Teaching in the independent sector can mean smaller class sizes, better facilities and greater flexibility.
Independent, fee-paying schools provide teachers with a different environment in which to express themselves as education professionals. Sometimes called public, or private schools, they differ from state maintained schools in many ways, and suit some teachers more than others.
It’s important to realise that there’s no such thing as a typical private school, whether at preparatory (primary) or secondary level. They aren’t stacked full of posh, privileged teenagers, and nor are they modern day versions of St Trinians. Each is defined by its own identity, based on ethos, history, culture, tradition, catchment, size and areas of specialism.
Class sizes and class
Going to an independent school doesn’t mean the pupils - or indeed the teachers - are ‘posh’. Many children come from hard working families who have chosen to make sacrifices to pay for their children’s education.
As a teacher, you need to feel comfortable in your environment. That doesn’t mean that you need to have had a private education yourself. Of course if you have been to an independent school, you will know something about the role of traditions, which are peculiar to every school. Some teachers find the more archaic rituals tedious, yet these are a strong part of the culture, and you need to embrace these as part of the whole job.
Class sizes in the independent sector can be a real attraction to teachers. As fee payers, one of the first things parents expect, and usually get, is smaller class sizes than in the maintained sector. For teachers this means less marking time and more chance to concentrate on individuals.
There is no doubt that parental expectations are higher in the independent sector. This is in part justified by the fees being paid. Expect more parental involvement than in the maintained sector, with lots of report writing.
Teaching and the extra curriculum
Independent schools don’t have to follow UK national curriculum, but are free to decide which subjects and exams they offer – for example GCSEs or International Baccalaureate. Not all schools offer a massive range of subjects, however as a teacher you may have a lot more freedom and flexibility.
For many teachers, the extra curricular activities available at an independent school outweigh the classroom work. On the whole sports, arts, drama and music facilities are far better. Some independent schools focus on bringing in the best pupils, so you may have the chance to work with the stars of the future. The range of these activities may give you the chance to further your interests in areas such as outdoor pursuits or the arts. Although you won’t be forced to do anything you can’t do, you may find yourself on the hockey field with the Under 15 Es or supervising a canoeing trip to the local river.
Hours, pay and holidays
Those working in boarding schools will see their responsibilities expand into offering a more pastoral role, requiring more hours in the evenings and at weekends. Certainly you’re likely to be involved as a tutor, who might have some duties into the evening on one night a week. It is possible to expand this role and become a deputy or even a house parent.
Pastoral involvement is hugely rewarding because you get the chance to engage with the pupils as people. However your working hours are different. Even in day schools, the teaching day tends to be longer and can involve Saturdays.
In general, private school holidays tend to be longer. You may enjoy up to 19 week’s holiday a year, but might need to factor in 31 Saturdays in return if a school has Saturday lessons or is boarding.
As to salaries, pay in the independent sector is calculated differently across different schools. Some will mirror closely the maintained sector, and include some extra benefits. You might be given some housing allowance, or reduced fees for your children. Some boarding schools even provide subsidised accommodation. The pension is the same as the maintained sector.
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