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State or Independent?? Advantages/Disadvantages of an Independent School

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by pink1985, Jan 17, 2009.

  1. Hiya Everyone,

    Just got a quick question - A lovely Independent school has advertised for a teacher in my subject and I'm thinking about applying. However, I'm concerned that if I apply for it and was successful, would I be seriously disadvantaging myself when apply for a HoD job in a few years...? As i've heard that once your working in an independent school, its really hard to go back to state?

    I'm an NQT at the moment but I'm in charge of all the budgets and extra curricular activities in the department however, my contract is only for 12 months and is now ending to appoint a HoD - which I don't want to apply for yet so need a new job :).

    If anyone has any ideas I would be v grateful for your help.



  2. Yes I would say you probably are. There are less opportunities for progression in the independent sector as staff turnover is lower. HOD jobs are much rarer.

    It can be difficult to move back because you may be out of practice in some areas. You will have had less recent experience in behaviour management than those who have remained in the state sector. You may not be as up to date with curriculum developments and government initiatives. As a result you may not be confident answering the types of questions asked during interviews for state sector HODs. You would have to word any application very carefully. There is sometimes prejudice as well, I know many teachers in my dept would be very sceptical about someone coming from the ind sector to tell them what to do. They would assume you couldn't control the type of kids we have. I'm not saying it's a fair view but it exists.
  3. Hi Kritur,

    Thanks for being honest. You have told me exactly what I thought deep down. - I'm in a really rough school at the mo and although I could say, I have proved myself by surviving my NQT in this school, how could I prove my ability if I moved from state to independent and then wanted to move back?! As an NQT, I could do with leaving my options open as in a few years time I might want to progress to HoD.

    Thanks, your advice, it is much appreciated and I think I will leave the independent school - I bet there is loads of horrid, extra paperwork there anyway :). I think I would ideally prefer to work in a state school! :)


  4. I moved from the state sector to an independent a number of years ago.

    I get 18 weeks holiday, very small classes mainly 6th form and no red tape or interference with what I do in my classroom. Pupils work hard and are very polite. Teachers on the top of the main scale in my school are paid far more than HoD's in state schools.

    So I would agree, once you are working in an independent school, it is really hard to go back to state system.
  5. Henriettawasp

    Henriettawasp New commenter

    Not all HoDs want to do the job for the money!

  6. peterdevon

    peterdevon New commenter

    ...and not all Independent schools have such generous pay scales.

  7. Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for your advice, definately some points here I hadn't even thought about. Although I keep thinking I would be better in a state school, I think I would be really happy in this school as I would get to teach little ones aswell and I know I will really enjoy the environment.

    I'm going to ask a question here, which might make me sound shallow but I'm a bit confused when thinking about my future (might start a new thread with this, thinking about it......). I'm 22 and keep thinking which of the 2 options I would be happier with:

    1) To find a nice little school (like the independent one) that I really like and to stay there although there wouldn't be much scope for career progression.

    2) To work in a more challenging state school and to try and keep advancing in my career.

    Ideally I'd love to advance quickly, I'm now doing my NQT year but I've already got lots of extra responsibility. Although I don't like it at the moment I keep thinking that by focusing on advancing my career will make me happy in the future? Or will it just make me miserable and ill?

    I keep thinking that when I finally get married, (planning to v soon) I want to afford and enjoy a better quality of life for my family. However, then I start thinking, what if I'm always working hard and not there for my children/husband?

    What are everyone's opinions? Work hard and climb to the top to afford a better life or happily work as a teacher without progression but have a moderately financed, stress free home life?

    Thanks for your help, - I will add this question as a new thread now, as I know this is not part of my original topic :)

