Week 4: Think carefully before accepting, says Phil Revell. Then start planning for a tidy exit and a fresh new start
You think it's going to the woman in the green dress. She thinks the internal candidate is a shoo-in. The staffroom bookmaker has the blonde woman from the neighbouring school as the hot favourite. Mrs Tightly-Clenched, the head's PA, thinks the smarmy bloke in the grey suit is a certainty - an opinion clearly shared by said bloke in the suit.
But you are all wrong. When the head reappears in the staffroom at the end of a long day, it's your name that's called. You are being offered the job.
Having maintained a cool head all the way through the interview day, it's easy to lose composure at this point. The words "Yes, yes and yes"
spring to the lips far too easily. First things first - what exactly are you being offered, and on what salary scale?
This could be the school that makes or breaks your career. Make sure you understand the deal that is being offered, including any teaching and learning responsibility points that go with the role. Take your time and think of all the things that struck you during the whole process - the building, the departmental base, your future colleagues. Especially your future colleagues. Ask yourself - do you really, really want to work in this place?
If the answer is "Yes", collect your expenses, go home and celebrate in whatever style seems appropriate. You might have a quiet sherry with that evening's marking. Or you could gather a few disreputable mates and go out and paint the town. Whatever you do, don't get arrested; job offers can mysteriously disappear if the intended recipient gets splashed across the local paper.
Planning for the move should start the next day, and the priority is what army officers call "maintaining a line of retreat". Go in and tell your current head as soon as you can. Even if the required resignation date is weeks or months away, it does no harm to give the school as much notice as possible.
Likewise it is good practice to leave your affairs in order.
You will have a new classroom base and you will probably not want to keep the old wall posters and decoration.
How much of your current stuff can you legitimately take with you? Posters perhaps - but were they bought with money from the departmental budget? What about the dinosaur you made with Year 6 last year; can you bear to throw it away or leave it behind?
What about your laptop? Are there any personal files that should be erased before it is handed back to the IT technician?
What about the huge and overflowing backlog of work in your in-tray? Pupil records, departmental resources, paperwork etc. It's tempting to abandon all of it, but don't burn your bridges. Leaving a trail of disaster is not recommended, either on moral or practical grounds. Unless you are 100 per cent sure you will never return to the school, it is a good idea to arrange a tidy and responsible exit.
Do not assume, however, that the person whose shoes you are stepping into will think the same way. They could be retiring after a long and acrimonious battle with the school. They could have been fired due to administrative incompetence. Or maybe there was no one in post at all, and the job has been babysat by a series of supply teachers or hard-pressed managers with not enough time or energy to do it properly.
An absolute priority is to get into your new school and discover all the things that were not mentioned at the interview: the departmental deficit; the long-standing sickness absence of your second in department; the extraordinarily high number of children with behavioural problems who will be in your class next year; and the asbestos removal team that will be coming into your classroom at the start of term.
What does the school development plan say about your new job, or department? How far advanced is the curriculum planning? Are there enough resources - books, worksheets, paper - for the start of the new term?
If it is a management position, you should find time to meet your colleagues. Are there any key meetings between now and the start date that would be a good idea for you to attend? If there are, will your new school pay for the supply cover to allow you to attend?
And then there are all the practical details. Will you have to move house? In today's housing market it could take months to sell one property and buy another. What are the options in the meantime - commuting, short-term rent, a bunk-up with a colleague?
Will your ancient and unreliable car survive the daily journey to the new school? If you are fit and green and ride a bike to work, does your new school have secure bike storage?
Finally, do make sure you find time for all the positive things associated with taking on a new job. Enjoy the possibilities, ranging from a new classroom to a new challenge with a new team of colleagues.
And celebrate. Not just the night on the town with friends, but personal celebration. Buy some clothes, or put down a deposit on a new car. Book that holiday you decided you couldn't afford. You have done well: you deserve it.
And if you don't get the job? Page 2