10 Tips to Teach at K-12 Schools in the U.K.
How to Find the Right Job
|Children enjoying their play at Ashburnham Primary School, Inner London.
Every year thousands of foreign teachers are employed in U.K. primary and secondary schools to help fill the huge shortage of teachers in Britain. Most are employed on either a day-to-day basis, covering teacher absences
(known as supply teaching) or for positions lasting between a half-term and a year.
To teach in U.K. schools you need a work visa and a U.K.-recognized teaching degree or postgraduate
diploma from your home country. You also need enthusiasm, adaptability,
and a working knowledge of the U.K. foreign teacher recruitment system.
1. Register with teaching agencies before leaving home. Most people find work through teacher recruitment agencies. But you can’t start work until agencies have checked your qualifications and references.
Registering with agencies while you’re still at home cuts down the waiting time in the U.K. To register online do an Internet search under “supply teaching U.K.” Some agencies, such TimePlan, have overseas offices, so you may find one near you.
A number of agencies can even find you a job before you leave home. One such agency is TeachAway, which offers resources for finding
U.K.-based jobs for teachers from abroad. Committing to a job sight unseen is risky, but it’s the easiest way to get a working visa if you’re otherwise ineligible for one.
2. Register with more than one agency. The more agencies you’re registered with, the larger the pool of jobs to choose from. So if you’re doing supply work, you can specialize in a particular
subject or age group, and for longer-term work you don’t have to accept the first job you’re offered.
If you’re a secondary teacher of science, mathematics, or IT, you may only need to register with one agency. Teachers of these subjects are in such short supply you may have employers chasing you.
3. Shop around for the best pay rates. Pay rates vary by recruitment agency. Most pay between £90 and £145 a day. Rates vary according to your level of experience and whether the job is short
or long term. When comparing pay rates, ask agencies whether they offer bonus payments such as incentives for staying in the job for a whole term. Axcis Education Recruitment also offers non-monetary bonuses such as phone cards and movie passes.
4. Prepare a portfolio for job interviews. When I taught in London, I used an A4 folder with plastic pockets to display all the documents (teaching qualifications, CV, police check, and so on) needed at job
interviews. I also included letters of thanks from previous employers, newspaper clippings of school events I’d organized, and photos of student activities. With my portfolio I could find everything I needed quickly and interviewers could
see my teaching style and achievements at a glance. Follow these tips on interview
5. Check jobs out thoroughly. Before accepting long-term positions, ask to spend half a day in the classroom you’ll be working in and talk to the teacher whose classes you’ll be taking over. Find
out exactly what your duties will be. Ask if the school is due for an Ofsted inspection. (These tri-annual school inspections can involve viewing your lessons and evaluating your planning and teaching techniques. They’re best avoided until
you feel at home in the U.K. system.)
6. Supply some of your own classroom materials. Many London schools are underresourced, particularly those in poorer areas. Make your life easier by putting together a teaching kit of materials and resources
you can’t teach without. Mine included glue sticks, shallow containers for organizing materials on each table, spare writing pencils, and quality colored paper for making books, artwork, and displays. Don’t forget to label your belongings.
7. Prepare lessons based on your home culture. Turn your foreignness into an advantage by teaching students a little about where you come from. Before leaving home I gathered together some picture books about
Australian aboriginal culture and native Australian animals. I prepared activity sheets, art projects, and materials for making class books. My Australian wildlife stickers, which I used to reward good behavior, proved a great hit.
8. Follow U.K. professional standards. Dress smartly. (In many schools, jeans are not acceptable workwear.) Start each assignment by asking about school and classroom procedures. Arrive on time and don’t
zip out the door the minute the bell rings. It is important to behave professionally in U.K. schools.
9. Do the little extras that mean you’ll be asked back. Teachers often get their day-today assignments by being asked back to schools they’ve already worked in. If you like a school, do your utmost
to make a good impression. For example, leave a detailed note of the day’s activities for the teacher you’re filling in for, put up displays of the students’ work, and leave the classroom scrupulously clean.
10. Develop a high profile. On longer-term assignments, take on extra responsibilities such as teaching dance classes or coaching sports. Prepare a spectacular class performance for school assembly. Share
your teaching activities with other teachers. By boosting your visibility you increase your chances of being asked back, whether for an extra day or a whole year. Who knows, you may never leave!