This series of posts tackles some common issues that keep arising as I write about education.
You work in a private school!
I work in a private school. It’s a wonderful place that has supported me as I have developed an interest in education research. Some people have started to refer to the fact that I work in a private school on Twitter as if it is significant in some way and so I thought I would tell my story.
In the final year of my physics degree, I told my tutor that I was interested in teaching. He said he knew of an independent school looking for an English teacher and a physics teacher (you didn’t need a teaching qualification to teach in an independent school in England). I said that I wanted to go and train because I wanted to work in state schools. My friend took the English job and has built a good career.
After qualifying, I worked in three London comprehensives from 1997 to 2010. All had their challenges but one was officially designated a ‘school facing challenging circumstances’. I am very proud of the work that we did there. I played a small part in turning that school around under the leadership of a new headteacher.
Before I left London, I was a Deputy Headteacher writing timetables and in charge of curriculum. I was happy in my job but my wife and I had two little girls and we started to think about the future. My wife is Australian and, at that time, we lived in a tiny terraced house in Watford with little prospect of being able to afford anything bigger or closer to work, even with my Deputy Head salary. We knew that if we moved to Australia then our money would go further, even without the management responsibilities.
So, in 2010, we packed-up the house, flew to Australia with two children under two and moved in with my in-laws in Ballarat, Victoria. It was a risk because neither of us had work. My wife and I wrote to every school in Ballarat and Geelong, government and independent. These are two reasonably sized cities and so this was quite a few schools. A number of independent schools invited us in for interview and we were offered several jobs. Only two government schools ever replied to us. The first very graciously let us know that they had no vacancies and the second school said that they would be advertising at the end of the year and that I would be a strong candidate.
With a family to feed, it was a no-brainer. I took the job at my current school. As I wrote at the outset, this has been a great experience for me because I have learnt a lot there. I love the work and I have great colleagues to bounce ideas around with. My family has a good life – we live in a four bedroom house with a large garden for the girls to play in and all within a 15 minute drive of work. My girls have easy access to sports teams, ballet and all the rest of it.
I don’t wish to comment on the politics of independent and government schools. It is a highly controversial topic in Australia. Here, the government offers a grant to independent schools which many people think should be withdrawn. The system is different to the UK in that there are no government denominational schools and so all Catholic, Anglican and other religious schools are independent.