Home time: returning to the UK after teaching abroad

Here’s what you need to consider if you’re returning to the UK after teaching overseas

Grainne Hallahan

What do you need before returning to teach in the UK?

Teaching abroad can be an incredible experience but, sometimes, the urge to come home is one you just can’t ignore.

According to research from Cobis, 71 per cent of teachers working abroad return within 10 years.

But there is more to coming home than simply booking a flight and packing up your apartment. Just as moving abroad involves planning and paperwork, so does the return.

Will you be looking to teach in the same phase and setting as when you left? Or will you be hunting out different positions?

Whatever situation you're in, check out our handy guide to returning to teaching in the UK after working abroad.

1. Decide what kind of role you’re looking for

If you've picked up new skills in your overseas role, you may now be looking for a position that takes account of your level of experience.

Or you may want to do a few terms of supply before choosing a school for a permanent contract, to familiarise yourself with the area you’ve returned to. 

Whatever your plan, you’ll need to scope out the job market. 

Register with jobs sites and use their boards to suss out recent vacancies. Search through teaching advertisements online to get a good idea of how active the job market is in the area you're moving to.

“I had been told that English teachers were in short supply, explains Amy Coote, an English teacher who returned to the UK in September after teaching in the United Arab Emirates. 

“I saw lots of jobs advertised for my area, so I knew that even if I had to wait until I returned, there would be something I could apply for.”

2. Have a back-up plan

It is always worth having a plan B. Coote knew she had other options if she couldn’t find the right role for her.

“As a last resort, I thought I would go on supply, and this would enable me to look at a variety of different schools,” she explains.

Check out subjects where there is a particular shortage and see if you have the skills to teach help out.

Being flexible in what you want to teach will make you an even more attractive candidate. Check out our piece analysing the latest statistics on the teaching recruitment crisis.


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3. Be ready for interview 

The world of education can move pretty quickly, and although you may be on top of any curriculum changes, you’ll also need to be ready to tackle any safeguarding or GDPR questions that crop up in your interview.

But don't worry, we have all the information you need. For everything GDPR-related, you can read our blog on GDPR compliance, and we also have updated safeguarding advice for interview candidates.

4. Talk up your credentials

A common mistake to make is to assume that your experience abroad won’t be valued when you return home. This should not be the case.

In fact, Coote found that interviewers looked favourably on her time abroad. 

“I am most certainly a better teacher after my time abroad,” she says. “From my work with English as an additional language students, or those who are extremely religious, to working in the ridiculous heat; I now have more coping mechanisms and teaching methods for a range of students.”

Working in a more pressured environment was also useful, she says.

“The students are usually extremely hard working and have pressures from parents to achieve A/A*s, and so I had to develop new ways of challenging them and really getting them to think outside of the box.” 

5. Be proactive

Returning to the UK for every interview isn’t a viable option, so Coote advises being smart when dealing with potential employers.

“In my application, I always gave the dates I was in the UK in case the interview dates fell when I was back, and I always offered to try to film a lesson to send,” she says.

This kind of innovative use of technology means that potential employers will be able to get a flavour of your teaching style, and see if you’d be a good match for their school.

6. Know your value

In the time you’ve been away, it is likely that UK teachers have had some changes in pay. In order to make sure you’re negotiating to a realistic figure, check the latest teacher pay scales.

It’s also worth checking the latest tax rates in the UK, as you might find the difference between your gross and take-home salary is considerably different to what you’ve been used to.

It is a good idea to check rental rates and house price costs on websites such as Rightmove, as you may be surprised by the changes in the housing market since you’ve been gone.

7. Put yourself in the loop

Being out of the UK for a long time can leave you feeling as if you’re not just two steps behind but on a different path. In the past decade, we’ve seen specification changes, overhauls to the grading system and the introduction of new assessments in the primary phase. 

In short, you need to do your homework. But this doesn’t need to be an onerous task. Your first port of call should be our Tes podadogy podcast, followed by social media.

“I am a Twitter nerd, so I was checking Twitter and seeing what other UK-based teachers were working on,” Coote says.

“It was extremely useful. As was keeping in touch with my fellow teacher friends; they were always willing to explain the trials and tribulations of UK teaching.”

8. Become paperwork-proficient

Many international schools work on a renewable contract system, and if this is the case at your school, make sure you notify your school by the date stipulated on your contract that you won’t be looking to renew your teaching contract with them.

If you’re on a permanent contract, you’ll need to check your own resignation date, as this can vary according to length of service and the position you hold in the school.

As long as you have chosen to remain as a British citizen with a British passport, you will still be legally allowed to return to the UK. However, it is best to check your individual paperwork on the British government website for details of whether you’re entitled to work in the UK and what visas you, or your spouse, might require.

It is also important that you ensure all your affairs are in order before you leave: for example, in Bahrain you will be prevented from leaving if you are involved in legal proceedings or have outstanding debt. 

Create a checklist of what standing orders and direct debits you need to cancel and bills you need to settle before closing your bank accounts.

You will also need to ensure you’ve given proper notice if you’ve been renting a property while abroad, or seek legal advice about any property you’ve purchased while you’ve been living away.

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Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan is Tes recruitment editor and senior content writer at Tes

Find me on Twitter @heymrshallahan

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