How to become a teacher in the UK: A guide for Canadian teachers

mattfinch
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With a shortage of new teachers in the UK, many qualified teachers are moving from overseas to work here. For Canadians, teaching in the UK offers many opportunities, not only to experience a different culture, but to hugely expand your professional skills and methods.

What qualifications do I need to become a teacher in the UK?

For Canadian teachers, obtaining the right to teach in the UK is generally a straightforward process (and must be combined with a valid UK work visa), but it varies depending upon region.

In England, teachers must obtain QTS (qualified teacher status) in order to work in a state-funded school. If you have qualified as a teacher in certain countries within the European Economic Area (Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA), you can in most cases gain QTS without any further training or assessment.

You need to apply online to be awarded QTS in England – this process will verify that you are fully qualified in Canada and not barred from teaching. You will then be issued with a letter confirming that you have been awarded QTS. Your details will then be added to a database of qualified teachers in England. You may also be required to fill in a declaration of health and a declaration of criminal convictions.

In Wales, the same process is broadly applicable for qualified teachers from any country within the EEA, but QTS is awarded by a different body – you can apply online here to be recognised.

In Scotland, in order to be recognised as a qualified teacher you need to register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). Membership costs £189 ($304) and applications from the EEA take up to 30 working days to process. The application process will confirm that you are qualified to teach in Canada – and acceptance to the GTCS, along with your visa, will enable you to apply for teaching jobs in Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, a very similar process applies with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI), although registration fees vary from year to year. Additional requirements apply for certain schools in Northern Ireland – for example, in order to teach in a Catholic primary (elementary) school you must obtain a Certificate in Religious Education.

How is teaching in the UK different from teaching in Canada?

Teaching at primary (elementary) or secondary schools in the UK is a challenging, varied and highly rewarding experience. You will have the chance to have the work in diverse, exciting school environments which explore cutting-edge educational methods, and offer many opportunities for swift career progression. You will also benefit from extensive one-to-one mentoring programmes which aim to provide support and constructive feedback to help you develop as a teacher.

Whilst both Canada and the UK boast high standards in education, there are several key ways listed below in which the UK differs which will impact your day-to-day experience as a teacher.

What is the average salary for a qualified Canadian teacher in the UK? 

The average salary for an elementary school teacher in Canada is $48,750 per year. For a secondary teacher it rises to $58,474 per year.

In the UK, salaries for qualified teachers range as follows when converted into Canadian dollars:

  • Inner London – $47,886 to $77,084
  • Outer London – $44,548 to $69,978
  • Fringes of London – $40,130 to $66,615
  • England (excluding London) and Wales – $38,292 to $56,515
  • Northern Ireland – $35,905 to $61,133
  • Scotland – $44,292 to $58,886

What subjects are on the school curriculum in the UK?

Because the school curriculum in Canada varies depending upon province, it is likely that you will encounter some differences in subjects on the UK school curriculum. 

In the UK, school begins at age 5 and remains compulsory until age 16, when young people undertake their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams.

The following subject areas are compulsory throughout school education in the UK:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Art and design (ages 5-14 only)
  • Citizenship (ages 11-16 only)
  • Computing
  • Design and technology (ages 5-14 only)
  • Foreign languages (ages 7-14 only)
  • Geography (ages 5-14 only)
  • History (ages 5-14 only)
  • Music (ages 5-14 only)
  • Physical education 
  • Religious education 
  • Sex and relationship education (ages 11-16 only)

What is the average school class size in the UK?

The average class size in Canadian schools is 26 pupils. In the UK it is lower – although steadily rising each year, in 2018 it was 21 in secondary schools, and 27 in primary schools. 

What are the average working hours for teachers in the UK? 

On average, teachers in Canada teach for between five and six hours per day, totalling 25 to 30 hours per week. In the UK, teaching hours are on average between 19 and 20 hours per week – however total hours are pushed up to between 37 and 40 by the demands of work outside lesson times.

Teachers in the UK are widely expected to not only work longer hours than the school day, but to take work home to complete during evenings and weekends. The average school day in the UK runs from 9am to 3.30pm, although this varies hugely between schools.

The total number of school days per year in the UK is 195, only slightly higher than Canada’s total of 190 days. The academic year runs from September to July and is split into three terms (September to Christmas, January to Easter and Easter to July). Each of these terms contains a one-week half-term break, and schools generally close for two weeks at Christmas, two weeks at Easter and six weeks over the summer.

This system varies geographically – in Scotland, for example, the summer vacation period starts earlier in July and finishes by mid-August. In Northern Ireland it is longer, running for two months.

Where in the UK should I choose to teach?

As outlined above, different regions can bring different benefits for teachers, such as salary and number of days worked. However, these need to be carefully considered against one another — while London has the highest salaries for teachers, it has shorter vacation periods than some other areas in the UK.

Schools within London – and other major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow – are likely to offer a highly diverse and multicultural teaching experience. The unique and highly rewarding opportunity to work in deprived areas also presents itself across many of these cities.

The same can be said across a huge number of smaller cities and towns across the UK – but factors such as educational priorities and standards of class behaviour can vary significantly from place to place depending on local economic factors. Rural schools are likely to offer smaller class sizes with lower rates of diversity.

When deciding on a destination for teaching in the UK, remember that is is a fascinatingly varied place, especially for a country of its size. All areas of the UK have something unique to offer, and depending on the type of teaching experience you are looking for it is worth considering your options carefully.

Ready to get started? Register today.

If you’re ready to start your teaching adventure in Europe, you can register with Engage. One of our local experts, all of whom are local ex-teachers from with experience of teaching in the UK and other international locations, will help you set up a personalised relocation and career plan.

Your personal consultant will be available to guide and assist you every step of the way, from finding your new teaching role to settling into your new home. We’ll even meet you off the plane!

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