Lodz to draw British teachers to Poland

8th April 2011 at 01:00
Poland An unlikely contender has emerged as the place to be for soaking up culture - while earning a few zloty teaching English

Barcelona has long been thought of as the magnet in Europe for young Brits wanting to teach English and enjoy a more carefree lifestyle than they can back home.

The city's streets are liberally bedecked with the signs of English language schools, many of which are run by old TEFL hands who have taken the plunge and started up their own operations. There remains a regular influx of newcomers eager to take on classes and chill out on La Rambla.

But its crown as the number one destination for young teachers is under threat from somewhere perhaps not so immediately associated with relaxed glamour and easy living - Poland.

Here in Warsaw, EFL teaching is a hugely popular occupation. Go to any of the many sports bars in the Polish capital at the weekend, spin a beer mat through the air and it will most probably hit a native English speaker who earns their crust teaching eager Poles.

You get a sense of the size of the profession just by walking around the city centre, where you are accosted by gaggles of local youths thrusting language-school flyers in your direction.

It isn't just British TEFL teachers who have been attracted, either: their peers in the international schools are also attracted by the increased liberality of modern Poland.

And while the image of the country for teachers has improved, so the competition for jobs at international schools has increased. Mariusz Siedlecki, human resources manager at the British School in the Polish capital, told The TES that up to 70 per cent of applications to his school come from the UK, the majority from women aged between 27 and 40.

There is also a growing trend here for veteran EFL pedagogues to set up their own businesses. Andy Highton from Southampton, who has been living and working in Poland since the early 1990s, runs an eponymously named school which has a base in Lodz but delivers courses in Warsaw as well.

He told The TES: "What we have seen is that the rapid improvements in Poland's economic fortunes mean that English-language skills are ever-more important as many companies have their central and Eastern European headquarters here and need English as a language of communication with their colleagues in other countries."

As with Spain, Poland's membership of the greater European family has been a monumental development, not least for the legions of EFL teachers from the UK who have decided to make their homes here.

Long gone are the days when they had to wait for hours at their local immigration office to get work and residency permits sorted - a process that bore some of the worst, most wasteful hallmarks of the Communist legacy.

Oliver Barrett-Evans, assistant director of studies at the Warsaw-based Language for Business school, says that the number of Americans teaching in the country has dropped considerably since 2004, as it is now much easier for Brits to fill the jobs instead.

So for increasing numbers of teachers it is a case of adios to Spain and czesc to Poland.

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