Teaching is a vocation. A calling. No one gets into teaching for the money or the glory. There’s very little of one, and none of the other. You decide which is which. The fact is, teaching is challenging, in so many ways. But teaching in a non-association independent school is a whole other kettle of fish. And it requires a certain type of person.
So, let's take a look at some of the challenges faced by non-association independent schools.
Because of the nature of these schools, the provision is always very flexible. It has to be. Students don’t all arrive in September. In fact, they don’t always arrive at the start of any given term. Enrollment is neither defined nor predictable. Students arrive when they arrive. And you never know how much they’ve learned, how much education they’ve missed, or what the full circumstances of their referral are.
This is the reality of the situation the majority of non-association independent schools find themselves in. It’s rare for pupils to join the school at the beginning of a key stage. And once they arrive it’s unlikely they’ll remain for the full seven years of primary school or secondary school. In fact, as is often the case, pupils tend to get referred to non-association independent schools at critical points in their education. Usually in Year 10 or Year 11 (make of that what you will). All of this makes for a set of exceptional and challenging circumstances.
As if this wasn’t already complicated enough, many pupils will arrive with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans in need of a lot of specific and individual support with behaviour and with their special educational needs.
In short, it’s a complex melting pot.
And it’s not for everyone.
Profiling a Non-Association Independent School Teacher
I think it’s important to insert a disclaimer here.
I am in no way suggesting that mainstream teachers aren’t able to effectively work in non-association independent schools. I’d be lying if I said that teachers can’t transition from mainstream to independent teaching. For starters, teachers are some of the most underappreciated professionals in the UK. I have the utmost and profound respect for the work they do under the most challenging circumstances. I’ve been there myself. So, I would never add any more undue and unnecessary criticism to the raft of bad press they already get.
That said, working in a non-association independent school does require a special type of person. Because if mainstream teaching wasn’t already challenging enough, the sheer extremes and variety in the needs of students referred to non-association independent schools ratchet up the expectations and demands on staff astronomically. And that’s not just teaching staff either. Senior leaders and support staff are all on the front lines. No one is exempt. Everyone is critically involved in helping every student find some level of success.
So, it’s understandable that some staff members who may have previously worked in the mainstream sector may struggle to work in the independent school sector.
More Than Just Training
This is predominantly because (without wanting to sound critical) mainstream schools are used to a more rigidly structured way of working. And it’s difficult to adapt to the completely flexible way of working that is demanded by non-association independent schools.
Some staff may feel unprepared to support such a diverse cohort of pupils with such large swathes of individual needs.
This is not to say that independent schools do not prepare their teachers. They do. They source relevant training to support them, deliver workshops, and use shadowing for new staff members to make sure that they're aware of the challenges that they are probably going to face.
But some, even with all that training and preparation, continue to struggle. The extreme demands of working in this teaching and learning environment go far beyond any training teachers can be provided with. It often boils down to the personality and strength of character of individual teachers. Because working in the independent school sector is tough.
Teachers don’t just have to deal with the usual daily petty little issues. Often it can be really serious incidents. Problems that extend far beyond the classroom and that can not only completely ruin a lesson but take over the entire day, and then some.
Hence, you need a certain type of person to work in this kind of provision.
It's not just about having a teaching qualification or a learning support qualification. You need the thick skin, the strength of character, and calm resilience to deal with the needs of these pupils. Day in. Day out. Regardless of what the day may throw at you.
And no two days are the same.
So, could you work in a non-association independent school?
If you would like to talk to us about your independent school or how Marell can help you and your team, simply contact us today.