Dear John: Have I stayed away too long? I want to come back to Blighty


I’m teaching abroad in Belgium and want to come back to Blighty but have a sneaking suspicion I’ve stayed too long over here as all my applications to schools back home are resulting in no calls for interview.

I taught in the UK in a comprehensive in Swindon for four years (humanities teaching) then Internationals in Belgium for another four. Only thing is, there is zip chance of promotion here and I’m getting itchy feet to climb the ladder. There are other personal reasons why I want to come home but the career ones are the main reasons.

Anyway, I have applied for head of history and head of humanities positions,……no bites, second in department positions,……no bites and now ordinary grade teacher positions and still no bites! 

I don’t know if it’s the area I’m looking for work in - mainly the South West, preferably Cornwall, otherwise North East England, are they difficult places to get into? Is it that I’ve been out of it for too long and would need retraining? Is an NQT cheaper and therefore more attractive in this recession period? Are they scared I’m going to ask for relocation money to help me move?

I’m thinking the only way I’m going to be able to get back into it over in England is to do cover teaching for a year or so, or work in a difficult school and suffer ”a baptism by fire” or something.

What do you reckon I’m missing out on? Any thoughts are appreciated.



You are trying to find work in the two most difficult job markets in England. You could try elsewhere in the country and you may well find you have much less difficulty, although there are probably more main scale teachers than posts in the subject so you would be better going for head of department vacancies or looking at Humanities or possibly citizenship posts..

I suppose your letter of application will need to remind some heads that you can bring both the Battle of Waterloo and the First World War to life through an understanding of the Wet Flanders Plain, as Henry Williamson called it in one of his books on the Great War.

I don’t think four years away is too long, but you should demonstrate you have kept up to date with developments in curriculum and assessment in England if you want to be a head of department. Reading The TES each week can be an excellent way of keeping in touch for teachers working overseas who eventually want to return to teach in England.


Do you have any experience of a similar situation or advice on this issue? Please do post below

John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy, including a brief period as a chief government advisor. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University and hosts our Career Clinic where you can post questions to him