Tread warily on independent path

8th September 1995 at 01:00
I was rather amused by John Morris's defence of independent schools (TES, August 25). Generalisations should not be made for any group of schools, including those in the independent sector. Indeed, the word "independent" itself suggests otherwise.

As a teacher who has split my professional career equally between the state and independent sectors, I would warn teachers to vet independent schools as stringently as parents vet these schools for their children.

I somewhat naively moved from the state sector, with its checks and balances, to an independent school similar to those described by Cathy Moorhouse (TES, August 18) as a "small one owned by one person . . . run by a megalomaniac head". The head and owner were one and the same. The bullying of teachers was relentless and grievance procedures were a farce.

John Morris stated that the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools recommends model contracts for teachers, but this certainly does not guarantee that pay and conditions are acceptable in every independent school. The contract I signed at the aforementioned school contained a clause that read "staff leaving at the end of any term will not be entitled to pay for any period thereafter, including any holiday period thereafter". At the completion of teaching a full academic year, my total pay was ten-twelfths of the Standard National Scale amount on my contract.

I have discovered that there are independent schools where pay and conditions are excellent. But independent means independent. Post a copy of your contract to your union's legal department before you sign.

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