More time and money, and you only need to cross the border

4th August 2006 at 01:00
By Wednesday Suzanne Barltrop is looking at the weather forecast. Though she teaches in Glasgow's inner city and also lives centrally, weekends are for walking in the mountains. The Trossachs are only 30 minutes away, and within an hour she can be out of the car lacing up her boots to begin an ascent in the Munroes.

It's a far cry from Epsom, Surrey, where she lived with her family until 10 years ago when husband Nigel accepted a job at Glasgow University and she moved with him to teach in the city's schools. Changing location, she believes, can help to breath new life into a career.

Ever since her 420-mile move, Mrs Barltrop, 56, has been able to pursue her passions for walking, hill climbing and Scottish country dancing as well as drastically reducing commuting time by living in the heart of the city; from Glasgow's West End, everything is more or less within walking distance.

She has never regretted shifting countries. She likes the vibrancy of Scottish cities and the contrasting vast, deserted ruggedness of the countryside. She believes that selling up and moving home has significantly improved the quality of her working life.

In deciding to move north of the border from England, she is one of a growing band of teachers. The Scottish Executive has been encouraging teachers to take up jobs in Scotland in recent years in a bid to increase its teaching cohort to 53,000 by 2007 and reduce class sizes to 25 in Primary 1 and 20 in English and Maths for first and second year secondary students. The enticement has been the promise of an improved quality of life and a lower cost of living, especially in cheaper house prices. The cost of a shoe cupboard in Shepherd's Bush is rumoured to buy a family house with a garden north of the border.

Mrs Barltrop, 56, says the promise of a better life has certainly proved true in her case. "I have walked all over Scotland and it is glorious and I have taught all over Glasgow and colleagues have always been fantastically helpful. It's a very friendly place to live and work, people take you under their wing socially and professionally. I have found that newcomers are quickly accepted."

As a way of getting to know people, she and her husband took up Scottish country dancing and now attend classes every week and dances two or three times a month. She finds it an effective way of de-stressing: "It's absorbing, great fun and good for your brain."

Mrs Barltrop teaches maths and geography at Cleveden secondary school in inner-city Glasgow. She says she's always liked working with "lively"

students, priding herself on being good with pupils from mixed backgrounds.

But the working conditions in Scotland, she says, make the job very manageable.

The McCrone agreement, which was introduced in 2001 to reduce class contact time, increase pay and administrative support and entitle teachers to 35 hours per year of continuing professional development, has made a significant difference to her workload. Although Mrs Barltrop is in school by 8am preparing for lessons, she leaves at around 5pm with work definitely behind her, except when she has reports to write.

Moreover, Chartered Teacher status, which she is currently working towards and which enables excellent teachers to be professionally recognized and financially rewarded for staying in the classroom, means her salary will shortly increase by as much as pound;8,000.

Some fear that local councils will run out of cash to continue funding the McCrone agreement fully and meet the Scottish Executive's commitment to reducing class sizes. Mrs Barltrop says her daughter, who is also a teacher, experienced difficulty finding a full-time permanent position after completing her training. But she is now "very happy" as a primary teacher in Edinburgh and has no desire to go back south of the border.

Mrs Barltrop appreciates that teachers are still "respected" in Scotland - on a par with other professionals. "It does make you feel more positive about your job. You don't feel that doctors, dentists or lawyers are better than you. When I meet my students out on the street with their families they treat me very well; they seem proud to introduce me as their teacher."

And on the whole they are better off. The cost of living is cheaper, especially compared with south east England. She says she knows many teachers in Scotland with holiday homes abroad who generally seem more comfortably off, even those with families.

Her own family has benefited from the slower pace of life. "We don't have to spend time commuting to work. When my kids have gone out into the city, clubbing or whatever, they've been able to walk home if need be. People have more time for you. We just don't feel so pressured."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today