Teaching on the Other Side of the World: My Experience Teaching in the UK
So you've decided to embark on a grand adventure to the UK to help shape young minds? Great decision! So did I. Here are just a few pointers based on my experience.
1. Decide what you want
If you’ve just finished your teaching degree or diploma look into what type of schools you’d like to teach in. Do you want to work in a mainstream/comprehensive school or a grammar/independent? The behaviour of the pupils varies considerably depending on the type of school and the area. Your experience as a mainstream secondary or even a primary teacher in Camden in London won’t be the same as if you were teaching at a grammar school in Kent, for example. Again, what you choose will depend on your personal preferences. I’m not the type of teacher that likes a challenging learning environment with the view to turning it around — although I appreciate that these teachers exist and are hugely important.
2. Do your research
This is where Ofsted comes in. Ofsted is a government body that inspects and regulates schools to ensure a high standard of education. They assess schools on the behaviour of the learners, leadership, achievement and safeguarding, to name just a few. They then give an overall rating from inadequate to outstanding. If you’re applying to schools directly, have a look at the most recent Ofsted report before going to an interview, and this will give you a good idea of what to expect.
3. Consider supply teaching
A great way to start teaching in the UK is supply teaching. What I didn’t realise when I first came to England in 2008 is that there are over 50 supply teaching agencies. Some are great, but others are to be avoided. The advice that I give you here is: don’t work for the first agency that comes to a career fair at your University, for example. I did this initially but now I know better. It wasn’t a bad experience per se, and the agency got me plenty of work, but I didn’t realise at the time that there were better agencies out there that would pay me significantly more, and treat me better as an individual, not just ‘another number’. I found a website called Rate my Teaching Agency to be useful as you can read reviews of other teachers’ experiences.
Supply teaching gives you the flexibility to explore your career and personality as a teacher.
4. Learn about the UK Curriculum
As a secondary teacher, I didn’t find significant differences in the curriculum, which was good. The best resources will be your colleagues but for online resources the best I have found are the curriculum resources on gov.uk. They give a good outline of the curriculum, schemes of work, and where pupils should be at each stage of learning.
My experience teaching in the UK
My first experience of teaching at a British school was as a secondary music teacher at a comprehensive school in Alton, Hampshire. I was shocked, to be honest. The pupils were borderline rude, back-chatted and made it clear that they hated music. It was a tough experience, but at least it showed me what I didn’t want. Again, it comes down to doing your research first.
I finished that contract after six months and then joined a supply agency. I am a secondary-trained teacher, however the majority of work that was coming up was day-to-day supply in primary schools. I needed to keep earning an income so I didn’t say no. It was so different at first. The behaviour was a million times better than what I had seen in secondaries because the children, for the most part, want to please the adults rather than rebel against them. It was certainly a process of adaptation, as I wasn’t used to the incessant questions and being patted on the leg every time the children wanted to speak to me! Having said this, I have learned to love the little ones.
I guess the moral of the story is, whilst it’s good to have an idea of what you want, supply teaching gives you the flexibility to explore your career and personality as a teacher. Be open to doing something different — like me, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Rachel teaches through Zen Educate. Find out more about supply teaching in the UK or read reviews from teachers who teach through Zen Educate.