state v independent sector: what’s the difference?

I’m currently in my fourth year at LHS, which means by the end of this academic year I will have spent the same amount of time teaching in the independent sector as I have in the state schools. People often ask me if working in an independent school is easier but I don’t necessarily think it is – it’s just different.

Class sizes                                                                                                                                                        The average class at LHS is significantly smaller than those at my previous state school. Fewer students means that I get more 1-1 time with each of them, I can check their work and give them feedback more often. There is less time spent marking as there are fewer books but the planning is still the same. We cover the same content so the writing of Schemes of Work, lesson plans etc. still needs to be done – there are actually fewer people to share the jobs with as departments are smaller. So in fact, you probably end up doing more prep work in an independent school.

Behaviour                                                                                                                                             At my current school we have hardly any behaviour issues. Here it is ‘cool to do well’ so all girls are focussed in lessons and have a great attitude towards their studies. They are children, so of course, there’s minor issues but as teachers we can really focus on the teaching – very little of our time is spent dealing with behaviour. This is something I actually quite miss from my role as Assistant head of Year at my previous school. I enjoyed working with students and supporting them to make the right choices – every situation was different and I enjoyed the different challenges that I faced.

Holidays                                                                                                                                                 Working at an independent school I do get a few more weeks a year holiday than my state sector counterparts. Two weeks at October half term is a game-changer – I feel l can really hit the ground running for the second half of the Autumn term after a decent break. Longer holidays though mean shorter terms. Which sounds great but we still need to cram in all of the teaching of the specifications, meetings, events, reports, parents evening etc. as other schools.

Parents                                                                                                                                                    At an independent school there is no denying that parents are more vocal and involved in their child’s education. Of course, all parents care, but as they have chosen to invest a lot of money into a particular school they want to know that it is providing exactly what they expect.

‘Extras’                                                                                                                                                   When I started working at an independent school I wasn’t quite prepared for the extra events that take place – mostly outside of the working day. We have open day which is a Saturday morning, open evenings after school, a mid-week evening Carol Service, Friday night Prize-Giving just to name a few!

Teaching is life choice – no-one goes into teaching for an easy ride. It can be stressful and there are pressures where every you work. I guess you have to choose which ‘pressures’ you prefer to deal with. Some of us love to teach small classes and having the opportunity to get to know each individual student, others love the challenge of dealing with difficult behaviour. But we all make a difference – that’s the important thing.


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