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What's it really like?

Discussion in 'Independent' started by beckydavis84, Aug 24, 2011.

  1. Hello all

    I am a qualified English and Media Studied teacher and am really keen to relocate to Brighton and Hove, where the amount of independent schools far outweigh the amount of state schools.

    Teaching in the independent sector isn't really something I had thought of before, but I love being in the classroom, which I guess is the crux of the job.

    Could anyone give me a heads up as to what working in an independent school is like? How does it differ to a state school? What are the benefits? Are the kids better/worse? etc etc

    Any help would be gratefully received!
  2. v12


    Let's put it this way:
    You'll rarely find a teacher who wishes to go back to the state sector after having taught in both.
    I personally love it!
    Perhaps you should trawl around this forum and read some of the appropriate threads.....
  3. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Independent schools are at least as varied as state schools. If you can secure a job in a top HMC school you may well have a lighter timetable than in a state school (and certainly longer holidays) but also much longer working hours and an expectation that you will contribute to co-curricular activities (often lasting until 5.30 or so) and attend a range of evening and weekend fixtures. (For example, at the last HMC school at which I worked, we had ten parents' evenings a year, all scheduled between 7pm and 10pm). In general, the kids want to succeed, so discipline problems are rare (and are stamped on very heavily by the SMT).
  4. Hi! Obviously it is just random luck that i have seen your thread and happen to be returning to the state sector this september after an awful year in the private sector - i'm probably by no means representative but i'd wager there's a few of us out there who couldn't get back to the good old state sector fast enough!!

    I think it would be sensible to not limit yourself to one of the other when relocating, especially as getting any job right now is incredibly difficult. However i found i didn't really like the very small community of the indie i taught in, and the long hours expected of staff (usually late nights and saturdays). I missed my life! The focus is much more on what extracurricular stuff you can offer. Some private schools also can't afford to pay you as much and there tends to be less career progression/responsibility points. Parents' say can hold more sway as they are the customers.

    Clearly there are exceptions to these comments and i probably shouldn't post them on the indie forum!!!

    The benefits seemed to be better behaviour and no levelling of work - but if your behaviour management is ok and you don't mind the levels and targets then i'm not sure what is to be gained really.

    Apologies to all the indie-lovers who might read this! And sorry there's no paragraphs - they've been eaten.
  5. trinity0097

    trinity0097 New commenter

    First some background about me to put things in perspective, my Dad was a prep school haed, my Mum worked in the same prep schools as him. I taught for the first 9 years of my teaching career in state schools and have spent the last year in a prep school.
    My first thing to say is that there is far more variation in how independent schools do things compared to state schools, because there are fewer restrictions. Some will follow the national whatevers quite closely, some will be very 'backward' in that sense and some in the middle! Also there is a lot of variation in what is expected of you. For example in my school we do every other Sat morning during term time, but for fun activities rather than lessons. Some still do Sat morning school, some do nothing on a Sat.
    What is common is that most people are expected to offer more than just what they can do in class, many people will be expected to take games in a prep school for example - thankfully not me! We have some specialist sports staff so that those of us who have strengths other than on the sports field can do other things!
    Yes parents are generally more involved, however this is generally positive because they want the best for their child. Parents I have found will back me 100% if their child is a bit disruptive, whereas in my previous schools that type of behaviour was largely ignored because there were bigger issues behaviourwise to deal with. Some can be difficult, but my experience to date is that you wil be supported!
    Don't just consider senior schools too - there is much to be said for working with children in the upper KS2/KS3 phase in a prep school.
    I personally wouldn't want to make the move back to the state sector, but then I always felt that I was just waiting for the right prep school job to come along given my background in the indpendent sector!
  6. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

