Each year, thousands of teachers move abroad with their families. Many move for a better salary, or a better standard of living, or just to experience a new country and culture.
But uprooting your family and relocating to the other side of the world isn’t something to do on a whim.
If you are planning to move overseas with your family, you definitely have a few things to research and prepare for.
Here are four areas to consider to help you with your planning.
1. There is no such thing as too much research
It is vital to spend time investigating the locations, the governments, laws, climate, cost of living and social scene to see if it will truly suit your family’s needs and preferences.
If you are the only teacher at your school with a family, it may feel quite isolating if all your colleagues are single 22-year-old NQTs who go out clubbing most weekends.
If you are moving with a non-teaching spouse, research the job prospects for their career. If they do not have a degree, it can be quite hard, but not impossible, to find well-paid work. If you are planning to live off one salary, thoroughly research the cost of living.
Another important consideration is for single parents. Some schools abroad require that you have written permission from the other parent to show that you are allowed to bring your child to the country. Some single mothers have had issues when applying for jobs, but many have moved successfully; it seems to depend on the country’s laws and the school itself.
2. Finding a school for your children can be tricky
While most British, American and Australian schools offer assistance or free school places, it is usually limited to one or two children. This will vary according to the school but it is important to check before accepting a job, as annual school fees are sky-high in schools abroad. If you are not given free (or almost fully funded) places for all of your children, it may not be financially viable to make the move.
Another thing to consider is that if you get a job in a government or public school teaching local students, your children most likely won’t be able to attend. In this instance, you'd have to apply to an international school for a place, and these often have long waiting lists.
Finally, you should consider the impact the new school might have on your children’s learning, particularly secondary school students. The subjects and exam boards they have been studying back home will likely be different to those at their new school. Ask yourself if such a change would have a serious impact on their educational attainment.
3. Carefully consider the size of accommodation you will need
Teaching packages in the Middle East and Asia almost always provide accommodation, either in the form of an apartment (or villa if you have a partner and children) or a rent allowance. This means that you should not have to spend your salary on rent (unless you rent a place that costs more than your allowance).
In terms of childminding, many expat families have a full-time, live-in nanny, as it may work out cheaper than playschool or a childminder. However, that requires an extra bedroom, so you might need to rent a villa rather than an apartment.
Rent can be very expensive (especially in the Gulf), so you would have to make sure that your school would provide this housing option or else offer you a good rent allowance.
4. Keep an eye on the future
Be prepared if you want your children to go to university in your home country and qualify for home fee status rather than international fees, which tend to be double or triple the price. To prove that your children should qualify, you need to demonstrate your constant connection to your home country.
You could do this by having a home address in your country of origin and keeping all your plane tickets home as evidence. Unfortunately, these actions do not always guarantee success, so seek advice from other expat parents at your school.
Moving abroad with a family is life-changing, so it is important to make such a decision carefully and research as much as you can before committing to a job.
With so many factors to think about, you should give yourself at least a year to research and discover if it is the best option for you and your family at that time. If you have done all the groundwork and decided it is for you, then enjoy the wonderful adventure.
Sorcha Coyle has taught at schools in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates for the past six years. She also runs the Empowering Expat Teachers community, which can be found on her blog.
Ready to move on? Check out the latest UK and international teaching jobs.