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Q: I would like to work abroad with my same-sex partner. Am I covered by the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, which ban discrimination in employment on grounds of sexual orientation? Or do recruitment agencies adhere to the laws of the countries they are recruiting teachers for? If an advert says things like "boarding house duties for non-teaching spouses" would my partner fall into such a category?

A: Abroad can mean anywhere from the sophisticated metropolitan lifestyle found in parts of Europe or North America, to the Middle East or Africa. In some of these countries you would have few problems, but in others your lifestyle would be unacceptable.

Assuming you are more interested in working abroad than in challenging either recruitment practices or the wider law in certain countries, I would be open with agencies about the chances of them finding you a teaching post. They would then no doubt tell you where they would be able to place you and where it would be so difficult as to not be worth pursuing because of local law and custom. How far they can be held accountable in those circumstances for the actions of those whose jobs they are trying to fill will be a matter for the courts to decide.

As to your second point, I think that "non-teaching spouse" is signalling that the person appointed won't be single. Whether a same-sex couple would be acceptable no doubt bears on what I said in the previous paragraphs. However, even in countries where the law recognises same-sex relationships, international schools will be mindful of their clientele

John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University. To ask him a question, email him at

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