Foreign affairs

Maureen Lacey from Gabbitas Education offers advice to teachers who are thinking of applying for jobs overseas

The international education sector is growing significantly and with 42 per cent of all international schools teaching the British curriculum, there is a demand for British teachers overseas. So what should you think about before deciding to apply for a teaching post at an international school?

The first thing is to think about why you want to teach overseas and whether this is the right option for you. Teachers who come and go too quickly can have a negative impact on a school and its students, so are you prepared to stay for a few years? If in doubt, don’t rush into anything: speak to your family, friends and colleagues or even use profiling techniques to better understand your motivations.

Once you decide teaching abroad is an option, you then need to think about the country that you would want to live and work in. Eighty per cent of the teachers I work with have never been to the school or even the country before they take up their new job. If you can’t get out to the country, make sure you do as much research from home as possible. Moving to a new country can bring many challenges: would you be happy to dress in a certain way if needs be? Do climate extremes bother you? How easy is it to stay in touch with family and friends?

Your family situation should also be a key consideration. Will your spouse/partner be able to access a work visa if necessary? If you have children, is the timing right so that moving to a new school won’t disrupt their education?

You also need to research the school where you will be working. Take a good look at the school’s history and stability as well as any recognised accreditations or associations it holds. Doing some digging on social media and expat websites will also uncover more about the school’s reputation. Again, if possible, visiting the school to get a better feel for its culture and environment is extremely valuable.

Working abroad is not just about the school, you also need to think about accommodation. Many international schools will either provide accommodation or offer an allowance for accommodation. If so, find out what you can get for your allowance, where the accommodation is, what is included etc. This is particularly important when moving to a large, busy city as it could significantly affect your commute.

Before accepting a job, take a close look at all aspects of your contract and ask lots of questions about anything that isn’t clear. You should particularly question whether the contract is local or international. A local contract would usually only be offered if you were already living locally and sometimes for a spouse/partner who was offered employment by the school as well, but on these contracts there would be no accommodation and probably a reduced salary or fewer benefits. If you were already living overseas and applied for a teaching job, it would be essential to find out if the school was going to offer you an expat contract.

Moving overseas to work can be a complicated process so use well-known and experienced companies to help with things like visas, removals, employment law, finance etc. A reputable school would normally have well-established processes for their expat staff. Schools should be able to recommend which companies to work with and may also offer group discounts and incentives.

Finally, it is important to think about how this move could affect your career development. Teaching in an international school can lead to wider opportunity and faster promotion due to more staff movement in the sector. But as with any job, you get out what you put in, so get involved and think about experiences that will help to boost your CV when returning to the UK. 

Maureen Lacey is senior recruitment consultant at Gabbitas Education. The company will be holding an information seminar for teachers interested in working overseas in central London on Saturday 24 January. W:

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