Middle Eastern promise lures teachers abroad

4th February 2011 at 00:00
Schools like the work ethic of Scottish teachers, says agency which admits that not all post-probationers like the move

A recruitment agency for Middle East schools has reported a surge in high-calibre Scottish teachers seeking moves abroad.

Renfrewshire-based Worldteachers, formed in 2009 as a response to the diminishing number of jobs in schools, has placed more than 50 post- probationer teachers in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Of 20 teachers who upped sticks in 2009, only two have returned to Scotland.

Middle Eastern schools were attracted to the attitude and work ethic of teachers from Scotland, said Worldteachers chief executive Roddy Hammond, as well as the "strong training and reputation of the Scottish education system".

David Throp, principal of the Cambridge School in Doha, Qatar, said: "I have been surprised at the high quality of young teachers that have been trained in the Scottish system recently. They are able, articulate, well- trained and have a range of skills not seen in many students from elsewhere. Most of all, they have proved to be adaptable to new situations, curricula and working practices."

Scottish newly qualified teachers, thanks largely to the probationary year, were "well prepared in every aspect for starting a full-time post".

Mr Hammond conceded that not all recruits enjoyed working in the Middle East, with its different management cultures in schools, extreme heat, and distance from family and friends. Most envisaged moving abroad for three to five years before returning once the jobs situation improved in Scotland.

He has been frustrated by efforts to convince teaching organisations that, rather than sucking talent away, opportunities abroad are ensuring teachers stay in the profession.

Mr Hammond was less concerned that growing unrest in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia would dissuade teachers from working abroad. He conceded that teachers might have concerns, but did not think this would be an issue once they realised how stable Middle East governments were in comparison.

A paper published last year by the Government body, UK Trade amp; Investment, reported that Saudi Arabia had initiated a complete overhaul of its education system at a cost of pound;3.2 billion.

Demand for high-quality education was increasing from the growing number of prosperous families in traditionally under-served parts of the country, the report found.

Meanwhile, new figures from the General Teaching Council for Scotland suggest record numbers of Scottish teachers are heading south. In 2010, 347 Scottish teachers were registered to teach in England - the highest figure on record and 13 per cent up on the previous year.

Culture shocks but no regrets in Qatar

Jonny Parr, 27, from Glasgow, says: "My life in Scotland was lacking challenge and the job situation in Scotland is very difficult. I always intended to work overseas at some stage and the opportunity came when I got a post as a PE teacher in Doha, Qatar.

"The attraction: new culture, new lifestyle, good weather, tax-free salary. Also, my location allows me to visit other areas of the world more easily and cheaply - I spent Christmas in India - and the growing expat community makes settling in a lot easier.

"Like many other schools, mine does have its problems, particularly regarding the management: schools in Doha are run like businesses. However, the children are fantastic and all come from different backgrounds (Indonesia, Egypt and Sri Lanka, for example) making the job more challenging, varied and fun. One week I'm in the desert on a 4x4 excursion, the next I'm watching Roger Federer win the Qatar Open.

"I've spent a year here and it's been at times challenging and stressful. But I most definitely do not regret my decision."


  • Original headline: Middle Eastern promise lures high-quality teachers abroad

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