State v Independent

#1

I currently teach in a comprehensive state school. Have done for the past 6 years. Worked hard, pretty good at it etc etc.

Anyway, a colleague of mine resigned at the end of last year citing intolerable work pressures - feeling like he was not allowed to be the teacher he wanted to be - class sizes, marking load, not enough time to plan stimulating exciting lessons - the usual teacher gripes.

It struck a chord. I had a look around and saw a job that was appealing. I threw an application together that I knew would be pretty strong but without considering all potential scenarios. Turns out, I have been shortlisted for a job at a top independent school (not quite Eton, Harrow, Winchester but the rung below) with an interview this week. Jumping to conclusions obviously but I normally interview well…and if I were to be offered it (generous salary scheme and subsidised accommodation included) I might have a serious decision to make.

I am quite capable of making my own mind up (and probably already have) but wondered what the good folk of Sotonians* would make of this quandary. Where do you sit on the state v private debate? And if you could potentially have you and your family set up financially would any moral stance you might have take a backseat?

*alternatively, watching Chertsey and Fatso duke it out will suffice.

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#2

I’ve sort of been in this position in the past - offer to work for a private healthcare provider rather than carrying on working for the NHS.

I didn’t take it because my principles ARE very important to me. But sometimes there’s no choice. For example when a state school is ‘taken over’ by an academy or a service provided within the NHS is outsourced.

Thankfully I no longer have such a quandry now I’ve retired :blush:

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#3

I admire the fact that you are feeling the need to debate the issue with yourself.

My brother is a dentist. Since graduating, he has stayed with the practice he started with around 35 years ago. While he is now a leading partner in the practice, they stick with the same philosophy of only treating NHS patients, and that is why he stays there. It’s a stance based on principle. He is not wealthy by any stretch, but I do sense that he is happy within himself. He is just not very materialistic.

Personally, if I were him, I would have probably gone after the cash and not felt bad about it. If you chose to stay public, sure you might have a tiny fan club of admirers in your circle of friends and family just as I have always admired my brother’s choice, and probably a couple of parents of your kids. In other words, it makes little difference to anyone else, and absolutely eberything to do with what you want out of life for yourself.

If you want to be the best person you can be, you sometimes have to be selfish in what you choose to do for the sake of others. If your decision is the wrong one, and you end up being unhappy in your decision, then you have made the wrong choice for those that you initially wanted to help.

Of course, in your heart, you have already made the decision, and whichever decision the one in your heart is, it is the right one. That will also turn out to be the best decision for those around you and those you want to help.

Congratulations, and I sincerely hope that this fork in your life takes you to where you really need to go.

PS and OT… I am a tedious bore about this, but I tell everyone who never even asked. My daughter has recently started out as a French teacher after getting her degree after years of being an assistant teacher. Listening to her talk about her job, aspirations, decision making etc. I have a totally new respect for people in that profession. When I was a snotty nosed kid, and ever since then I had an inkling of how much behind the scenes stuff there is, but no clue about just how much you guys put so much of yourselves into the job. You guys (the good ones at least) take a hell of a lot more home with you than paperwork and timetables. (I’m talking about the emotional stuff) Well done!

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#4

I’ve rejected work before because I couldn’t get behind it. Examples include companies with loan sharks as clients, private healthcare providers and right now, won’t work for the BBC or the government, despite having excellent contacts in both.

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#5

Tricky one, particularly for an inverted snob like me :wink:

But kids are kids and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with paying for your kids to have an education (no more than paying for them to go to an after school footie club). I don’t like it, but it’s not evil.

The problem for me is how they turn out! And the impact that has on British culture.

If it were me, I would go to the interview and make a judgment call on how you would fit in, if the culture would suit you, and if you would find it an enjoyable and challenging experience. Maybe you could teach these kids something new, they’ve not experienced before, and that’s got to be a good thing. You might learn a thing or two that you then take back to a state school in the future.

To rule something out completely on the basis of principle is complicated. But to rule it out because you just won’t find it as enjoyable or stimulating, is probably a sensible decision.

I would definitely do the interview. Even if you think you won’t go for it.

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#6

Morally there is nothing wrong with Independent school, it’s not like you’re selling weapons to the middle east, working for the unscrupulous pharmaceuticals or selling cheap cigarettes to hook Africans. If it helps you to attain some of your goals personally and as a family unit then that also helps as you will always try and do best for your family, whatever way you believe that is.

However, it is a shame that you have to make this decision, and that working I’m state schools has got that bad, because we are crying out for good teachers in state schools, but as you say it is difficult for you to do your job with the size of classes that we have, and the budget constraints the schools are put under.

Sad times.

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#7

I wouldn’t take any job that compromised my morals. Like Ohio says, it’s not about what others say our think, it’s about you and what you believe in. I’d like to get to my deathbed and be able to day I did the right thing. That’s a daily battle because I’m a selfish buttmunch most of the time.

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#8

You should worry less about your morals and more about your proof reading. :wink:

Buttmunch.

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#9

Originally posted by @Chertsey-Saint

However, it is a shame that you have to make this decision, and that working I’m state schools has got that bad, because we are crying out for good teachers in state schools, but as you say it is difficult for you to do your job with the size of classes that we have, and the budget constraints the schools are put under.

Sad times.

I don’t think it’s as sad as you make it.

I had a comprehensive school education, but the choice to make it a poor education was my own. With hindsight, I can now recognise which teachers would, and could have been there for me had I shown the interest in what they were doing.

