Career Clinic

30th September 2011 at 01:00
This week, headteacher Teresa Tunnadine offers advice on managing workload and moving to the private sector

How to get over over-work

I am a fairly new modern foreign languages teacher and outwardly I am perceived to be very successful. However, at times I find the job really stressful and have problems with my work-life balance. I sometimes find myself working all weekend to produce lessons I am proud of. Is there support outside school that could help me find ways to manage my workload that other teachers have found to be successful?

MFL teacher, Manchester

For teachers the pattern of working is an erratic one, with pressured school days alongside long hours spent marking and preparing during term-time. Weekend and evening work come with the territory during term-time, unfortunately.

This, however, is offset by some respite during the frequent holidays that punctuate our school year. But it is essential that during term you aren't working all the time and try to "make appointments with yourself" - reserve free times for your social life - at evenings and weekends. Otherwise you will grind to a halt and be less effective at your job - ultimately, this could make you ill.

You also need to find which corners to cut and how to cut them. This is a vital survival tool for any job and applies no less to teaching - "good enough" often has to be "good enough".

It is crucial that you find someone you trust in your current school or beyond who you can talk to about your time management without feeling you are letting someone down or being seen to be weak or unreasonable.

This, I am sure, will be reassuring as you will probably find you are not alone in feeling as you do. Many teachers feel this way at some stage, particularly at the start of their professional career or when changing roles and schools. You might also pick up tips that would help you.

It may be that you have simply been given too much to do and that needs to be sorted out with your head of department or their line manager.

Schools are increasingly supporting staff with effective action-planning strategies, which help to anticipate and iron out pressure points in the busy school year. Templates for action plans are readily available online. Just Google them. Good luck.

Public or private?

I have been working in the public education sector as a science teacher for five years and, more recently, for two years as a deputy head of science. I have found it challenging and rewarding, but I would like a change. A friend of mine has recently moved into private education and is enjoying the new challenges he faces in teaching, as well as the benefits that come with working at an independent school. I am also considering a move into the private sector, but I would not like this to jeopardise a move back into the public sector in several years' time. Would my chances of promotion into senior leadership in the public sector be helped or hindered by such a move?

Science teacher, London

Different heads will have different takes on this question. However, for most schools an important part of the selection criteria they use when appointing staff includes checking to see if they have recent, relevant experience.

Success working in a school within a similar context can be a good indicator of future success in a new post, and will often be a deciding factor in whether you are called for an interview or appointed. Working in a private school may not be seen as the best preparation for working in an inner-city comprehensive.

Another part of the selection criteria is how well you are seen to fit in with the philosophy of the school. Many heads working in state schools have actively chosen not to work in the private sector, wanting to provide the very best education they can for children whose families can't afford to pay for school. For some of these heads, there may well be reluctance, as a matter of principle, to appoint a member of staff who has chosen to work in the private sector.

Appointments are not just about selecting what might be the very best candidate on paper, but about the "best fit" - for both experience and educational values.

That said, some heads may not see it as a problem, especially as you previously have experience working in the state system.

Teresa Tunnadine is head of Compton School in Finchley, London, and a National Leader of Education.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today