This is ridiculous! No school does as much as we do! I’ve had enough! I’m leaving!
Said no teacher ever.
Or, said every teacher, usually during stressful times in the academic year. Often, the sentiment is a passing one, but for some, the feeling that the grass is greener elsewhere just cannot be shaken.
Some of us act on a whim and end up leaving a school at which we are otherwise happy. I know of many people who left a school in which workload increased (let’s call it the frying pan) only to go to a school in which the workload was far higher, (let’s call it the fire). Some people even left again, to end up in what could only be described as hell fire! To add insult to injury, I have even known of people who ended up in the fire/hell fire, who then phoned up the Head teacher from the frying pan and asked for their job back!
Don’t let this be you.
Before you send what I refer to as a ‘reflex application’ here’s a blog to help you organise your thoughts.
Workload and scrutiny
Ah yes. The bane of every teacher’s life. Surely, it can’t be as bad everywhere right . . . right?
Wrong. Well . . . mostly wrong.
Unless you’re at some toxic academy which has an absolute disregard for its staff, the workload everywhere else is different shades of the same. Here’s an example: A teacher once left a school because there was a sudden change in the marking policy and he heard that such and such school doesn’t do xyz, so he applied and got the job. He enjoyed 4 months of highlighter-free bliss before the unbelievable happened. The policy he ran away from at his old school was launched at his new school, almost word for word. School leaders share practice all the time, particularly within a given city. It appears that we can run but for sure, we can’t hide.
Having said this, workload and scrutiny are not- strictly speaking- the same. If the scrutiny at your school is unreasonable compared to everyone else you speak to, (and if you’re still unsure get on to twitter and ask around) then by all means haul your ass out of there. Scrutiny is part of workload, yes, but there is a difference between working 11hrs a day and working 11hrs a day when your employer is trying to catch you out . . . sorry . . . ‘support’ you. In short, if you are otherwise happy, don’t leave because of workload alone.
For the next 10 seconds try not to think about someone in your department that you can’t stand . . . go!
Did that work? Many a teacher have left a school for conflicts that you and I would deem trivial. Of course, we’d be hypocritical for doing so (as we’d probably consider the same in their shoes) but nonetheless not getting on with someone, or outright hating them are often cited as reasons for leaving. If this is influencing your decision, let me save you some suspense: it will be the same at your next school. It seems that in every workplace there are people that exist for no other reason other than to test your patience. Rather than worry about how much they bug you, consider how much power they have over you and how likely they are to abuse that power. If they don’t have any, (because neither of you are TLR holders for example) then nothing they say can materialise. If it can, then it’s bullying and a whole other issue, but generally speaking if there is no disastrous possibility from the conflict, you’re better off where you are if you are otherwise happy.
It is tempting to jump ship once your school is told it ‘requires improvement’ or worse, ‘inadequate’ and the sad truth is that once you are in a category, the workload and scrutiny will undoubtedly increase at your school.
Having been through this personally, it is my firm belief that the key variable for how happy you will be at a school after ‘failing’ an inspection is how this is managed, and not the consequent workload. You see, some Head teachers have a We’re in this together attitude which brings with it a strong sense of camaraderie in the school. When my NQT school ‘failed’ its inspection, staff stuck together like troops on a battlefield. Departments were socialising with departments that they previously didn’t even speak to, and even SMT let down their usual guard and spoke to us almost as friends. Ironically, it was a nice, positive atmosphere! Yes, an outstanding school may be outstanding, but what is more important to you? In addition to this, and outstanding school does not guarantee you less scrutiny than an RI school!
By Omar Akbar
For more advice and guidance check out The Unofficial Teacher’s Manual: What they don’t teach you at training college. Available on Amazon £6.75/£3.99