6 reasons UK schools should hire international teachers

Teachers returning from overseas have a wealth of talent and expertise that UK schools shouldn’t overlook, says Rebecca Findlay
17th June 2021, 10:00am


6 reasons UK schools should hire international teachers

Teacher Jobs: Why Uk Schools Should Recruit International Teachers

I had been a headteacher for seven years when I made the decision to leave the UK and teach abroad.

Colleagues immediately worried about the professional risk I was taking: “What will become of her?” they wondered.

I knew where they were coming from. When had I worked with someone who had taught internationally? Never. Who did I know with international experience? Barely anyone. When had I hired a teacher from an international school? Actually, I had - but not without significant consideration.

Overall, there was tangible scepticism about international education - a belief that teachers who spent time on their professional journey outside of the UK system would be less effective when they returned. 

It wasn’t until I started my international teaching journey that I realised how wrong these assumptions were. A teacher with international experience can be a huge benefit to a school for so many reasons.

And yet I continue to observe excellent international teachers struggling to secure interviews as they seek to return to their home country, leading me to conclude that the concerns I heard years ago may still be prevalent.

Why teachers with international experience are valuable in UK schools

This is a real missed opportunity for schools - here’s why:

1. Quality assurance and ongoing self-review

Successful international schools have high expectations for excellent student outcomes.

Across many, you will see outstanding results, with exams often sat by students for whom English is their second, third or even fourth language.

There has to be a significant level of effective teaching and learning across a school to achieve this sort of outcome. Furthermore, many schools will go through rigorous accreditation and/or inspection processes from both external organisations and local authorities.

Visiting a school website is a great starting point to get a visual flavour of the type of school the candidate is coming from. It’ll show that the teacher knows how to meet high standards.

2. Culture of continuous learning

Good international schools prioritise CPD and use best practice from across the globe as a guide for school improvement.

It’s not unusual to see experience of working directly with high-profile educationalists on a CV as well as experience in evidence-based practice.

International staff engage in self-directed professional learning and many are part of the growing community of teachers on social media where they share their experiences, guidance and expertise.

3. Commitment beyond the curriculum

I won’t lie, international teachers make the most of their surroundings, and the photos of snorkelling or jungle trekking are a reality. But their schools demand a great deal of commitment beyond the timetable.

Teachers are expected to lead co-curricular activities and coach sports teams, as well as sometimes work weekends or evenings hosting events.

The best teachers will give their time to more than one of these areas and see this as an integral part of their role. Most will recognise the benefits of giving students these opportunities and will be experienced in doing so.

4. Strong edtech experience

Many international schools afford their students access to a range of technology and it is often embedded across the curriculum. I have certainly observed this here in Asia.

The ability to use technology as an effective tool within the classroom is something that should be very desirable to schools - never more so since the pandemic, with online learning becoming a norm.

Many international teachers have delivered full-time synchronous teaching during campus closure and have developed hybrid teaching methods to simultaneously teach students in school and at home (wherever in the world that may be!).

With education potentially only becoming more technology-driven, these skills will be vital.

5. Transference of skills and experience

To meet the needs of EAL students and those of different cultural backgrounds is a skill.

Different curricula and systems can be learned from a book but some of the experiences of an international teacher who is adept at catering for a diverse and sometimes transient group of learners cannot.

Furthermore, international teachers are excellent at developing strong relationships with families from all over the world.

They welcome them into the school community without diminishing their personal cultures or beliefs and navigate the school’s intercultural context while being respectful to the host country’s laws and traditions. And as visitors, teachers are able to empathise with the students and provide effective pastoral support.

6. Resilience in spades

International teachers have to adapt and manage their personal life without the familial support network of home - in nations with different languages, cultures and bureaucratic systems.

I have observed staff show grit and resilience in the face of uncertainty, responding to a changing environmental, political or economic landscape with professionalism. Who wouldn’t want that in a new staff member?

Take another look

So in conclusion, if you see an international CV, please dig a bit deeper. Granted, not all schools are outstanding and not all teachers are effective at their job.

But please don’t let international experience prevent a candidate from making your shortlist; they may bring a different dimension to your team. Whilst we endeavour to celebrate diversity and champion experiential learning with our students, let us not forget to do the same with our teachers.

Rebecca Findlay is the head of primary at the International School @ParkCity in Kuala Lumpur. She tweets at @findlr

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