Working in a British School in Europe

22nd May 2014 at 01:00

Working in a British School in Europe



On the TES Teaching Overseas Forum, a poster asked about teaching in Europe in an English-language, British-curriculum School. 


A veteran poster on that forum, a Headteacher who has had a very successful career teaching overseas, has given a most informative yet witty  response, and has agreed that it can be posted as an article here.  He hasn’t agreed to being called a veteran, however, and will doubtless complain to me about this.  


You do not necessarily have to accept his views on the liberality of Saudi Arabia or the pollution levels in Beijing, but the rest is very solid advice.

I live in the UK and am an English Teacher in a secondary school so teach KS3-5. I have been teaching for two years. I have always wanted to live in Europe and travel around every summer! I have been thinking that if I save for two years, I will be able to move to Europe and teach with four years' experience and a sum of money to tide me over.

I would just really appreciate any advice, from those of you who have made the big step to teach in Europe!

I have no idea what the job market is like and therefore have a whole heap of questions!

  • Am I more likely to have a fixed term contract than permanent? If so does that mean you have to move back? or can you temp?
  • Do you need to get a job before you move out?
  • Do I actually need TEFL if I am an English Teacher?
  • What is it like to teach in Europe?

 Any advice would be great, I really want to research and ask people before deciding that this is what I want to do!! 


From poster SMT Dude:  What joy to find a newcomer whose priority is Europe.

The job market is busy and the recruiting season runs from early-bird November to last-gasp May: we are recruiting even now in mid-May (not for English), right up against UK resignation date, thanks to being let down.

Some subjects (Music, PE, MFL, some ICT) will often be largely taught by bilingual local staff, but English is almost never one of these, so you are well placed.

Learn about the IB: at least half the good European schools do the Diploma, and many adopt the MYP and/or PYP.

The great majority of European international schools are well-established, serious outfits (but yes, there are a few glaring exceptions). There has been less mushroom-like growth in recent years than in the ME or Asia, fewer Mickey-Mouse start-ups, fewer mad cynical unscrupulous owners. Older schools are in the West obviously, but many sturdy infants in the ex-communist East.

The great gap in the market is France, where there are very few international schools, owing to the haughty xenophobia of the governing class of that country.

As a very general rule, the sunnier and/or more pleasant the location, the lower the salary: Luxembourg pays more than Lisbon, and even within one country Dreary Dusseldorf out-pays Delightful Dresden. Again there are exceptions, and remember to factor in cost of living, especially accommodation, before automatically plumping for Brussels over Bucharest.

Spain in particular is often a question of the meagre salary being the price you pay for living in a delightful place.

Higher-than-average density of dodgy schools there, though.

But wherever you end up, you should certainly not be talking about expending two years' worth of UK savings in order to tide you over a spell in Europe. This is not a protracted back-packing Inter-railing project. (see below)

Taxes are high everywhere, but so is the standard of public services.

Unfortunately you never hear a sensible conversation analysing the quality of, say, health care in Portugal or inter-city trains in Poland, for these are areas where everyone generalises tediously and intransigently from personal / anecdotal experience. In many regions public transport is so good (or local driving so scary) that you will not want to go to the expense of a car.

Most Euro countries have laws that make it difficult for your employer to seriously booger you about, but, again, it can be done ...

Typically you will be given a fixed term contract, renewable by mutual consent. In many countries, if the contract written by the school is for, say, three years you will actually acquire legal permanence and protection before that period expires.

Definitely secure a job before you go. If you decant yourself from the train in Berlin or Bilbao hoping to pick up some tempish work for a few months, you will be sucked into the underclass of TFL street urchins and never heard of again.

Dozens of proper schools write proper adverts and conduct proper interviews for jobs which are every bit as demanding as what you are doing now. Don't be remotely tempted to imagine that teaching on the conteenong will be a 'jolly'.

You may stay for one contact, two, three... go back to the UK after that, or head for a more liberal social ambience in Saudi, or cleaner air in Beijing. Of course, the longer you stay, the harder it gets (in every sense) to return.

No need for TEFL. It is a handy string to your bow but not a sine qua non. Many UK teachers in both public and private sectors have useful experience already, of differentiating to help non-native speakers in their classroom. If you like teaching serious Lit. in KS 4 and 5 you will find, all over Europe, that students really want to read and know about literature - almost none of the inverted snobbery and hostility to perceived high culture that blights many British schools.

What is it like to teach in Europe?' is too broad a question, but there are myriad delightful schools and places to visit and the battered old continent is still fascinating from top to bottom. You can see an extraordinary variety of towns and landscapes in just ten days' travel in, say, Spain or Germany.

Be prepared to learn the language, which will double your fun and also stave off dementia later in life, if you believe certain doctors.

Hope this is helpful... why not now go to COBIS or CIS, have a look at their lists of accredited schools, and visit some web sites? Then start looking hopefully for possible 2015-16 vacancies, as soon as the Christmas decorations appear in your bleak British High Street...

Willkommen, bienvenu etc etc ( Do the Poles really say 'VITAMIN' ?) and good luck!


Thanks to SLT Dude for his thoughts.


You can read further comments on this subject on the Teaching Overseas Forum HERE


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Best wishes