  7. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Sorry about the previous null post!
    It sounds like you taught in a small prep - in one of the HMC schools in which I worked, there were nearly 300 teaching staff (some part time). I'm not sure I ever met them all! The long hours are part of what you accept in the indie sector, although they are compensated for by the much longer holidays and (in many cases) lighter timetables that allow marking and preparation to be completed during the school day, without the need to take work home.
    Perhaps it was typed without thinking, but the "stuff" that you refer to is at the heart of most independent schools. It is why many parents pay for their children to be educated in the sector because what attracts them is the chance for their kids to experience drama and music at a near professional level, to debate competitively, to make ceramics, to play games at an advanced level, to learn to swim in on-site pools, to learn how to use firearms and join the CCF, to go abroad on expeditions and exchanges, and so on. All of this offers so much more than most of the maintained sector can do any more.
    Again, I think you are reflecting a rather narrow experience of the independent sector. I was always paid considerably more than I could ever have achieved in the state sector. In my last job I retired (as head of music) on the equivalent of the mid-point of a headteacher's salary in the state sector.
    I cannot emphasise strongly enough that there is a huge variety of schools in the independent sector. If you can get into a top HMC school, you would be amazed.
  8. Well yes, those are just my opinions based on my limited experience - but then i did make clear in my post that i had only worked for one year in one indie school. I also used words like 'can' and 'tends' to show that it isn't necessarily always the case. And yes, i did in a moment of sheer recklessness type the offensive word 'stuff' (!!!!) I am sure the OP will appreciate a range of views.
  9. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    I think the important thing for the OP is to emphasise that there is no single answer to the question of what it is like to work in the independent sector.
    The differences between schools are, if anything, greater than those in the maintained sector between "Hell High School" and the high-performing grammar schools that appear near the top of the league tables each year.
  10. To the OP - oh yeah and some teachers are a bit unfriendly and defensive! Some, i said some!
  11. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Rowntreegirl, I don't think posters are being unfriendly. You do raise some important issues, which is that despite long holidays, independent teachers often have to work very hard and long hours, which can be a shock to the system if you're not used to it. To me, it felt a little like an NQT year, and now that I've gotten used to the pace I don't actually remember how different it was in the state sector. But perhaps I'm just quite fortunate.
    You're also right to point out the potential issue about pay - just make sure you discuss progression as well as starting salary.
    Generally though, I've found the independent sector to be very supportive of teachers - my boss respects my independence and lets me do pretty much what I want, as long as kids are learning and I get the exam results. They're not quick to point out mistakes or demand changes/improvements every five minutes like state schools seem to do. And there are the obvious advantages of behaviour, class sizes, good communications with parents, etc, which are normally mentionned.
    I'd say look at the school without the independent/state lens, and just choose a good school that you'd want your own kids to attend - I don't think it matters which it is.
  12. pussycat

    pussycat New commenter

    Lovely kids, no discipline problems, staff who know their subjects about and can write and speak English properly, better pay, longer holidays, lots of extra-curricular activities to get involved with, a real sense of community and a sense that everyone is pulling together (kids included). It is WONDERFUL and I would never, ever go back to a state school.
  13. pussycat

    pussycat New commenter

    Excuse the rogue 'about' which popped up there!
  14. I must admit, you've sold it to me Pussycat!
    What about qualifications? In terms of my degree, I have a drama based one from an ex-polytechnic and it's only a 2:2. However I maintain that the reason it isn't the greatest result is because of the amount of extra-curricular activities and societies I got involved in. My teaching qualification was achieved through the GTP where I got some great feedback. Do independent schools care more about the degree you have and where you got it from?
  15. trinity0097

    trinity0097 New commenter

    Depends on the school, some of the top schools do still care about things like this, but most are just interested that you have the degree and QTS in some form. I have a 2:2 in a lesser known uni and am head of Maths in a prep school.
  16. Ireton

    Ireton New commenter

    I work in a prep school and our new appointments this year come from a varied background. What sold them above all was their passion for the subject and their ability to teach it well, coupled with a willingness to involve themselves fully in the life of the school. Their backgrounds are wide ranging and they come from different universities, they certainly aren't all Oxbridge.
    As has been mentioned above, each independent is different at every level. Most of the preps school that have classes up to Yr 6 will follow a modified KS2 curriculum, whilst those who teach to Yr8 will usually have an adapted curriculum. Some are attached to and feed directly into senior schools whilst others will feed to many, but a smaller school may have financial issues and won't be able to offer you the technical support that the local primary may have as standard. I have friends working in such schools and they cast envious eyes on what is now regarded as standard fare in the state system. However, you may find that you are much more independent in what you teach and that the amount of paperwork is considerably less than the state system.
    There can also be a lack of career direction-some schools are superb and promote/support staff to develop their careers, others however, are more concerned with keeping afloat and simply won't have the money to allow courses to be attended etc.
    Some schools work on Saturday mornings followed by games, plus occasional Sunday duties but such full boarding places often offer low rent or even free housing and other benefits as well as offering a school community. My present school is 08.30 - 16.00 however, most of us are in by 07.45 and rarely leave before 5.30 p.m., plus parent evenings, infomation evenings, residential trips (3 last year) etc etc.
    If you are able to, try and visit schools in your area - they range from the academic to the ones that concentrate more on the extra activities to broaden the child's horizon and vision.

    Good luck!
  17. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    The OP can do a bit of research here on this Forum.
    First, if you haven't already, read the clickables in the Welcome thread, which give some basic info about indy schools.
    Secondly, browse the Forum. Do a search for "state" or "Maintained" - you're bound to find a couple of threads where people have asked the same questions that you, very wisely, are asking.
    Then search "application" to see what an indy school is looking for. This, coupled with reading the advice inside the Welcome thread on the JobSeekers Forum, will enable you to write an effectiuve applicatioin where your love of teaching and commitment to the whole wider life of the school will shine through.
    Good luck!
    TheoGriff. Member of the TES Careers Advice Service.
    I do Application and Interview one-to-ones, and also contribute to the Job Application Seminars. We look at application letters, executive summaries and interviews, with practical exercises that people really appreciate.
    I am timetabled for the October seminars - see you there!

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