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Careers advice from Theodora Griff

Independent dilemma

I have worked in three comprehensives and been a second-in-department for the past two years. I have just seen an advert for a head-of-department post. But it's in an independent school. Should I move, could I move?

Should you, could you - two very different questions. You are asking if you would want to work there and if they would want to employ you.

Some teachers feel uncomfortable about working in a school where the majority of the pupils are there because their parents have the money to pay the fees. It is fair to say that, in general, independent schools provide pupils with an experience they would not receive in the state sector. But it is also true that many parents take out additional mortgages, stop paying into their pensions or receive generous help from the grandparents in order to pay for this experience.

For teachers, too, the experience is different in the independent sector. You often have longer holidays, and smaller class sizes mean that the pile of marking can be less overwhelming. There tend to be fewer discipline problems, too, and parents are often extremely supportive.

However, the downside should not be forgotten. Supportive parents can be very demanding and this can put pressure on staff. The school day may be longer, with lessons going on until 4pm, and you may be expected to "contribute generously to the co-curriculum programme", as one London school says in its job advertisements. You may also have to put more preparation into lessons, as little or no time is wasted on crowd control. For those who prefer teaching to policing, this is a plus point, of course.

So what sort of teacher is an independent school looking for? The same as any other institution: an outstanding teacher with high standards and aspirations who will be committed to the school and its pupils. If you can show them in your application that you are just that then your experience to date should not go against you.

Meet Theodora Griff online on the TES Jobseekers forum or in person at a TES Careers Advice Service seminar or individual consultation. bit.lyuWhqN2.

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