Careers - Step this way

16th October 2009 at 01:00
If you have changed school and now regret your decision, you probably feel trapped and nervous. Don't be. You have options

Moving schools can be hit or miss. Sometimes a new job is everything you hoped for, but other times it's not. Finding you've made a mistake can be a horrible feeling - particularly if you blame yourself for not checking things out properly.

"At interview I thought I'd found a good school," says Jane, a primary school teacher who recently moved to the North West. "But looking back I was probably swayed by the new building more than anything else. Colleagues are hostile and I've been shouted and sworn at. It's got to the point where I've started shaking on the drive to work. Of course, I'm thinking of leaving, but I know that will look bad on my CV, and there just aren't many jobs going. I feel trapped."

Deciding to quit after a term, or even a year, is a big decision, so it's important to step back and do some clear thinking. Try to work out exactly what it is you dislike about your new job.

If it's behaviour management that's the issue, then perhaps some professional development could help. If you feel the job simply isn't what you were promised at interview, or your timetable seems unfair, then speak to your head or line manager, and see if you can work things out. Whatever the problem, try to decide if it's likely to get better or worse with time.

"I spent seven years at my last school," says Claire Ashby, a secondary teacher in London. "I hated the first six months, found the next year just about bearable, and ended up really loving it. The key thing is that while I found the kids difficult, I had the full support of the management team. In the end I became a better teacher, and looking back I'm proud of myself for hanging in there."

If you do decide to tough things out, be sure to manage your stress carefully - by talking problems through with friends, taking regular exercise and finding time for your own interests. Try to find something positive in what you're doing, even if it's just your monthly pay slip, and draw up a long-term plan to move forward.

Of course, it's not always that simple. If things deteriorate to the point where your health and happiness are under threat, then you have no longer any choice. It's time to leave. "Your health is your priority," says John Howson, who hosts the TES careers forum ( "Leaving after a term or even a year isn't ideal, but you can try to spin your departure in a positive way, or put it down to personal reasons. If you're a good teacher, you'll get another job.

"Above all, don't blame yourself. You should check a school out before accepting a job, but everyone makes bad decisions from time to time. Some schools have a high staff turnover, and that's usually because they're not great places to work."

What to do next

  • Don't constantly compare your new school to your old one.
  • Work out which parts of your job you enjoy and which you don't. Focus on the positives, address the negatives.
  • If you're applying for new jobs after just a few months in post then prospective employers may be wary - but not necessarily.
  • If your job is making you unwell, contact your GP, occupational health worker or The Teacher Support Network.


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