Teach in the UK• 3 Min read

23rd March 2021

Teaching in London: What are the main differences compared to the USA?

You may expect schools in the UK to be completely different to schools in the US.  In fact, there are many major similarities between educations in the two countries. Class sizes, classrooms and lesson formats are similar.  Expectations on teachers and their workloads will also be familiar territory  However, from sports to uniform, there are  some new rules and traditions to learn for teachers who want to travel to the UK to work.

What are the big differences?

One of the biggest differences is that there are no semesters. Instead, in the UK, the year is divided into terms. Each year has three terms, split up with a two week break at Christmas and Easter and a 6 week summer holiday. The new school year begins in September and there’s a week long ‘half-term’ break in each 13 week period. This means that a school year in the UK is around 190 days, compared to 160-180 for American schools.

Find out more about UK schools terms and their 2021 dates here

The majority of schools in the UK are Primary (ages 4-12) and Secondary, which teaches young people up to the age of 16. Middle schools are uncommon but are occasionally present in rural areas and cater for pupils aged 11-14.

What Are The Different Types Of School?

In the UK, parents can chose to send their children to a government funded school for a free education up to age 16 but there are other options available. Independent and Private schools are available to parents who can afford the fees, or whose children gain academic or sporting bursaries. Changes to legislation  has also led to the emergence of Free schools in the UK in recent years, which are not obliged to follow the National Curriculum and can offer pupils a more varied or specialised education.

Read more about Private Schools in the UK

Just like in the US, the choice largely resides with parents where they want to send their child. There has been a move more recently to vocational choices for younger pupils – with parents able to select Secondary schools with academic or sporting specialisms.

What are working conditions like for teachers in the UK?

Generally, schools in the UK are well-equipped and housed in modern, purpose-built premises. UK employment law puts restrictions on overly long working hours and required breaks and a teachers salary affords a reasonable standard of living outside of the capital city – teachers in central London may receive an uplift on their salary – called the London Weighting Allowance.

One of the huge benefits for teachers from the US looking to gain the experience of teaching in a UK school is the abundance of opportunities for teacher development and career progression, flexible working and creative contribution to pupils learning. Read more about all the ways that working in the UK can offer experience and progression for American teachers here!

Making decisions that will impact your career in the long term is tough. That’s why we work extra hard to support our teachers that make the move through our Partnership and Development team. We have outstanding schools looking for passionate teachers to start in September 2021 and beyond, so whether you’ve been putting your dreams on hold and are ready to get going, or dreaming further into the future, we can help talk it through and find you the opportunities your career deserves.

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