The hard facts on independents

11th August 1995 at 01:00
I do feel a little sympathy for Marion Jones when she complains about the difficulties of ploughing through a long, hot, summer term. (TES, July 28). However, I think she is seeing grass on the other side of the fence as much greener than it really is.

As a teacher in both independent and state schools over the past 17 years I think she should be aware of a few hard facts about most independent schools.

All the ones I have worked in have had longer days than state schools. My last school, for example, worked until nearly 4.30pm. Other schools in the independent sector have regularly worked on Saturday mornings as well.

Another fact about many independent schools is that some very strange timetables have been imposed by the more idiosyncratic type of headteacher and management found in many of them. For example, I once worked in a school where the school day ended at 5.55pm during the winter months so that a head could accommodate extra outdoor activities before it became too dark. All afternoon lessons were then added on top of this.

Pupils often lose the motivation for work in private schools as well at the end of terms, even though they are usually shorter ones. Also it is not true that general behaviour and motivation are better in all independent schools. I have seen some behaviour in the private sector that compared well with any bad examples in state schools. One of the few advantages I do see in independent schools is smaller classes.

Some independent schools expect a vast extra-curricular commitment from staff, in itself not a bad thing. But this can suck independent school teachers deep into their vocation, sometimes leaving little time for family life.

Most independent schools do pay their staff a "little bit" extra and some supply free board and accommodation. However, it is becoming more precarious working in the private sector today. This is due to the spectre of compulsory redundancy which was given birth during the recession. A number of private schools have closed down completely and staff have been "pruned" in several others.

A CLAYDON Aysham Road Corpusty Norfolk

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