It can be a real challenge finding a school that suits you. Just as you are looking for a job, you're also looking for one that is the right fit - and with hundreds of schools across the country, that isn't always easy. There will always be horrendous stories from co-workers of schools they have worked at that have been a nightmare, or the children unruly. It's not necessarily easy to spot a bad decision until you are in the workplace and experiencing it first-hand. Sometimes the website will be great, or the interviewer will seem really friendly - and then you'll discover the rest of the staff don't gel, or the team's priorities are not aligned with yours. However, there are things you can look out for in order to find a good school for you.
State vs. private
It all starts long before you have even applied for a job. Firstly, it is important to think about what type of school you want to work at - state or private. Each will have their advantages and disadvantages, as well as their own school culture. The main difference between the two in the UK is the source of funding. Private schools will charge students for tuition, and this is what is used to support the running of the school. Another key difference between the two is the size of the classes. In state schools, they can range from being between 25-30 students in size, while private schools aim to keep theirs a lot smaller with around 15 to 16 pupils. This is additionally supported by teaching assistants.
There is also the fact that private school teachers won't need to be certified, while state school teachers will. However, typically those teaching in private institutions will have postgraduate degrees and are experts in their fields. There is more security in jobs with state schools as these teaching posts are difficult to remove, compared with private school teachers who have their contracts renewed each year. There is often a lot more motivation with students who study at private schools because there is such a selective admissions process.
Location, location, location
Once you have decided what type of school you want to teach at, you need to consider where you want to be based in the UK. Deciding to begin teaching abroad can be very exciting, but it can also bring with it lots of new challenges as many areas will be unfamiliar and new. The best thing to do is lots and lots of research.
Read reviews of the local area, look for news reports and get a feel for how the place operates. Take a look at the local crime reports to see what key issues affect the location. It's also important to get a sense of what is happening for teachers in the places you're looking at - whether there is a big recruitment drive or if lots are being laid off. This could help you decide where it is best to position yourself. You may also find you are keen to challenge yourself with the rigours of city life or may want something slower with country living. The great thing is that the decision is yours!
The recruiting process
After applying for positions and getting call-backs for interviews, you will find yourself fully submerged into the recruitment process. This can feel daunting and there is a lot of pressure to accept a position. However, take your time and pace yourself. It is very much up to you which role you go for, and you don't need to opt for the first thing that comes your way.
When you meet your interviewer, it is important to establish if they are someone you will be working with or if they work for a recruitment agency. If it is the latter and you don't get on with them immediately, it's not necessarily a bad thing as you won't see them again once you're hired. However, if they're someone you'll be interacting with on a daily basis, this could be more of a problem.
It's also important to look at what attitudes the recruiting individual has to management style, teaching and classroom behaviour. Although they will be asking questions, the interview isn't all one-way and you're in just as much a position to ask them questions back. Find out more about how the school operates, what their values are, and how they handle tricky situations.
If the person interviewing you is a recruiter, ask if it may be possible to chat with a member of staff at the school just to get more of an idea, or if it may be possible to have a tour of the school (which lots of interviews will involve). It is also important to look at how the school communicates with you during the recruitment process. If they are clear, effective and professional, this is a really great sign. If you've had to chase the school to find out what's happening, chances are they aren't particularly organised.
You can also find out more about each school through more online research. Look at what parents are saying, what their reputation is, how OFSTED ranks them, and what types of news articles have been written about them. This will give you a great idea of where you should pick and what will be right for you. Ultimately, go with your gut. If something doesn't feel right, chances are it won't be.