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5 Differences between Teaching in the UK and New Zealand

Chris Clarke
9 Jul 2023
5 min read
5 Differences between Teaching in the UK and New Zealand

So, thinking of swapping crayfish for a hearty English fry-up, and the Beach Bar for a warm cosy pub in winter?

Sounds nerve-racking, but what an opportunity!

The UK is teeming with diversity and culture, with so much to see and do! But how does teaching compare?

Don't worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll look at 5 key differences you need to know before you embark on a life-changing adventure to the other side of the world.

1. School year and holidays

The systems in UK and New Zealand are actually quite similar.

The UK has 4 levels of education, compared to our 3. They are Primary (5-11 years), Secondary (11-16 years), Further (16-18 years) and Higher (18+). As the UK is in the northern hemisphere, the school year lasts from September through to July.

This is split into 3 terms:

  • September to December (Autumn)
  • January to March (Spring)
  • April to July (Summer)

Like here, they have a six-week break between academic years. In the UK, school is out for summer from late July!

2. Exams and qualifications

Here in New Zealand, we have a “credit in the bank” approach to assessments. Our NCEA system is great for people who aren’t very good at exams. It means it's not a crisis if they miss an exam due to illness, or uncharacteristically flunk.

In UK state secondaries, however, the entire GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) assessment hinges on exam day (barring some creative subjects such as Art, Drama, etc., but even they are weighted 60% towards exams).

Now I know what you’re thinking – 'this is going to add pressure'.

And you're right, but think about it. This level of jeopardy means you are there for your students every step of the way. From that tentative first day, you are supporting them through the year before geeing them up on the morning of the exam. You'll be a constant in their journey.

3. Curriculum

Here's the biggy – how does the curriculum compare?

Of course there are the same base subjects of English, Maths, Science, but compared to our 5 key competencies, which are laced into all school activities, the UK is a bit more rigid, with separate compulsory or optional subjects, including Mathematics, English, Science, Design and Technology, History, Geography, Art and Design, Music, Physical Education, Computing and Ancient and Modern Foreign languages. As in Point 1, these are all assessed with a final exam at secondary level.

While the UK does have some multicultural components within the curriculum – notably in Religious Studies – it's not bound by indigenous influences like the Mātauranga Māori.

4. Uniform

Unlike here, where the requirement to wear uniforms is dependent on the school and the area, all state schools in the UK generally have a policy of school uniforms up until further education.

There are many reasons for this, and it serves to separate school and home life for students. It enhances a sense of community and pride in the school.

Of course, there may be exceptions based on religious grounds. It's actually a great leveller if you ask me, and can reduce competition regarding branded clothing.

5. Teaching Approach

Here in New Zealand, you'll be used to a student-centric approach. Letting your students be drivers on their own path in education. You’ll find the UK is much more structured and formal in its approach.

Lessons will have to be meticulously planned, and there is a set list of outcomes for learning.

It's not a bad thing, of course, it's certainly helpful for those who like to have a level of structure to their teaching.

And who better to be a the forefront of this than someone like you with the skills already down?

So there you have it! Aside from the cultural differences, there's not much difference between the two systems. As a Kiwi you'll be able to seamlessly transition into the UK system in no time with the right support.

Starting with supply work

A good idea to dip your toes in is to start with supply. With Zen Educate – an alternative to supply agencies – you can get the friendly support you need and get paid more fairly, with jobs in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and more. Good luck in your journey!

Zen Educate is transforming how schools find great teachers.

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