A PGCE is not mandatory to teach in all independent schools, although it is clearly advantageous. Previous life experience and careers are valued, and people with professional, business and military backgrounds are seen as being good catches. In the current financial climate, schools are expecting keen interest from the financial sector and City refugees.
Life during term time can be very hectic with a typical day being perhaps starting at 7.00am, with emails still to be dealt with at midnight. There is an incredible amount to do, and perhaps more paperwork than ever with the advent of risk assessment, thorough reporting etc. But the lifestyle is of course where the attraction lies, and the rewards that are living with such a sense of community, both with pupils and colleagues. The close contact with pupils through activities, trips, tutorials, pastoral care, and even living under the same roof, affords the ability to shape and change peoples lives. The staff room can have a real sense of camaraderie and fun.
Facilities in the private sector are notoriously better than the public sector, e.g. the quality of popular and specialist sports facilities, music facilities, opportunities for drama, art etc. There are also the valuable extra-curricular trips and tours, evening lectures, talks, visits, gallery and exhibition viewings etc. which enrich the lives of pupils and teachers alike.
Another perk would be the ability to get your own children through the school at reduced fees.
New teachers will generally be starting lower down the pay scale, but in-school accommodation can help soften the financial blow and many schools will help with rent etc. Potential pitfalls can be that you may find that you don't like working with children, or it is not quite the Mr Chips-esque experience you imagined. There is the mundane and functional, such as lesson planning, marking, filling in risk assessments for trips, writing reports on pupils and attending meetings.
Parental expectations are very high in the private sector, where parents are conscious of being paying customers. With email especially, parents are demanding more contemporaneous information from teachers, and more action where they deem it appropriate.
Any headteacher would expect an incoming teacher to offer a lot more than just their standard teaching, in terms of an enthusiasm to get involved in wider school life. Certainly music, theatre and sport are obvious strings, but at whatever level. Driving mini-buses for badminton, umpiring, or just being a presence at a tennis match are jobs to be done.
Character and discipline are required. Teenagers will quickly find chinks in your armour and look to exploit any weaknesses and inconsistencies. You need to be a strong presence in lessons and have the courage of your convictions. You have to be prepared to do things that are unpopular, ensuring shirts are tucked in, that standards of behaviour and dress are of the required standards etc. Pupils respond well to those who are firm but fair.
Career progression can be good, in terms of moving from teacher to Assistant Housemaster to a Housemaster, from Housemaster to Deputy Head, Deputy Head to Headmaster, or other directions such as from teacher to Head of Faculty, Head of Faculty to Director of Studies etc. There is also the scope to move around geographically and work in the generally pleasant confines of different schools of the same ilk around the country or even abroad.