Australians have always been popular as teachers in British schools. There is a long tradition of under-30s acquiring the Youth Mobility Scheme visa, which allows them to live and work in the UK for two years. Now, with chronic levels of under-staffing, demand is soaring for Antipodean teachers and those planning to do some teaching abroad are able to pick and choose where they would like to work.
Shortage of teachers in Britain
One in six teachers in state schools in England is from overseas. The shortages are particularly acute in primary schools and in the subjects of maths, physics and chemistry. This trend is set to continue, as for the third year in a row, the Department of Education in the UK has confirmed that one in five of its secondary teacher training places has not been filled. This gaping hole in recruitment level is worsened by the fact that so many qualified teachers are considering leaving the profession. A poll commissioned by the National Union of Teachers by YouGov in October 2015 found an alarming half of current teachers were considering quitting. This leaves the doors wide open for overseas recruitment, which is absolutely necessary to make up the massive shortfall.
Further evidence of the crisis
Internal recruitment and retention of teaching staff is at such a low in Britain that schools are having to use large proportions of their dwindling budgets to advertise positions vacant. In 2015, secondary schools struggling to fill vacancies spent a total of £56m in advertising. In such a climate, it is not surprising that applications from willing and eager overseas teachers are thoroughly welcomed.
Australian attitude is a bonus
Not only are Australian teachers welcomed to take up otherwise empty places, they are also appreciated for their positive approach and personality. UK schools are regulated and inspected by the Office for Standards in Children’s Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) and if they judge a school to be failing, it is placed in “special measures.” Many headteachers in these difficult situations purposefully recruit Australian staff for their resilient attitude and willingness to “give it a go.” Recruitment agencies confidently expect numbers to double for the next academic year for teachers applying from Australia and also from New Zealand and Canada. The flexibility and adaptability of overseas candidates is highly valued by British Heads.
Similarities in training and salary expectation
Australia’s four year Bachelor of Education degree is highly respected in Britain, and is often compared favourably to the UK standard which tends to be a degree in a specific subject followed by a year post-graduate in teaching (PGCE). Australians tend to have a second teachable subject, and this is a great bonus at secondary level. Salary levels are roughly equivalent with the average day’s pay being £170. There are more annual holidays in the UK with a week’s break in the middle of each term, known as half term. Overseas teachers recruited through an agency will not be entitled to holiday pay so it is worth budgeting for those breaks.
Supply or long-term teaching posts
With the job market so wide open, Australian teachers do not have to compromise on where and how they would like to teach. The regional centres are crying out for staff just as much as the inner-cities, where conditions might be tough and many pupils may not have English as their first language. Those who have taken on these challenging positions speak highly of the steep learning curve they undergo, and feel it makes them into outstanding teachers with talents they are proud to take home. The additional responsibilities and opportunity to command their own classroom makes longer-term placements more appealing to many.
Supply teaching is more sporadic and does not allow the chance to get to know the children and feel you are making a difference. However, it does fit in better for those who wish to incorporate European travels and not have a fixed itinerary. Supply teaching is a good option for teachers when they first arrive as it allows them to try out various localities and decide if they would like to commit to a longer period. It also assists with becoming familiar with the British curriculum. Supply positions occur throughout the year and can even be started mid-term.
Owing to the over-riding popularity of Australian teachers in British schools, more and more are being offered sponsorship. This allows for an extension to the original two year visa. Although it is generally agreed that teaching is a tougher job in the UK, largely owing to the stringencies imposed by OFSTED (to which there is no Australian equivalent), those offered sponsorship are often keen to stay. Many believe that the coping strategies they adopt in the British system make them better teachers.
To summarise, the door is wide open for Australian teachers to teach in the UK. Severe teacher shortage and a stellar reputation for excellence makes Australians a number one choice for both primary and secondary establishments.