Looking for an overseas teaching job? Do your research up front
There are few things worse than being stuck in a school from Hell abroad. Read our seven golden rules to help you to choose the right overseas school
1. What kind of school is it?
As the world becomes a global village and more professionals work and take their families abroad, international schools are flourishing. These usually offer a very attractive package that may be far more lucrative than the job you’re leaving at home. If you’re going to work in a state-maintained school, on the other hand, the salary may look alarmingly low: don’t dismiss it as a lower cost of living may mean it is quite a decent salary, plus you’ll have a more profound cultural immersion in a local school.
2. Is it a sponsored school?
Large multinationals such as oil companies locate many staff overseas, sometimes in under-developed regions, and may sponsor schools. Such schools may have more lavish funding than other international schools, but a more commercial ethos. Similarly, embassies sponsor and fund schools in remote outposts of the world. Be aware that such organisations may have a commitment to hire a quota of their own nationals, which could give rise to ‘them and us’ tensions among the staff.
3. Check the school website
For international schools their website is a primary medium of communication with teachers, parents and other stakeholders who may be travelling or in different countries: a shoddy website, with out-of-date information, slow email responses, broken pages or meagre information is a sure sign that things aren’t up to scratch. If you’re researching a local school, check other schools’ websites in the area to compare trends and academic performance and results.
4. Has the school been accredited?
Just as you would check the Ofsted report for any prospective school in the UK, you should research the equivalent for any overseas school, or indeed if there is any inspection system. The issue of accreditation is a particularly relevant for teachers seeking employment in international schools purporting to be run along British lines. The Council of British International Schools Accreditation – COBIS– runs a programme, while the Council of International schools is another accrediting body.
5. Is there an induction for new teachers?
Sound schools provide an induction and ongoing support for new teachers, especially those arriving from overseas with specific orientation needs. For example, International School, Cape Town, likes to ensure that from day one, a new teacher is operating within some kind of comfort zone. It recently hired the outgoing French teacher for a day to ensure the new teacher, an Irish national, knew the ropes. This kind of training is even more important for science teachers who take practical lessons and need to know local health and safety regulations.
6. Use social networks and email
The TES Teaching Overseas forum is a brilliant source of advice. While our rules do not permit posters from naming individual schools for legal reasons, you may find some vital clues, hints and tips about your locality, and you can always continue more details discussions using your private email address. Another idea is to ask if you may have email addresses of staff in your prospective department, and get in touch with them.
7. Research the region’s job opportunities
It’s a good idea to not only research a specific school and job offer, but job opportunities in the region as well. If you fall in love with the region but the job doesn’t work out, it’s peace of mind to know there are other jobs on the market. Many people dream of moving to Australia and New Zealand, for example, but there is currently a surplus of teachers in these countries. And as the UK’s economy worsens, like other Western European countries, communities such as South African nationals are returning to their homeland, with hot skills and local knowledge, which makes for a competitive workplace.
Don’t do what I did
“I was hired as a specialist subject teacher by a company that owns a group of international schools, with specific plans to teach IB. I gave up a great job to take this one, partly because of the country and partly because I wanted to teach IB as a career builder. The company cancelled the IB program suddenly and we are expected to just teach to GCSE. I am now in the situation where I am not even teaching A level and have been told that the expectation is for me to do more primary level teaching.”
Where to go for more information on teaching abroad
Read the conversations on the TES teaching overseas forum.
Check out the main accreditation bodies
Check the organisations of international schools
Check the Educational school groups
Some of the most prestigious international schools in the world are part of groups including:
Finding a teaching job overseas
We list hundreds of international teaching on the TES website every week, here are some of the most popular job searches:
International jobs by workplace
Overseas jobs by regions