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General Chat Thread, Private Schools in General; Morning all, I'm after some pointers. I've got two interviews coming up at private schools and could do with a ...
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    Private Schools

    Morning all,

    I'm after some pointers.

    I've got two interviews coming up at private schools and could do with a bit of assistance as I've got extremely limited experience of dealing with private schools.

    I've done enough interviews now to know what kind of general things to expect, but is there anything specific to private schools that I should be aware of?

    Any tips/pointers/advice anyone can give me will be gratefully received.

    Thanks

    Iain

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    1. Private schools do not operate in a cluster/co-operation with other schools. Other schools are competition.
    2. Fees are all important. Without them there is no money to pay for anything. Parents have high expectations because they pay for everything. The current economic climate has affected fee income in most schools.
    3. private schools pay VAT on everything and can't reclaim it. If they registered for VAT, they'd have to add VAT to fees which would not endear them to parents.
    4. private schools are not awash with cash because of 2 & 3
    5. The kids are generally MUCH better behaved than their state counterparts. The staff are the same as they are in state schools!
    6. You will not be on national pay scales, but still join a union for the protection even if they don't negotiate your salary (make sure it's one that covers private schools like ATL)
    7. The children are usually in school for longer hours than in state schools. Some are in at weekends too. We have children on-site from 8am - 5.30pm Mon-Fri and also operate holiday facilites, so they're here year round.

    The Bursar is God. Without their say-so you can do nothing and spend nothing. Befriend the Bursar quickly!

    Otherwise it's all much the same when it comes to Teaching & Learning being the priority and Safeguarding, etc.

    To see the school's inspection report go to Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI)

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    Iain.Faulkner (1st December 2011)

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    Andrew_C's Avatar
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    If it is a boarding school, the days can be even longer. We teach 9-1 Tues, Thurs & Sat; then 4-6:15 Mon, Weds, & Fri. These times shift earlier in the afternoon in the summer term. The afternoons are then given over to sport and music.

    Because of the long hours, our holidays tend to be longer.

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    Iain.Faulkner (1st December 2011)

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    Well done on getting an interview. What kind of job is it? As that will aid in your research.

    Based on experience the only differences were - MIS system, its geared towards the independent schools so find out what they use if possible and research prior to interview.
    Funding is different to state sector, very rare that you can apply for special grants etc. budget cuts happen for most so ensure any ideas or answers can be sustainable. Just because its an independent school doesn't mean it has lots of money to spend on ICT.

    Other than that, there isnt really that much difference, worked in a few state schools and an independent school, and apart from students being a bit more polite not much else I can think of, its still the same kind of issues you would get anywhere. Happy to chat more if you want to PM or ask specifics.

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    Iain.Faulkner (1st December 2011)

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    I suspect I know one of the schools you have applied to and got the interview at, its right near where I live (judging by your own location).

    If it is the said school, then firstly I went there, though it was about 9 years ago now when I left and I have heard the IT there is very very target driven, the school had no proper infrastructure when i was there and when I last visited (2 years ago) not all rooms have computers in, so staff must have laptops. I know a lot of the staff to, in fact I know people who still go to the school now. If you want to know what the school was like then feel free to pm me, I'll even ask my friend whose brother goes there to ask him about what the IT is like if I can.

    I would expect the students to be better there then a state school but they are by no means angels! Even I remember hiding the mouseballs and changing keyboard keys round etc when i was at school but maybe that was just me and my friends!

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    Iain.Faulkner (1st December 2011)

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    ElsieGee40 pretty much nails it. The culture will be quite different to a state school, the hours will be longer for all staff. You'll also notice there are more support staff around. The public school I worked at had 900 pupils and 100 support staff including groundskeepers, cooks, cleaners, administrators and so on. A similar sized secondary school had 23 support staff.

    Prep schools are often pretty hard up, public schools less so. The really successful ones get enormous bequests from old pupils and are very wealthy. One near me owns most of the buildings around the north end of town.

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    Iain.Faulkner (1st December 2011)

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    Thanks everyone for your input thus far, it is appreciated.

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    I work in a prep school and can echo everything Elsie has said. Especially the part about the bursar - that was the biggest shock for me when I came from a state school, although the bursar is important in state, in private the only person with (slightly) more power is the head!

    Also the bursar may well be your line manager if you get the job, which from my experiance doesn't happen so much in state schools, so if they are in the interview make sure you mention how much value for money you can give the school!

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    Iain.Faulkner (1st December 2011)

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    A couple of things I can add to the above:

    1. The dress code will likely be stricter than would be expected of you in state. Expect to start wearing a tie every day if you don't already. You should be able to get away without wrecking your suits if you buy some smart blazers to go with your regular work trousers.

    2. Marketing is far more important in independents. The kit that goes in often has to look the part as well as do the job. It doesn't matter if the computer you've had made bespoke is half the price for the same performance, if the case looks ugly, you will get it in the neck. On rare occasions, equipment may even be put in primarily for show and hardly ever used, simply because "parents expect to see it".

    3. Independent schools usually don't have the same restrictions as state schools regarding family members reporting to each other. Prep schools in particular are renown for having the spouse (usually wife, sad but true) of each member of SMT work for the school. They may have a deceptively low official role, but their actual job is best described as "Headmaster's wife", and should be considered at least as powerful as their other half. It is ridiculously old fashioned, but still quite prevalent.

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    enjay's Avatar
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    As others have said, Marketing is key and will get far more money and a far higher profile than any other area - student fees is the only source of income, so getting pupils through the door is what keeps the school alive. As AngryTechnician said, image is important - people choose to send their children here, and as such must be impressed by what they see.

    The hierarchical structure will likely be different than what you're used to in State - academic matters fall to the Head/Principal, however "business" matters - and this includes financial decisions - lie with the Bursar (or equivalent, sometimes even called Operations Manager or Business Manager).

    Private schools are NOT wealthy. There are of course exceptions where rich ex-pupils have donated large sums of money, but by-and-large, private schools struggle, if anything they are less well-off than State. Private schools pay VAT on everything, and don't have the huge buying power that an LEA does, consequently "per unit" prices are typically higher than State schools would pay. Also, there isn't the LEA/DfE waiting to throw extra money at the latest fad, be it interactive boards, VLEs or whatever.

    On the flip-side of that last point, there isn't anyone else telling you how you must do things - the LEA have absolutely no say or involvement, and some of what the DfE says isn't applicable either. Similarly, they don't have links to other schools, so you're on your own in terms of decision-making and advice (this is why EduGeek is so useful!).

    With regards to support staff, there are likely less classroom assistants/TAs, but more admin and finance, as all operations are handled in-house, not by County.

    Students are likely better behaved in private schools, however not perfect; discipline will be harder than State, as the definition of "acceptable behaviour" will be stricter.

    I'm sure there's more, but that will do for now!

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    In the food chain of staff bursar and Head can be the same. Also stress service with a smile, When i speak to other teachers outside school, all i here is that support is slow and not very proactive.
    We are a customer service department so service is king.

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    Thanks again so much for all your replies, it's all been very useful.

    Interview 1 done.

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    I worked in a private school for 7 years. I left. That is all.

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    enjay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattx View Post
    I worked in a private school for 7 years. I left. That is all.
    I used to work in one place and left too. What is your point?

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    Abaddon's Avatar
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    Depends on the school really. Don't assume that private schools have no money (as suggested by several on this thread) - I have a very healthy budget for IT (every year), and a well staffed (and qualified) IT department. Most important is keeping everything working - as also suggested here, open days need to show that the school is every bit as good at these things than state schools (and often better at it). Prospective parents need to be convinced to part with cash after all.

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