lot of sound experience.
     

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