For the latest post in my Teaching to Travel series, we hear from Laura, an Australian teaching overseas in England. We have heard a lot from teachers in places often seen as more exotic than the UK so it’s great to have Laura’s opinion to contrast these with. As someone who trained and taught in England (London specifically), hearing about her experience coming here specifically to teach is fascinating. It makes me realise I wasn’t alone in feeling like the workload was extremely heavy and that the winters can be dark and long (even when you’re from there!) Now I have found myself living in a caravan in South Africa and not having been inside a classroom (other than through Global Handprints), for a long time, Laura’s thoughts have encouraged me to reflect on my own experience. I fully agree with her….
if you really have an urge to do it, try it! You can always go home if you don’t like it.
Tell us about yourself and your background.
Hi, I’m Laura and I am a qualified primary teacher, living around 2 hours out of London. I had taught for 3 years in Australia before making the move to the UK to begin teaching overseas, so I already had some experience under my belt. Australian class sizes are around 24 students, so to have a class of 31 was a little confronting at first. Luckily, most classes have teaching assistants, which make a big difference. The workload in the UK is significantly higher than in Australia, as you are required to mark the children’s books with feedback on a daily basis. Some days this will involve marking 90 books, and if you are a new teacher may mean you are doing this well into the night.
What is the UK school system like?
Many schools in the UK [especially outside of central London] are what is known as ‘single form entry’ – this means that there is only one class per year level. The English school system tends to have more small schools, rather than less large schools like the Australian system does. If you are a new teacher, I would not recommend working at a single form entry school. You won’t have a teaching partner to share planning or organisational duties with, and all of these responsibilities will fall on you. You will significantly cut your planning time by working in a double or triple form entry because you will be able to buddy up with the other teachers in your year level. For example at the second school I worked at, I planned maths and my partner planned literacy.
The school system here is set into 3 long terms that are divided into half terms with a week long holiday in the middle. This means you’re never at school for more than 7 weeks without a break. In terms of travel, this is fantastic, as you have opportunities in all seasons to travel. I chose to work on a full time contract rather than though an agency as it meant being paid for the holidays, which was a big bonus over the 6-week summer break. Many teachers who work on a contract basis have to take up other jobs in this time, which definitely eats in to your ability to travel.
In terms of professional development, I’ve undertaken a lot within my school and also a school based nutrition course externally. The first school I worked at promised professional development opportunities, but was so poorly staffed that they never eventuated. If you are wanting to further develop your career, I would suggest you look for a school with a ‘good’ or an ‘outstanding’ OFSTED rating, as these schools will be better organised and have systems and plans in place to keep their staff well trained.
Is it easy to transition to a UK classroom?
If you have already been teaching in Australia and become a fully registered teacher, you will easily be able to have this recognised in the UK and be paid on the correct pay scale. It’s just a matter of getting a certificate of recognition from the QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) board. If you are a new teacher, you will need to make sure that you negotiate your pay scale, as the qualification system in the UK is different to Australia (or Canada where you automatically become fully registered upon completing university) and it can involve less money and having to undertake a large project to prove your professional capabilities. If you are planning on teaching in the UK for more than 2 years, then you will have to complete this project to become fully registered, but if you’re not planning on staying 2 years, I’d recommend doing it back in Australia as it is much less involved!
I came across straight after Christmas to begin with a class part way through the year. In hindsight, I should have waited until September and started a new school year. It was extremely difficult to travel from a warm Australian summer to a bitter cold British one.
[I love this analogy!] I now realise that is slightly dramatic, but for a good few months I did wonder! The darkness does get to you, so I would definitely suggest you plan some mid winter trips to warmer / sunnier destinations such as Malta or southern Spain. Whilst they may not be hot, a break from the frost will be welcomed.
I felt that I had travelled to a dark Arctic land and would never see the sun again.
For the first term or so, you may wonder how you will ever get any free time, but after a while you will develop routines and begin to have more time to enjoy yourself. My suggestion to you, is don’t eat in to your weekends too much, even if it is the ‘norm’ at the school you are working at. Chances are you aren’t in the UK forever, so you will want to get out and explore. After about 2 terms of settling in (Easter time for me) I was out and about every weekend and off overseas every holiday. I’ve been to 20 countries since arriving here. I also chose to live out of London, on the south east coast, so I have beautiful beaches, hills and trails to walk and enjoy after work or on the weekends. There is something beautiful to enjoy in every season in England, so make sure that you get out and see it!
Should everyone think about teaching overseas?
In summary, teaching in England is not a walk in the park. It is a lot of hard work, but salary wise and holiday wise, you really can’t beat it if you are looking to travel. I would suggest to talk to other teachers who have been there and done it before, or work with an agency who arranges meet ups once you’re in the UK. Lastly, if you really have an urge to do it, try it! You can always go home if you don’t like it.
Thanks for sharing your experiences Laura, and for giving us so much info about what teaching overseas in the UK is really like! It’s been great for me to find out more about it from a different perspective. You can follow Laura’s blog at Passport Collective, or follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
If you enjoyed this post in the series, don’t forget to check the others out here. You can also Pin it to read later 🙂 I would love to hear from you if you’ve been a teacher overseas, or are thinking about jumping on a plane and into a classroom!