Make that leap across the border

2nd March 2001 at 00:00
There is more to teaching across the borders than simply meeting the entry requirements, writes Jill Parkin.

If you're young, free and about to finish intital teacher training, habitually reading 'Looking for a Job in...' could damage your self-esteem. You may want to rush off and teach on Orkney, in Ballymena or Llangefni. And why not? No reason at all, once you've checked that you come up to scratch. Their scratch, that is.

Educationally, the UK is like ancient Gaul, divided into three: England and Wales; Scotland; and Northern Ireland. Although the basic requirement of degree plus teacher training applies, there are some subtle, but important, differences in training and qualification requirements. And there's tough competition.

In Scotland, all local authority nursery, primary and special school teachers must be registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, which oversees professional standards.

Although things are likely to change, at the moment newly trained entrants are provisionally registered until they have completed two years' monitored probation in a school. Other candidates - and this is the clause which catches the incomers - may be offered conditional registration and have to be monitored in school for up to two years.

Teachers are fully registered after two years' probation, provided they pay an initial registration fee of pound;20. The pound;20 annual fee is deducted from your salary by your employer.

There's more to teaching in another country than simply meeting the entry requirements. "There's a fairly easy crossover between Northern Ireland and Scotland," says David Eaglesham, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association. "But it's harder for teachers from England to meet the demands of the General Teaching Council. There was talk of busloads of teachers coming up for our higher pay settlement, but they haven't appeared. As in Ireland, teachers here are academically and professionally very highly qualified.

"I think teachers in Scotland enjoy a greater public respect. Slaries are better and so is the lifestyle. Perhaps there's less stress. There's renewed interest in teaching in towns such as Perth and Stirling, which have pleasant hinterlands."

There's no national curriculum in Scotland and measures to reduce paperwork are expected. There are slight signs of the beginning of teacher shortages, especially in maths.

In Ireland they talk of BTs, which isn't a lettuce leaf short of a sandwich, but a Beginning Teacher. Initial training at a higher education institute is followed by a year's induction in school and then two further monitored years of early professional development.

But English teachers looking for work in Northern Ireland - land of school uniforms and old-fashioned regard for a good education - shouldn't be too confident. Unemployment is high; so are the qualifications of its native teachers, according to Ray Calvin, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union.

"There are 80 or 90 applicants for each job. It's a very different employment picture here. Native Irish trainee teachers on average have 23 A-level points compared to 13 or 14 in England," he said.

"I've never heard of our teachers having trouble getting jobs in England, but it's not always so easy the other way about."

You might wonder why they don't travel to England and solve all our problems. But not only is commitment to the province high, so is the standard of living a teacher can enjoy there. There's little attraction in England's low confidence in teachers and in the house prices (with the prospect of peace they're on the up in the province, but the gap is still wide).

English teachers seeking the Irish experience may be better off looking in Eire, where there are shortages, better salaries and no national curriculum to cramp one's style. Mind you, you need to be able to speak the Irish language.

For more details on qualifications and training visit the websites for the Northern Ireland Department of Education and for the Scottish Executive: and

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