Dear John: I'm unhappy in my state secondary. Should I go independent?


I’m facing what feels like a big dilemma. I am currently in my NQT year in a state comprehensive secondary school, after completing a secondary PGCE. I did really well on my PGCE with great feedback but feel that since starting properly, I’ve lost the spark I once had.

I am not happy in my current post so far for a few reasons. I am commuting 50 minutes there and back every day, which wasn’t my situation when I took the job.  The workload, expectations of staff and day-to-day pace is huge in comparison to other schools I’ve experienced. Other experienced members of staff also feel this is true. Third, behaviour management is draining all of my energy and motivation. Because of this, I’m suffering from severe tiredness, stress, and feelings of inability to do the job well.

So, here is the dilemma. A job has arisen, teaching the same subject, in an independent prep school. It is 15 minutes from home, a lovely lovely school with (of course) very well behaved, keen to learn, intelligent pupils. The position is for ‘Sept 2009 or as soon as possible’. The job description, environment and opportunities involved in the post are very attractive to me. Now, considering how early into my NQT year I am (8 weeks), is it too early to be making such a decision for something that would happen in 10 months time? What if I get to Easter next year, having got this job, and regret it? I’m also worried about upsetting my current school so much that things will be difficult for me the rest of the year, whether I get the new post or not. Lastly I’m worried about long term career development - is there the focus on teacher development and career progression in the independent sector, and will it be very hard to get back into state secondary teaching once I’ve been there?  Am I shooting myself in the foot?

Thanks so much in advance, Confused NQT



By now you will have had some indication from the school how your NQT year has started and you may even have had an initial assessment. There are always pros and cost to weight up when considering applying for another job and you have probably made a decision by the time that you reached the end of writing out your question to me. Life is always hard at the start of any new job, and becomes easier. But, we do make mistakes and regret them. I confess to at least two in my career, and have written about one for a new series to come on the web site in due course. If I were you, I would apply for this new post for September 2010 to allow you to complete your induction year. After all, you don’t know whether you will get this other job and the travelling is one good reason to move after your first year; as someone travelling an hour and a half each way to an office, I can sympathise with even a 50 minute commute to school.

As to career development in the independent sector, that depends upon the school. Certainly, the boundaries are more permeable than in the past, and you could probably return to the maintained or academy sectors after a few years if you then wanted to. But, much depends upon your subject and how much your skills are in demand.


John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy, including abrief period as a chief government advisor. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University andhosts our Career Clinic where you can post questions to him.