Oh, to be in England, now term is here

3rd October 2003 at 01:00
Within weeks of arriving in Britain, Colleen Melck was delivering a lesson in front of an inspector.

It was an abrupt introduction to the joys of the English system, said the special needs teacher.

"It was scary and stressful," she says. "I felt under a lot of pressure. I was writing reports two or three times to make it look as though everything was being done to the book."

Ms Melck, 29, came to London from South Africa in August last year. She was keen to come to Europe, and knew other teachers who had found work in Britain easily. Through 1st Contact recruitment agency, she arranged a year's work in a school for autistic children in west London.

She found it challenging. "Behaviour was more extreme than I'd imagined in my wildest dreams," she said. The biggest challenge was administration. "I spend more time on health-and-safety administration than teaching."

But there are advantages. In South Africa there had been 42 pupils in her class, here there were eight. "I'd never had a teaching assistant before," she said. "But here I had two. You learn not only to manage children, but also other staff."

And she feels that she is well-compensated for the stress: her salary of pound;22,000 is nearly three times what she earned at home.

"I consider myself well-paid. I'm definitely planning to extend my work permit."

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