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Choosing the Right School for a Long Term Position

Laura is new to our blogging team and in her debut blog she discusses the factors you should consider when choosing a long term teaching position. 

Congratulations! You have either chosen to make the big leap from from supply/short term work to long term or have decided to jump straight in at the deep end. Now you are faced with the task of finding a school that suits you, filling out an application form and the dreaded interview. Many people make the mistake of taking a job at any school. You have travelled halfway across the world or halfway across Europe to get here, you are financially broke and you are so relieved to finally get offered a job , any job. You're thinking: Phewww. Someone actually wants to hire me. Take this job now. Quick! Before someone else does. If I don't accept this one, I might not get another offer. What will I do then? This, ladies and gentlemen, is a trap. Don't fall into it! Having worked in the UK as both a supply and PPA teacher and as someone who is currently searching for a long term role for September, I have put together the following guide to help you choose the right role for you.

1. Multiple Form Entry School

Does it really matter how big the school is I hear you ask? Yes it does. What you are ideally looking for is a 2-3 from entry school Why? If you are teaching year 4 that means there are either two or three other teachers teaching year four in your school as well. That can be useful as one person can plan maths for the week, one can plan English and the third can plan the rest e.g. history, science, art etc. Just think of all the time that saves you!

If you are an NQT or new to the UK's education system you have one or two unofficial 'mentors' on your classroom doorstep. You can cut down on your workload in small ways too. For example, I have seen year 1 teachers photocopy the maths worksheets for the class next door when doing their own. It only means pressing '60' instead of '30' on the photocopier for them but saved the teacher next door the trek down to the photocopier (and probably the queue as well!).

In a single form entry school (that means a school where there is only one class of year 4's etc. ) you have none of these advantages and don't really gain any advantages that are not provided by the multiple form entry school. You are responsible for planning, for preparing resources, for monitoring and assessing targets, for everything really and you are on your own with nobody to turn to even for advice or moral support. I recommend a medium sized school as there is more support than in a small school and you may fade into the background a bit more in a very large school.

Tip: It is even better if you can get a school which gives you PPA (planning time) at the same time as the other teachers in your year group e.g. all the year one teachers plan together at 11.15 on Thursdays in my current school.

2. Avoid Outstanding Schools or Struggling Schools

Most of us have the good sense to avoid struggling schools. Stereotypically, they are associated with challenging behaviour, poor academic attainment and socially deprived areas. Working in these schools can be stressful and often these schools are under constant scrutiny and inspections. What people don't realise is that outstanding schools can be equally as challenging if not more challenging but in a different way. You think this is going to be a walk in the park: well mannered children from affluent backgrounds, parents who are interested in their child's education and top class resources. You may get the top class resources but the reality is outstanding schools want to stay outstanding and live in constant fear of loosing that status. Consequently, teachers are under constant pressure to do more and more. On top of that, some children expect their children to be top of the class and put pressure on both the child and the teacher to make sure this ideal becomes a reality.

What you want is a school rated as 'Good' by Ofsted. This is the happy medium. Children are relatively well behaved and expectations are at an appropriately high level.

3. Avoid Schools Who Are Overdue a Visit From Ofsted.

What is Ofsted? In summary Ofsted is the authority that comes to inspect and rate the schools over a two day period. Ofsted reports can generally be found on a school's website and are available to the public. Schools are rated by their Ofsted report and this determines a school's rating in the league tables. Ofsted is taken very very seriously and is usually the be all and end all for head teachers. The perceived pressures of Ofsted are almost always far greater than the reality. Head teachers push and push mountains of policy and agenda in preparation for Ofsted. It can almost become an obsession. School staff are often left in limbo for a full year waiting for 'the call'.

Although it is impossible to predict when Ofsted are going to come, it is unlikely they will visit a school that they have recently been in and almost certain that they will visit a school who is long overdue a visit before the end of the academic year. Give yourself the best chance of avoiding being in school until midnight (no that was neither a joke nor an exaggeration!), pick a school that has just had Ofsted!

4. Avoid SATs Years

What are SATs? SATs are the state exams taken by year two and year six children in the summer term. These have a very high status and also contribute to the schools league table rating. There is much more emphasis on these exams than there probably is on the equivalent exams in your home country, if you're from abroad. If you grew up in the UK, you will probably remember your own SATs. Personally, they remind me of secondary school exams back home in Ireland, such is the level of importance they are given. Year 6's SATs results help determine what secondary schools the children get into.

A school is unlikely to offer an inexperienced teacher year six as they tend to give these classes to the more experienced, highly regarded teachers but you might get offered a year two class. Quite simply you don't get paid any extra and don't get any extra praise or thanks so do yourself a favour and avoid the needless pressure.

5. Support for NQTs (if applicable to you)

The difference in support provided to NQTs can be remarkable. Some schools more or less ignore you, especially if things aren't going so well, some offer a mentor who sits beside you during PPA time while you do your planning, and some provide more non contact hours than others. This is a very important question to raise during your interview.

Other Factors To Consider Are:

Religious Ethos

Personally, I find working in schools that have no particular religious ethos but celebrate all major religious festivals the best. Children get the opportunity to learn about different faiths and take part in various exciting craft activities in conjunction with religious festivals. When I did supply days in Church of England schools, I found it difficult to teach RE as I was unfamiliar with Church of England teachings. I would like to stress that this is a personal opinion but religious ethos is a factor worth considering.

The Marking Policy

They are all very rigorous but try to go for a school with the lesser of two evils i.e. a slightly less daunting one. You will be marking 100 books a day! Everyday! Sadly.

London V Outside of London

I have never worked outside of London myself but friends who have seem to like it and accommodation and general living costs are lower. Rumour has it, the schools are less challenging. That said, you may not be able to get a bus every five minutes.

Choice of Year Group

If the thought of a child with sticky hands scares you to death don't do an interview for an early years position. Let Protocol Education know your preference of year group when you are looking for work. The interview process generally involves a tour of the school and teaching one lesson within that school. This gives you a good feel for the school and helps you decide if you like the vibe or not.

Remember you choose the school as much as the school chooses you. Good luck.

Tags: LauraR, London, Ireland, teacher

Category: Australian Teachers

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