In my role I frequently get asked questions like: ‘What is it actually like teaching in the UK?’, ‘I have heard the schools are really tough, is that true?’ & ‘I have been told that the pay isn’t great, and it’s really expensive, is that correct?’
Quite often, I find myself responding with ‘Well it all depends…’ It is of course hard to give definitive responses to questions like those posed above as the answer(s) often depend on a myriad of factors. In what follows, I will attempt to provide some insight for those teachers considering the move to the UK (based on my own experience, and that of the teachers I have supported over the past few years).
Perception – most schools in the UK are really tough to work in
Reality: It is true that some schools in the UK are difficult/challenging/tough to work in, but many are not. Sometimes, two overseas trained teachers will work within the same school and have completely differing points of view. Often, the preparedness and experience of the teacher are key factors in ultimately how successful a teaching role turns out.
Often, role-type has an important part to play on how teachers view teaching in the UK. For example, many overseas trained teachers will opt to first undertake some form of relief / supply teaching, before securing a full time teaching post. The challenge of this type of work doesn’t necessarily lie with the schools themselves, but with the nature of going ‘from school to school’ – particularly in a ‘new’ and expansive city like London. As a relief teacher you will always come across particular classes, schools and environments that prove to be a challenge – both within the UK, and outside of it.
I personally found teaching in the UK no more difficult to that of teaching in New Zealand (a sentiment generally shared by many Australian and New Zealand teachers I have helped over the years). Indeed, as a relatively inexperienced teacher, I felt teaching in the UK equipped me with experiences (some challenging) that I wouldn’t necessarily have been exposed to in NZ. Thus, I found myself developing my skill-set, and general resilience, which ultimately made me a more confident teacher.
- Try to find a teaching agency that have consultants who have experience of living and teaching in the UK.
- Speak to fellow teachers, who have themselves taught overseas, and pick their brains.
- Try to find a teaching agency that offer a well-balanced professional development program -particularity with courses on behavior management.
- If interviewing with a UK School (perhaps over Skype), ask questions relating to their capacity / experience of supporting overseas trained teachers.
Perception – teachers in the UK don’t get paid enough
Reality: The answer is ‘yes’! In my personal opinion, teachers in the UK, New Zealand and Australia don’t get paid enough for the work they do.
Frequently, when speaking with candidates around the issue of pay I find myself espousing terms like: ‘relative’, ‘comparable’, and ‘opportunity cost’. Put simply, pay is a difficult issue to address because it is quite subjective. What is enough? What is low? What is high? If looking from a purely numerical standpoint a beginning teacher in Australia typically starts on a salary of: $67,000 – $68,000; in New Zealand $48,000-52,000 and in London: £26,000-28,000 – which currently equates * to $45,800-49,300 AUD; $49,900-$53,700 NZD. Thus, whilst being fairly comparable to NZ salaries, the UK starting salary is much less than that of Australia.
So why do so many teachers from Australia and NZ relocate to the UK to travel and teach? How can they afford to do so? Obviously, whilst pay is an important factor for many teachers, it is often not usually the deciding factor! The desire to undertake their OE, to travel and teach abroad is the greatest ‘pull’. Also, pay is relative to a whole host of other factors – general cost of living, taxation rates, etc.
Personally, I found my teaching salary in the UK to be sufficient for my goals – to cover my general expenses (accommodation, food, travel, clothing, etc.) whilst enabling me to set aside money for travel. Having now returned to NZ, I have actually found the cost of living to be generally higher than the UK. Indeed, using the Big Mac Price Index (2017) as a comparative ‘tool’ reveals the following (in US dollars): Australia $4.30, NZ $4.22, UK $3.94!
Of course living in a city like London is expensive, as are cities like Sydney and Auckland. However, the cost of doing so is off-set, in part, by the wonderful opportunities these cities provide. Moreover, with the right guidance and support, it is achievable to find more affordable areas to live, both within London and across other areas of the UK.
- Before heading to the UK look to get advice on budgeting!
- Ensure you go over with sufficient savings – for anything unexpected.
- Speak to your agency to get recommendations around more affordable places to live, and compare this advice against your own research.
- Look for an agency that offers financial assistance – flight reimbursement, loyalty payments, etc.
- Look for shared accommodation – it is a lot cheaper, and a great way to meet new people.
Teaching overseas is not for everyone! Some last a few months, others remain after 5 years. From personal experience, having a supportive and knowledgeable teaching agency makes the move so much easier. So, if you are still tackling some perceptions of teaching overseas, and what to know further what reality is… then get in touch!
After 19 years, Prospero Teaching has positioned itself as one of the premium UK teaching agencies. Our dedicated team of international candidate managers, are on-hand to help with any information, and support, you require in regards to teaching in the UK, NZ and the UAE.
Alternatively call us on 0800 1AUSNZ or 1800 953 222.
Patrick Kearns is a New Zealand trained teacher, and currently the Australasian Regional Manager for Prospero Teaching.