Africans and Aussies upbeat, as Poms whinge

3rd October 2003 at 01:00
It sounds like a fictional Utopia: a large group of teachers in British schools with high morale and who think they are well-paid. But such a group really exists - it is composed of overseas teachers.

The results of a recent survey demonstrate that for many teachers from abroad the pay and hours on offer at British schools are key advantages.

The survey, conducted by 1st Contact recruitment agency, reveals that 85 per cent of Australian, New Zealand and South African teachers achieve high levels of job satisfaction in British classrooms. Some 89 per cent stated that they enjoy their work.

The number of overseas teachers working in British schools has increased significantly in recent years, as heads struggle to find suitably qualified staff at home.

But, while their British pers protest over low pay, 43 per cent of the 124 overseas teachers questioned cited pay as the main motivation to teach. In contrast, only 42 per cent named helping children as a key factor in their career choice.

A further 15 per cent found that advantageous working hours were a benefit of the job.

Ryan Botha, director of 1st Contact recruitment agency acknowledges this is an unexpected result. He said: "It's an interesting twist. But the exchange rate benefits them quite a lot. Some teachers are earning almost the same in a week in London as they'd earn in a month at home."

As a result, no teachers cite low pay, when asked to name the drawbacks of the profession. Instead 65 per cent said that dealing with tricky pupils was the greatest disadvantage of the job. "London is a hard place to teach," said Mr Botha. "It can be very challenging. So some teachers may have been kept in the job by the flexibility and the pay.

"Some teachers come from schools where there aren't the same behaviour problems. It can be a very steep learning curve. So they may have been kept in the job by the flexibility and the pay."

Seventy-six per cent of interviewees said that they had no regrets at going into teaching, and 81 per cent planned to stay in the profession for the foreseeable future.

The National Union of Teachers welcomed the positive appraisal of conditions in British schools. But a spokeswoman said only a small number of teachers had been surveyed.

She said: "This is a pleasant contrast to some of the horror stories you hear from our own teachers. But it cannot be taken as indicative of the problems that teachers face in Britain."

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