I have worked at a school where I was miserable; day after day it was a slog, with staff morale at an all-time low. It affected my whole well-being, so when I left, I realised making a decision about the next place I would work was crucial. In light of this, I have decided to share a few insights.
Visit the school
This is the most crucial thing when choosing a new school. I know some head teachers that simply reject application forms if the candidate hasn’t visited the school before applying for a job. And why apply for a job if you haven’t visited the school? It could lead to months of misery if it is the wrong place of work for you. Yes, schools might put on a bit of a show when you visit, but at least you know they are trying to impress.
First impressions count, so consider how you are first welcomed. Do staff seem friendly and happy? Also does the person who shows you around the school show a pride in their workplace? Personally I would prefer the head to show me round, then you can ask relevant questions and hopefully make a lasting impression. I have been shown around prospective schools by a governor and also the school business manager. Both experiences were ‘OK’ but it didn’t fill me with the drive to want to work at those particular schools. I have also been shown around by one head teacher in which I thought ‘I really don’t think I can work for them’ and this led me to not apply for that job, as I knew in my heart that this wouldn’t be the right move for me.
Try to visit during the school day too and get into some classrooms. Talk to children and ask what they think about their school, as children are brutally honest. I have visited a school and just been shown the corridors and hall, without stepping inside a single classroom. It was a bizarre experience and very nearly stopped me applying for the job; however I’m glad I didn’t, as I did get invited for an interview, loved the enthusiasm of the children during the lesson observation and I did get the job. I think you have a gut feeling about a place and in that particular situation I was impressed by the head and also soaked up the positive atmosphere of the place.
This has a bigger impact than I first thought, as I realised most of my jobs have resulted from recommendations for others. Teaching is a small world and usually someone knows someone who works there, so you are able to get inside information, most importantly if they are happy working there. So ask around to gain a general opinion of the place. Before I joined my current school I asked friends/ friends of friends and the general view that was repeated was that the school had a kind and caring ethos, and that’s true, it has and it remains a lovely place to work.
Another consideration when applying for jobs is the size of the school; this can make a massive impact on workload. I have worked in a very large primary school, with 90 children per year group and also a small primary school. The differences are immense. A larger school can provide support with workload, as planning and other jobs are shared out, whereas a smaller school the workload is greater as you usually are unable to share planning and work more in isolation. You will probably wear a number of ‘hats’ juggling coordinator roles, covering more assemblies and playground duties. However on the plus side you do get to know all of the children in a smaller school, from the new reception to the older Year 6 children, which also means you get to know parents and extended families too. The team of staff becomes like a supportive family and communication is easier (without the need for hundreds of emails). I also feel you have more of an impact in a smaller school. During a staff meeting, if there are only 6 members of staff, you definitely can get your view across and have an input on decisions.
I hope you have found this blog informative and remember if all that fails, you can always look at the schools’ latest Ofsted report!