My problems were mostly of my own making, and as much as I hate to say it, my parent’s making. They had the attitude of, “Well, he’s going to school, I don’t need to supervise that aspect of his life unless they report any problems to me”

Had my parents taken more interest in what actually went on during my day, things might well have turned out differently for me. My brother did well at school on his own character. My own character demanded a kick in the ass which I never got from my parents…I had always blamed the school, myself to a very large degree, and only recently have I realised that my parents also had a major failing in this department.

In retrospect, I now blame myself less for my failure in school. Not because that makes me feel better about myself, because it just doesn’t.

People need to understand just how important they are as parents. You can’t just dump your kids in a school and expect that they will solve all their kid’s emotional issues for them.

Many people will put their kids in private schools not because it is an easy option and they are just, well, wealthy. Rich people want the best for their kids too.

I would imagine that Cholula is not wondering so much where his loyalties lie regarding wealth or class, but where he should be to make the utmost impact on young lives. If you have a gift, you want to give it to someone who needs it. The best recipient is not always the one with the least cash. It could be the one with the least emotional support.

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#10

Focusing specifically on the teaching thing, I would feel personally uncomfortable with taking on such a role in an independent school.

First off, I’d be asking whether it was the best use of my time, and I’d conclude that I’d probably be doing more good trying to teach kids in a state school than in an independent school. Most of those rich kids have got it made anyway, with or without my help. Council estate kids with brains? Yeah, I can definitely help there, and that was my motivation when considering moving into the profession a few years ago.

As far as my own school experience goes, it was invaluable. I still benefit from it today, and still advise aspiring kids from poorer backgrounds to go for it, debts and all. Education profoundly changed not just my employment prospects, but my entire outlook on all manner of things. If I ever became a practitioner, I’d go where I can make the most difference.

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#11

What about the rich kids who don’t have it made, or the council estate kids without brains? It takes all kinds of teachers for all kinds of kids. It’s up to the teacher to find the place they are best suited to without being subject to the pre-conceptions of others.

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#12

You saying all private school kids have it made is like saying all council estate kids are thick. Both are lazy stereotypes.

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#13

Originally posted by @Chertsey-Saint

You saying all private school kids have it made is like saying all council estate kids are thick. Both are lazy stereotypes.

If the parents can afford to spend tens of thousands on something that is typically provided for free, then yeah, I think they’ve already got a decent start in life.

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#14

I would argue that getting a state education is also a decent start in life. It’s the people around a kid that makes the real difference, and people are not all the same. If a teacher feels better suited to teaching rich kids, then what would be the purpose in him/her teaching the less priviliged and vice versa?

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#15

TCK, we live in Spartist times, so you’re going to get polarised and absolutist views unfortunately. But it’s good to see they’re unlikely to sway you - and it’s clearly your choice.

FWIW, I don’t think that accepting a teaching post at a good independent school, where teaching values are strong, is in any way a moral compromise. Actually the opposite might be the case: leaving the teaching in independent schools exclusively to those with powerful ideological commitments to the privileges of private education makes things worse, not better. Such teachers do unfortunately exist - along with those who really can’t be bothered to actually teach and therefore rely on the talents of the pupils to get by.

If the school is as good as you say, then you will also be gaining valuable experience of teaching in an environment that is less about processing pupils through the various exam systems (many top private schools extend the curriculum well beyond those for exams alone). So if you were to take a job again in the state sector, you’d have that experience to the benefit of your future pupils.

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#16

Originally posted by @Ohio-Saint

I would argue that getting a state education is also a decent start in life.

I think so too, but you can argue the point that people that can afford to send their kids to private school probably have a degree of stability, financial or otherwise, that a lot of state kids just don’t have.

It’s the people around a kid that makes the real difference, and people are not all the same.

I completely agree. The best decision I ever made in my life, made at around the age of eleven, and prompted by a stern but fair chat from unionhotel, was to ditch the little rogues I’d spent the last few years shoplifting and getting into trouble with.

A year later, I was in top sets in secondary school and had a completely different cohort of pals. I still have those pals now, still say hello to the rogues, but am glad I didn’t spend years getting nicked and sent to jail like most of those did.

If a teacher feels better suited to teaching rich kids, then what would be the purpose in him/her teaching the less priviliged and vice versa?

I’m not really making a judgment, more indicating how I’m wired. I can see plenty of day-to-day advantages in teaching kids at an independent school, but personally, I would feel like I’ve turned my back on my own. That’s just me though, and the fact that I still spend a good deal of my time on a council estate weighs heavily into my thinking. The kids on those estates now need the help more than ever.

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#17

Having it made and having a decent start in life are very different things. One says you don’t have to work/make a living to live day to day because your parents pay your way, the other says your parents have given you a step up, a lot of parents making massive sacrifices to do so because they don’t trust the local state school system.

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#18

Originally posted by @Chertsey-Saint

Having it made and having a decent start in life are very different things. One says you don’t have to work/make a living to live day to day because your parents pay your way, the other says your parents have given you a step up, a lot of parents making massive sacrifices to do so because they don’t trust the local state school system.

I’m not sure how you realise how low the bar goes, Chertsey. For many, a “decent start in life” is the equivalent of having it made. When you consider how many kids lack basic stuff, such as enough food or parental attention, the life of a fee-paying student is cushy. Everything is relative, I know. I’m sure that kids at independent schools have just as many anxieties, but they are worries of a different sort. Most of them won’t know true financial hardship, won’t be at school with other, really troubled kids or at home with really troubled parents.

I honestly don’t blame people for being born rich, but neither do I feel any burning desire to give their kids even more of a leg up than they already have.

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#19

I think that’s it, I think it’s just our definitions that differ.

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#20

What was the outcome of this?

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