Moving from a government school to an independent

Tes Editorial

Teaching In An Independent School

Moving to teach in an independent school - why make the change?

Some teachers find making the transition from the government-run sector to a fee-paying independent school a bit uncomfortable. However, more and more teachers are making the move. 

Non-government schools, such as Catholic and independent schools, make up a major part of the education system, with around a third of children attending such schools.

We asked Tyson Wood and Kayla Wilson from Smart Teachers on the differences between the sectors.

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What are the differences between state schools and independents?

Wood: There has been a rise in teachers transitioning from the government to the non-government sector in recent years. This is reflective of the increase in parity from school to school across Australia because of: an increase in accountability and transparency brought on by the federal and state government; the introduction of a national curriculum and Naplan; the popularity of nationally or globally recognised pedagogical or well-being frameworks; and the rise of independent government schools in many states. As such the teaching and learning expectations are more similar from school to school. However, there remain differences.  

The independent sector includes many faith schools, with teachers in these schools required to be stewards of the school's religion and often partake in religious classes or spiritual events. Teachers looking to transition will need be comfortable and capable of this when moving to a faith school.

The second difference is the elevated community engagement required of teachers in independent schools. Though all schools have fetes and carnivals, an independent school calendar is filled with many community activities as well as sports and arts events. Teachers need give more time to coaching, coordinating or simply participating.

What advice do you have for someone applying to independent schools?

Wood: Don't be afraid to make an application. Independent schools value the abilities of teachers experienced in other sectors. If you are a passionate teacher who contributes to higher levels of community and extracurricular engagement, commits to well-being as much as academics and enjoys a highly collaborative work space you will thrive in the independent sector.

Wilson: As independent schools are a massive spectrum of schools, all with varying needs and student demographics, it helps to research each school thoroughly before applying. Getting to know each school will help you to showcase specific skills or attributes before you submit your application.

Is from a state school to an independent school easy?

Wilson: Some teachers can find it difficult to move between schooling systems, and it is something that can be a big decision – particularly when considering giving up accrued long service or sick leave to move to a new employment authority. Navigating the public system can also be quite confusing for teachers who have only taught in the independent sector. That being said, many teachers are able to move easily between sectors, particularly if they highly adaptable and able to respond readily to the needs and demographic of different schooling contexts.

Do independent schools look for different skills compared to state schools?

Wood: Independent schools will look for passionate teachers with a holistic vision. They will value high levels of subject knowledge, pedagogical understanding and a genuine commitment, respect and care for students. Flexibility is also valued, notably a willingness to get involved in all aspects of school life. 

Independent schools with a particular faith, curriculum or pedagogical philosophy will also look for qualities that match these and other features of their ethos.    

Do you have to re-register with the teaching registration board when moving to an independent school?

Wood: Government and non-government schools are all overseen by the state teacher licensing and accreditation laws. For example, if you live in Victoria, whether you are in a government or non-government school, you'll need to hold registration with the Victoria Institute of Teaching. Transitioning to a Catholic school is not too dissimilar to this process because all teachers working in a Diocesan-governed Catholic school must be registered with the Diocese. Centralised application forms, such as within the government sector, must be completed and employment registration must be in place prior to commencing employment in a Catholic school. Even when making a direct application to a primary or secondary Catholic school, a teacher will need to complete application forms and provide information to be registered with the Diocese.

However, there is no centralised independent school employment registration requirement. Teachers looking to move to an independent school need to be registered with the state teacher licensing and accreditation authority and comply with the different application requirements when making direct applications to independent schools.

Tyson Wood is Australian manager and Kayla Wilson is QLD consultant at Smart Teachers.

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