How to choose the right international school

Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or teaching abroad for the first time, selecting the right school for you is vital

Tes Editorial

Teaching overseas: How to find the right international school for you

If you’re looking to teach abroad, there are some important decisions to make. The question that should be on the top of every potential international teacher’s list is, "What type of school do you want to teach at?"

Here are seven things all teachers should consider before submitting an overseas application.

Teaching internationally: a checklist for applicants

1. What kind of school is it?

As more professionals work and take their families abroad, international schools are flourishing. These schools usually offer a very attractive package that may be far more lucrative than the job you’re leaving at home.

If you’re going to work in a state-maintained school, on the other hand, the salary may look alarmingly low. Don’t dismiss it immediately, though, as a lower cost of living may mean it is quite a decent salary in reality, plus you’ll have a more profound cultural immersion in a local school.


2. Is it a sponsored school?

Large multinationals, such as oil companies, locate many staff abroad and may sponsor a local school. Such schools may have more lavish funding than other international schools, but a more commercial ethos.

Similarly, embassies sponsor and fund schools in remote outposts of the world, and these will come with their own set of quirks. See if you can find teachers who have taught there for a personal recommendation in these instances.

3. What does the school website tell you?

For international schools, their website is a primary medium of communication with teachers, parents and other stakeholders. A shoddy website, with out-of-date information, slow email responses, broken pages or meagre information, is a sure sign that things aren’t up to scratch.

If you’re researching a local school, check other schools’ websites in the area to compare trends and academic performance and results.

4. Has the school been accredited?

Just as you would check the Ofsted report for any prospective school in the UK, you should research the equivalent for any overseas school.

The issue of accreditation is a particularly relevant one for teachers seeking employment in international schools purporting to be run along British lines. The Council of British International Schools (COBIS) runs a programme, while the Council of International Schools is another accrediting body.

If you're looking for a school to do your NQT year, bear in mind that certain COBIS schools are allowed to take NQTs.

5. Is there an induction for new teachers?

Some schools provide an induction and ongoing support for new teachers, especially those arriving from overseas.

For example, International School in Cape Town likes to ensure that from day one a new teacher is operating within some kind of comfort zone. It’s been known to hire outgoing teachers for the day to help induct new staff. This kind of training is even more important for science teachers, who take practical lessons and need to know local health and safety regulations.

We have a Tes Podcast on the ultimate staff induction. Have a listen and think about the sort of things you want from your new school.

6. Use social networks and email

The Tes Teaching Overseas forum is a brilliant source of advice. While rules do not allow posters to name individual schools for legal reasons, you may find some vital tips about your locality. And you can always continue more detailed discussions with posters in private by email.

You could also try and find names and email addresses of staff in your prospective department, and get in touch with them directly to find out more about the school.

7. Research the region’s job opportunities

It’s a good idea to not only research a specific school and job offer, but also job opportunities in the region as well. That way, if you fall in love with the region, but the job doesn’t work out, you will at least have the peace of mind of knowing whether there are other jobs on the market.

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