Why I settled down in Northern Ireland

14th June 2019 at 09:45
Moving to Northern Ireland to teach can seem like big step to take but, for the adventurous, there’s much to discover. We spoke to a teacher who left England for the Emerald Isle

Rebecca Wilson moved from Gloucestershire to Northern Ireland with her husband in 2015, and teaches at Seaview Primary School and nursery unit in north Belfast

“I have found the people of Northern Ireland are warm and welcoming,” she says. “They are family orientated and are genuinely interested in getting to know you.

“I started teaching as a supply teacher to get a feel for the differences in teaching here. I taught in a variety of settings from schools serving small rural communities to inner-city schools with large proportions of English as an additional language students.”

Teachers in Northern Ireland aren’t subject to the stress of Ofsted inspections, and Wilson says there's a stability to teaching in the country that’s a world away from the constantly moving goalposts of the English system.

“The inspection process in Northern Ireland seems to be more focused on the good things a school is doing,” she says. “It acknowledges and trusts a school’s evaluatory processes and identification of their own areas for development rather than hurling us through hoops, like Ofsted.

“In England, the ever-changing framework, single-minded focus on results and need to be in a constant state of readiness was exhausting.”

Adjusting to life in Northern Ireland can take time, of course, and the process comes with its own hurdles to jump,  especially in terms of the weather.

“If you can overcome the sometimes relentless rain (it isn’t called the Emerald Isle for nothing), you are often rewarded with crisp, bright winter mornings to take long walks,” Wilson says.

And when the clouds do break, the landscapes that have inspired so many writers over the years are on your doorstep. 

“Northern Ireland is a beautiful place. The north coast, in particular, is simply spectacular. It has long, golden beaches and wonderful scenery,” she says.

And it’s not just the countryside that can amaze. Belfast has a troubled past, but it’s come through to become one of the UK’s top tourist destinations. In 2018, Lonely Planet named Belfast and the Causeway Coast the top place to visit in their Best in Travel ranking.

There are “plenty of top-notch restaurants, bars (many promoting live music), theatre (the Mac, Grand Opera House) and good hotels, all of which we take advantage of,” she explains.

“Many of the beautiful historic buildings survived the troubles of the past and serve as fantastic landmarks to frame the city.”

But Wilson has retained some of her roots, which has caused a hiccup or two.

“Despite daily attempts from my colleagues to teach me how to say ‘eight’ in a Northern Irish accent, I have spectacularly failed,” she laughs.

“Some of the parents have laughed that their children are coming home with an English twang to their accents.”

And it’s the children who make the job worthwhile.

“The rewards the children consistently give you back are unlimited,” she says.

“Despite the many challenges the local community in the north of the city has, the children always come to school with a smile and a hug, and give their all.”

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