  8. Silent85

    Silent85 New commenter

    I am in the same situation.
  9. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    This cuts both ways.
    I have worked exclusively in the Independent sector, so the following are just my observations of the problems that State school teachers have when first entering the private sector. The problems are not insurmountable, and any good teacher will be able to cope in either environment given a reasonable period to adjust in.
    There are very minor behavioural issue in most private schools. Most, but not all. As someone else said, not all independent schools are the same. Some can be pretty bad - especially if they have small rolls. Remember the wealth - and thus the ability to hire more teachers - is governed by the number of the pupils in the school. If this is low you could be working very hard indeed.
    The lack of behavioural problems means that most of the lesson is taken up by actual work and teaching. I was lucky in that my PGCE placement was in a very academic grammar school and thus my grounding was in teaching and not in behavioural management. What this means is that there will be a lot of material covered in the average lesson, much more than in the average state school. This also means that there will be a lot of marking and in the bigger private schools you will be expected to set homework almost every lesson and to mark the homework and hand it back as soon as is possible.
    Expect little in the way of support unless you are an NQT. Private schools give you a great deal of freedom to teach as you want. However with this comes the understanding that you are a highly competent teacher and can look after yourself. This is not to say that you are an island separated from all and sundry, just that you are expected to make your own resources and to be self-sufficient. If you have a problem in the class you are expected to be able to deal with it.
    Which brings on the next thing. Strong willed children and their equally strong willed parents. It is absolutely imperative that you are able to stand your ground and lay down your rules. While there is seldom open rebellion against a teacher, dissatisfaction with a teacher can take some unsavoury routes. Parents complaining to the head behind your back etc. etc. You have to be pretty self-confident to thrive in an independent school.
    I have spent over 15 years working in boarding schools and I cannot imagine teaching in any other type of school, but equally as well it is certainly not for everybody.
  10. I wouldn't worry. If the job looks great then apply. Been in a similar position and had no problems. I had two state PGCE placement schools, then did a few years in a state school once qualified, went to the private sector for a few years and then straight back into a very, very tough inner city comp without any problems as I'd proven myself already in a state school. I put in my letters of application that I actively wanted to return to the state sector and was not looking at private sector jobs and got shortlisted for all of the posts. I guess you may need a year or two more under your belt tomake the move back quite so easily as I was able to. One more thing: there is FAR less paperwork in a private school!
  11. A couple more things! I've re-read your post and it sounds like you are rather anxious, without really needing to be. Part of the problem - correct me if I'm wrong- seems to be your eagerness to 'control' the future and not make mistakes or do anything which will harm your chance of promotion down the line. Quite frankly, you have to take risks. I don't think it's as clear cut as saying you'd be 'better in a state school'. State schools are not all alike, and neither are private schools! It's a bit of a blanket statement. I'm in a state school with hardly any opportunity for promotion as staff turnover is so low. Also, In the current job market, competition is fierce, and I don't think it's wise to not apply for posts just because you don't think they'll lead to promotion in, say, five years time. I would focus ongetting a job you enjoy in a school that you like, and worry about promotion then. One thing at a time.
    I don't get why you would choose to NOT apply for a job that you think you'd be really happy in, simply because it might hinder a future promotion which you have not yet got! Why not apply, see if you get an interview, see if you get the job, see if you want the job - and then decide?!
    Not a reason for an NQT to not apply for a job, in my opinion. You may find staff move around less, yes. But do you want a promotion for the sake of it at any school, or do you want to hang on for a promotion at the right school? In that case, find the right school first and worry about the promotion second.
    No-one can give you advice on this. Only you can decide on what is a good life/family balance, what is your idea of a godd job / slary and what equates to career success.

  12. Hi, I moved after 25 years in the state sector (mostly in tough inner city schools) in April 2010 to an independent school as HOD. I would never ever (x10) go back. Small classes, long holidays, few behavioural probs. make it a pleasure. There is a lot of pressure, v. long hours , a few indulged children and some aggressive parents but, in the main, the quality of life is signifcantly better. I used to be a card carrying socialist until eventually the appalling behaviour and daily battle took their toll. It was almost like an epiphany when I realised that most ( not all) of the children for whom you think you are struggling to do a good job, don't actually care. I worked in a Special measures school and then an Academy which was Orwellian in its denial of behavioural problems. It was palpably clear that senior manganegment wrere motivated by advancing their own careers and not in ameliorating the daily lives of those at the chalkface. The lesson here...look after yourself, don't be troubled with notions of doing good for society. With the benefit of hindsight I would NEVER have worked in the state system. Good luck.
  13. v12


    I am entirely with JADY (except for being a card carrying Socialist, of course)

    i. Smaller classes
    ii. Generally more motivated children
    iii. Over-ridingly more polite children
    iv. You will be allowed to teach with passion
    v. Generous discounts for your own children
    vi. Really really long holidays
    vii. Generally higher pay scales
    viii. Often beautiful working conditions - lovely grounds &c.
    ix. Free dinners and functions - sometimes breakfast and supper
    x. Often free accommodation if requested (including all bills)
    xi. Members of the common room are more likely to pitch in with help
    xii. Non-core subjects taken seriously
    xiii. You get to dust off your gown and hood from time to time
    xiii. Extra-curricular activities are AWESOME - everyone does them!

    i. Longer working hours
    ii. Possibly Saturday teaching and meetings
    iii. Occasional boarding duties
    iv. Demanding parents
    v. You will be required to dress smartly and with flair
    vi. Gowns and hoods don't come cheap!

    I love it!

  14. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Why not consider a 3rd option: start in a nice little independent school and then, in due course, advance your career by moving to a larger independent, perhaps as a number two in the department, and then eventually seek a HoD post in one of the big public schools?
    That's the type of path that I, and many of my colleagues in the indie sector, followed.
  15. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Well, independent schools do come in a variety of shapes and sizes, just as state schools do. It may be quite possible for you to move on to a bigger and more challenging school at some later stage, if that is what you want to do.
    On the other hand, you may become bored with teaching in independent schools, as I did, and make a much more exciting move into international education. So far I have taught in Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Romania, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Would I ever go back to teaching in the UK? Not in a hundred years.
    I agree with the comment made earlier that there tends to be less paperwork in independent schools. There's even less in international school! And not even Eton and Harrow can offer their staff more sunshine and no Council Tax.
  16. Kritur,
    I really want to work in an independent school and each time I read a post about doing this (including yours!) I become more and more sure that this is the path I want to follow.
    However, finishing time is an issue for me - as a single parent I want to get home as soon as possible after school to spend time with my son, and then I do my work when he goes to bed. As you said you've worked almost exclusively in the independent sector, I was hoping you could tell me if this would be possible in an independent school and/or if it varies from school to school? Is this an element of the 'freedom' and the expectation to be a 'highly competent teacher' you wrote about i.e. come and go as you please as long as your work is being done to the appropriate standard?
    It is a deciding factor for me - I won't give up my time with my son, but I have no problem giving up my evenings/lunchtimes in return. As such I don't want to spend time pursuing a career in the independent sector if I have to stay in to 6pm or later every evening, so any advice would be great!

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