Teaching in the UK: what you need to know
The UK has long been a bucket list travel destination for many Australians, because of its rich history and culture, varied landscapes and proximity to the multitude of cultures across Europe. Of course, the fact that there is no language barrier also helps make the UK a popular choice for Australia’s travellers to base themselves, and for those considering a longer term stay, teaching in the UK could be a great choice.
Teacher shortages in the UK
The education sector in the UK is currently experiencing record problems in recruiting and retaining sufficient teaching staff to fill all available teaching posts and is also failing to prepare for a forecasted surge in secondary school pupil numbers. Statistics show that in 2015, there were 10,000 fewer teachers in the UK than in 2010 (latest figures available). With dramatic teacher shortages like these, concerns are growing that the country could face an education crisis, especially in science and computing disciplines. Recruitment figures fell woefully below government targets last year, with Mathematics, Physics and Design and Technology, for example, all missing targets by 16, 19 and 41 percent respectively.
There are a number of reasons why employment of teachers is currently falling below expectations, including school budget cuts, pay freezes for teachers and high student debt levels. It is hoped that this downward trend in recruitment can be reversed through a variety of measures, including a major government recruitment campaign and a relaxation of immigration rules for overseas teachers wishing to work in the UK.
Over-supply of teachers in Australia
By contrast, some parts of Australia are experiencing the opposite problem, with more teachers looking for positions than there are teaching jobs available. In New South Wales, for example, there were 47,000 people looking for permanent teaching jobs in March 2015. Astonishingly, that figure is equal to the entire number of teaching positions available in the whole of NSW.
The benefits of moving to the UK to teach
UK recruiters are increasingly travelling to Australia to target recently qualified teachers and those still completing their teacher training or university studies. For such candidates, there are some very tempting benefits to encourage them to move halfway across the world to start their teaching careers.
Australian teachers would, of course, have the opportunity to work in a different teaching environment than they might be used to, but they would also have the chance to travel around the historic UK in their free time, and the rest of Europe is reachable within hours via train, boat or plane. This kind of once in a lifetime opportunity would also open up new friendships and experiences, both inside and outside of their employment as a teacher.
Future career prospects could also be enhanced by a period of teaching in the UK, as this demonstrates a motivated and resourceful approach to career development, and to life in general. Rather than hanging around waiting for a teaching job in Australia to materialise, enterprising graduates, who are willing to relocate to the UK to teach, will show future employers that they have the will to succeed and the ability to thrive in challenging or unfamiliar environments.
Pay levels for UK teachers
According to recent figures published by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average person in the UK earns £28,028 per year. UK teachers earn considerably more than this, with average annual earnings for teaching professionals around £33,786. Salaries can vary, depending on location and teaching subjects, and additional specialisms, such as special needs teaching, can attract premiums. These figures are comparable to salaries for qualified teachers in Australia.
Flexible work options
In order to combat the teacher shortage in the UK, academic recruiters are able to offer a number of flexible options, to enable teachers to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances, career objectives and financial goals. Whilst many teachers coming to work in the UK from Australia would prefer to find a permanent position, there are several other possibilities offering different work patterns and levels of flexibility. From long term contract positions to supply teaching opportunities, it’s possible to work in a way that allows you to fulfil both your teaching and personal goals during your stay in the UK. For teachers willing to work on a supply basis, there is even the possibility of working on a guaranteed pay basis, where your supply agency tries to place you in a supply teaching position every day of the academic calendar, but still pays you even if you are not needed on a specific day.
It’s clear that the UK offers some great opportunities for new or experienced teachers from Australia, who are looking to broaden their horizons, travel, and experience a different way of life, all without sacrificing their career aspirations. Whether you come to the UK alone to teach, or you come with a group of teaching friends, filling a teaching role in the UK could prove to be an exciting and challenging start to a great career in teaching, and something that shapes your outlook on teaching for many years to come.
Q & A with 5 teachers who already have made the journey
- Ashlea Bigham
- Cassie Vermeer
- Jenna Geraghty
- Dayne Spencer
What led you to look for a job teaching in the UK?
- Travel and the challenge.
- I had always wanted to move to London and after I completed my degree it seemed like the perfect time. I had friends who had moved there to teach and knew what the process would be.
- Travelling and experience.
- The opportunity to gain international teaching experience.
How have you been supported by your school and by Engage/Teaching Jobs London?
- My Australian contact was fabulous. Katherine talked to me about this opportunity for a couple of years before I was ready to jump in. She kept in touch and provided more information when I needed it. When I finally made the decision to go, she was extremely helpful and had me interviewing straight away. Engage also set me up in a house when I secured a job in Hastings. I was living with 3 other foreign teachers around my ages and it was fabulous. Once over there the UK side were very supportive. A huge thanks to both Robbie Chandler and Sam Taylor who called regularly to see how I was going and were always ready to help if needed. Sam especially went above and beyond, travelling to High Wycombe to see a few of us posted in the area and to have a good time.
- Engage/TJL walked me through the whole process and regularly checked in to see how I was going. They helped organise my visa, the police check and set up multiple interviews with potential schools I could work at. My school was wonderful and made sure that I was fully informed every step of the way as I learnt about a new curriculum and different ways of teaching. All throughout my time in the UK I found comfort in the fact that I had a constant stream of support both from Engage and my school and that made a huge difference.
- I was supported by my schools like every other teacher was - very equally. I could never complain about my schools. Teaching permanently I did not see or hear much from TJL.
- I was completely supported by Engage and TJL.
Outside of teaching, what were the biggest differences between your life here and at home?
- The lifestyle was the biggest change. Cliché maybe, but you just had to go in with a "Yes Man" attitude. Despite hard work and long hours the friends made and experiences were worth every minute. I travelled every second holiday and met some fabulous people. The stability of teaching gave me confidence to go out and do more things than I would have if I was backpacking.
- London is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world and there was always something new and interesting to do or try. I come from Sydney so I know what living in a big city is like but London was completely different to anything I had experienced before and I loved that! I was also lucky enough to have travelled a lot and in each break from school was jetting off to another European country. It was so great to experience a cold Christmas, just like in the movies. One of the highlights for me was experiencing snow for the first time in my life and it's something I will never forget.
- This is a very hard question, as my life changed massively when I lived in London. It was the best experience of my life, some days were tough, but I miss it so much. If I could move back tomorrow, I would go and live there permanently :) There is always something to do and it is never boring. I recommend everyone to do it!
- Outside of teaching the biggest differences between my life in the UK and at home were living independently for the first time and building new relationships.