The lure of the UK

June 2016


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ROSIE BUCHANAN of Smart Teachers recounts what Kiwi teachers in the UK have to say about their experiences teaching abroad.

The UK has long been a popular destination for New Zealanders to work and travel. It’s estimated that at present there are 200,000 Kiwis living in the UK, many of whom are qualified teachers. The sheer number of people flocking to the Northern Hemisphere in order to kickstart their careers is achieved largely through the Youth Mobility Visa scheme, designed to facilitate working holidays for those aged 18–31.

Recent media attention surrounding the increased cost of relocation, healthcare fees and accommodation scarcity has given some cause for hesitation but there is no doubt the interest to travel and work in England is still there – so how do we separate the facts from the speculation?

We did our homework and also asked those who have ‘been there, done that’ what they believe are the challenges to moving to the UK, and how to navigate them. Here’s what they said:


1. Visa cost and surcharge

The introduction of a health surcharge to cover the cost of a migrant’s use of the healthcare system was introduced in early 2016. Amounting to just over NZ$300 per year, it is comparable to GP visits in New Zealand. Newly qualified teacher Jason was determined to make the move over as soon as possible.

“I’d been planning the move for some time, and had saved a considerable amount by the time I applied for my visa. While it would’ve been great not to have to pay the healthcare surcharge, it definitely didn’t deter me from going,” says Jason.


2. Different curriculum

The curriculum is different. No surprises there. The UK is structured in their approach to delivery and assessment but this hasn’t phased Kara, who has found creativity was encouraged and she has managed to put her own spin on teaching.

“Although it has been challenging at times, it has been great to experience different ways of teaching and learning in the UK. The children in my class love to hear about New Zealand and the different ways we do things,” says Kara.


3. Finding a job

What would you even search on Google? Navigating the job market in another country on your own is time consuming, confusing and overwhelming. Engaging with an agency is the smartest and most popular way to find a job – and it’s free.

“Smart Teachers supported me throughout the whole process,” says Kerry. “I was unable to find a job here in New Zealand and as the months slipped by I realised that I would have to look further afield for a job before the gap between university and my own classroom got too wide.

“After contacting Smart Teachers I was listened to and then guided with options. I was supported in my CV writing and then invited for Skype or phone interview by schools who had received my CV and seen me as a good match too. That alone was an amazing experience and here I am now four months into my job in the UK and I am loving it.”


4. Finding accommodation

Consider approaching finding accommodation in the same way you might to finding a date. There are myriad websites, profiles, matching services, apps. Shane considers himself one of the lucky ones.

“I managed to find long-term accommodation only 20 minutes from work within four days of arrival. I simply put an ad on and was overwhelmed with people looking for someone to fill a room.”

Secondary teacher Rebecca found the process a little more hit and miss. Her first viewing was a disaster, with an agent pressuring her to accept something she didn’t want.

“My advice is to try and see different areas of London to get a feel for different suburbs and don’t feel bad about saying no!” she recommends.


5. Arriving in the UK

Staying connected is key and knowing where to turn for support is critical for a smooth transition. Even with home only a phone call or click away, reaching out to real-life people in the UK makes so much sense. And it’s free!

“I’m not going to lie – arriving in London is incredibly overwhelming! It is everything you know or have heard about it and so much more. Knowing that Smart Teachers were only a phone call away to calm any nerves I had about the new job was comforting. For me it was so important to have that support,” says Kate.


6. Advice

Expect to work hard. Teaching is a challenging job if you want to do it well. Don’t fall into the trap of listening to the people who tell you you will only work until 4pm – yes, some do – but the teachers who seem to have real job satisfaction understand that you have to work hard to get good outcomes for students.

Expect to feel homesick – that’s all part of the process, but that too will pass.

Be fussy! The job market is so different from home. There are loads of jobs, which means you probably can hold out for the job of your dreams.

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