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Letters Extra: Reality check for teachers

I read with interest your recent article `Tell-tale signs of the school from hell'. Most teachers will have their own ways of deciphering the code of deception which surrounds teaching jobs. My formula includes the following:-

Never apply for jobs that do not place work-life balance at the top of their priorities (and can prove it!)

Avoid schools that advertise senior jobs as `preparation for headship' or `preparation for senior role'. They want to work you to death on the pretext that you aren't motivated unless you do all the jobs under the sun, work till 11pm at night, and, of course, attend every parents evening, meeting and event after school.

The word 'resilient' is a real giveaway. It means that you are going to get all kinds of stuff that is not yours to do and more besides.

Be aware that most teaching contracts are a blank cheque (partly unwritten contract) for employers to exploit you - unlimited hours at the head's discretion, total responsibility for everything and everybody, and a legal team down at the local authority who just love to exploit every loophole in our exceedingly clear employment law. By the way, don't expect any help from the unions. They will tell you after the event (whatever it was): `you shouldn't have done that - you should have asked us first!'

Learn to spot the PFI `school' that seeks to mask its sinking ship behind a new logo.

If applying for deputy or assistant head jobs, be aware of the pressure current heads are under to bully these staff into taking headships because of the present and projected shortage of senior staff. The wittily named National College for School Leadership (NCSL) is a government cover for pressurising people who have done a perfectly decent job at middle management into thinking that without their seal of approval they couldn't possibly be even the lowliest teacher.

Never apply for jobs out of your area if they don't back their vacancy with substantial removal and relocation help. The schools and Local Authorities get millions of pounds every year for this purpose and most withhold it unless pushed.

I am sure that there are many more reality checks for those unsuspecting potential victims that head teachers call teaching staff. Let's hear them.

J Edgar London

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