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Independent vs State: How Do Teachers Choose Their Path?

Posted on 15.10.2019

The essence of being a teacher doesn’t change, no matter where you work. You still have to plan lessons, imparting knowledge, mark homework, but like a lot of other industries, choosing which sector you want to be in has a profound effect on what your professional life will look like. And, like a lot of industries, there is no question of better or worse, only different.  


So, what are the main differences between teaching in public and private schools? 


Who do you work for? 
State school is a blanket term for any school run by the government and funded by taxes. There are many variations under the blanket but they all have at least this in common. Private schools (also known as independents and, confusingly enough, public schools) are separate from the government, which means they are in charge of their own curriculum, ethos, and funding. They are usually paid for by school fees charged to parents as well as donations from alumni and other benefactors. 


What do you teach? 

Firstly, in state schools, you need the correct government-sanctioned qualifications to teach  these may vary from school to school but usually include a BA, an MA or a teaching certificate. Once employed by the school, teachers have to follow the national curriculum meaning there is less freedom to pick favourite topics. However, it doesn’t prohibit personalisation or individual methods, instead it’s about working within the system. 


Independent schools usually require a BA or more to become a teacher but this is up to each school and their board or headteacher  some hire merely on experience, others ask for much more advanced qualifications. In terms of curriculum, there’s more scope for the teacher to choose what they focus on; however, they will often be preparing children or teenagers for the same standardised tests and exams as state school students, so that will be factored in, too. 


What will you be paid? 

For some teachers deciding which route to take, salary may be a deciding factor. State schools offer the benefit of being more standardised  teachers are paid by the government and are likely to compensated fairly compared to other teachers. There is also often in-built union support and a clear career trajectory that comes with incremental pay rises that correspond to experience and time spent teaching.  


There is no such guarantee at a private institution, as these can choose to offer as little or as much as they wish. That being said, they have the power to offer much more than state schools in some cases, meaning that a career in the independent sector can sometimes be more lucrative for a teacher. 


So, how do you choose? 

For a lot of teachers, it comes down to personal values. Some may object to the independent sector on principle as a non-egalitarian option that offers a different standard of education based purely on wealth. They may perceive there to be less diversity at independent schools, and more privilege (not to mention more pushy parents), which leads them to eschew it entirely and opt to teach in state schools. 


On the other hand, some may crave smaller, less oversubscribed classes and a school that offers freedom to teach their own specialised subjects without being bound to the national curriculum. There is no right answer, only an informed one  and with either choice comes the opportunity to enlighten young minds and impart knowledge to a new generation. A worthy profession, however you decide to go about it. 

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