Returning to the UK after teaching abroad

9th August 2013 at 01:00

Returning to the UK after teaching abroad



China or Kazakhstan, Belgium or the Costas; there are numerous opportunities out in the big wide world for UK teachers to live and work within a different community, often finding it the best years of their lives.

But there comes a time when the heady attractions of drizzle, slush, warm beer and fish ’n’ chips outweigh all else, and you want to come back to Blighty.

How easy is it to do this?


Less easy than it used to be ten years ago, but of course it can be done.  In fact it is done, every term teachers come back successfully with a suntan and pockets full of small change that they can't spend here.  Yet nonetheless a little less easy, because despite recent quite marked falls in the number of students choosing to go into teaching, and talk of a crisis in teacher recruitment, competition can still be fierce.


But there are some areas and some stages and subjects, where there is a shortage of trained and experienced teachers.


At the moment, there is a surplus of primary teachers overall in England and Wales, despite rising numbers of pupils due to the rising birth rate among immigrant families, from Europe and other areas.  Because of this link to where immigrants have settled, this surplus is unevenly spread.  2015 is showing a deficit of Primary teachers in the South East, including London, and the larger connurbations in the Midlands too.  


Your chances will be better in areas where there has been a larger number of births over the last 5-10 years.


For secondary, Physics and Maths teachers are generally finding it very easy to get appointed, and English too, but there can still be competition.  You are unlikely to be the only applicant for a post!


For those of you returning to the UK, there are two major problems: geography and history.



The geography refers to not being within easy reach of a school here for interviews. UK-based candidates can hop onto a train at little notice, clutching their lesson plan in one hand and their original copies of qualifications in the other. You may find it pretty tricky to do that, especially if you are in the Southern Hemisphere or Far East.


And, no, you cannot do it all by Skype, even though you got your job in the Seychelles that way.


The statutory guidance to maintained schools in England and Wales is that a face-to-face interview should take place, for Safeguarding reasons.


You may get a few Independent schools or Academies, even Free schools, who go rogue on this, but most won’t. Partly because they want also to see you teaching. And, no, a video of you teaching in your school abroad won’t do there either, as they want to see you interacting with (or coping with!) their own pupils. So you need to be available in the UK for interview, and mostly your school abroad will not be happy for you to be absent for three or four days to make that possible.


Who pays for the plane ticket?


An interview can also be expensive for you, as unless it is for a senior leadership post you have very little chance of getting your travel expenses paid.

Nowadays, in fact, schools in England often don’t pay travel expenses for candidates attending interviews from Birmingham or Bristol.

They are even less likely to pay for you to come from Barcelona or Bahrain. The very most you might get could be the train fare from the airport.


A school may even feel diffident about asking you to pay the airfare to come, and so decide not to interview you at all, rejecting your application out of hand.

If you are based in Europe, you could pre-empt this by saying in your application that you are planning a visit to the UK shortly, and could arrange it to fit their interview schedule.

That way you pay the fare, but they don’t feel bad about it. It means that you are out of pocket, but at least you get the chance of an interview.  Some schools will pay the airfare for the successful candidate, but including it with the first pay packet.



The history angle as an impediment to appointment is your recent career history. Just as they can occasionally be a tad suspicious of applicants from independent schools, some maintained schools and Academies can look with a jaundiced eye on applicants from schools abroad, believing that you have had an easy ride with model pupils sitting in disciplined rows, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and eager to learn and hand in all their homework.

And they could have a point there, couldn’t they? I’ve seen them myself... potential concerns about classroom management, then, need to be addressed in your application.

The other area where your recent career history could be held against you is due to the speed of change in education in the UK over the last decade. Things have moved on at the speed of light, with new initiatives in learning coming every month, it sometimes seems. So you may be considered not to be up to speed with the pedagogy of the month. You will need to highlight in your application that you teach the UK curriculum, and keep up to date. Can you take out a digital subscription to the TES, so that you get the magazine delivered to your computer each week? It’s full of education news and articles that give handy tips. You might get just what you need to shine in your interview!

What all this means is that you are probably fairly unlikely to get a post while you are still abroad. Not an impossible task, as some people do manage it, but pretty unlikely that you will get a job so that you can just return to Aberdeen or Abingdon, have your fortnight in a caravan at Brighton or Blackpool, then start in a school in September. You might be able to do it, especially if you are based in Europe, but don’t base all your plans on this with no Plan B.

If your school term ends very early, you could start applying for posts that are advertised after the May 31 resignation deadline – these posts can only be filled by people not currently in permanent posts, so that means NQTs, unemployed teachers, those on short-term or maternity contracts, and people like you. These will typically interview from mid-June to mid-July, and you might be able to get back for that. Say so in your application.

People sometimes think that they will come back, look for a job for January, and survive on supply before then. You’ll be lucky... Supply teaching is not what it was, many people find that two or three days a month is about par for the course.  A Maths or English teacher will find it a lot easier to get supply, however.


How to apply


As for general advice on applying, the first port of call has to be the  articles here. There is a whole series of them in the Professional Advice Hub. The way that applications are presented  has changed over the last 5-7 years.  Start with this one:

Get ready for the application season!  


CVs are so last century


Why?  Because  the statutory guidance to maintained schools is that they should not ask for them. Again, a few independent schools still cling to them like grim death, but in general you will not need one; an executive summary addressing the points of their person specification is much more useful.

Come to Jobseekers Forum to ask for help when you are ready to start applying - I'll guide you towards other advice.

There are also two things that you can do earlier rather than later to help you when job hunting back in the UK.  First, sign up for the TES Job Alerts, so that you get a notification of any suitable jobs.   Download the TES Jobs App onto your phone or tablet too: Apple and Android versions both available.

Get the TES Jobs App   

How to set up a Job Alert

And secondly, you will almost certainly need some sort of police certificate from your current country, if you have been out of the UK for over a year. Something that says that you are an upright citizen, with no police record. Start asking now about how to get that - but don't actually apply for it yet as it could be rejected as being out of date by a very fussy Local Authority.


Finally - what should you be paid on your return?


You did three years in the UK, have since done 7 years abroad working in a British School where you were teaching the National Curriculum, with great results at GCSE and A-level.  Surely they should be offering you M6 on your return, with a jump to the Upper Pay Scale soon?


Well no, I'm afraid not!  


Even under the old system (i.e. up to 1 September 2013), only years teaching in a maintained school in England & Wales, not via an agency, counted for pay progression.  So your years abroad never counted for progression up the scale, although some schools did allow it.


But now there is no Pay Portability.   


Teachers in schools here, when they take a new job, have no right to having their current salary maintained, yet alone automatically going up the scale.  Just as they no longer have an automatic payrise in September.  All that is gone, out the window, Kaput, adios.


A school will offer a teacher the minimum that they can to ensure that the teacher accepts the job offer.  If there are 6 candidates shortlisted, four of whom are low on the scale, then they may offer only M3 or M4 to the successful candidate, knowing that Plan B will get the job filled at that salary if Plan A turns it down.


So don't be too optimistic when planning your finances for your return to the UK.

No more Pay Portability, no more pay scale, no more automatic moving up the scale.  


But it is possible . . .


The following has been posted  on Jobseekers - a success story about returning home


I am currently teaching in an international school in Thailand and have decided to return to the UK. I applied to several jobs and heard back from every one, most of them said it simply wasn't possible with me being overseas but some didn't!

One academy interviewed me over Skype and when that went well, flew me home for an interview.


Note from TG: The poster must have really impressed them for this to happen, as it will have cost a pretty penny.  So note - it can be done!


It was a complete disaster for many reasons but it gave me hope that schools are willing to interview people who they think will work.

Then I heard back from another school and had a couple of conversations with SLT over the phone. After the conversations, they offered me a job!  


Note from TG: I don't approve, this is contrary to official Statutory Guidance, but I am, however, delighted that the poster has a job to return to!


It's not quite the job I applied for (that had responsibility attached) and it is a one-year contract but it's a job! We are all hoping that it works out and they can change my contract to a permanent contract but if it doesn't at least I'll be back in the UK so can actually attend interviews.

I will be on UPS1 which is what I was on when I left two years ago. 

I'm really excited and very happy to be going home! Overseas jobseekers, don't lose hope! It can be done!


Yes indeed.  It can be done.


Best wishes