Teaching Dynasties - G'day class

29th August 2008 at 01:00
Australian brother and sister Tim and Jenny Silk tell Stephen Manning why they love teaching in Britain


I came to the UK from Adelaide three years ago to take up my first teaching job. Jenny, my sister, is here for a few months' maternity cover in a primary school. Our younger sister Nicole, who is 19, is studying to be a science teacher in Adelaide.

Mum is British and since childhood I'd always wanted to visit the UK. I hadn't intended to stay for so long but found that I've been able to attain responsibilities quicker here than I would at home.

I have been at Burnham Upper School in Buckinghamshire since I arrived, teaching drama, media studies and, this past year, English A-level. From September, I will become a head of media studies at Reed's School, a private boys' school in Cobham, Surrey.

This is a different school from my last one, which was in special measures. For me, that school was a positive challenge and I feel I developed faster because of it. A teacher here will sink or swim, which is healthier than in Australia, where it's easier to coast. Ultimately, I would like to work up to assistant head and even headteacher.

Like me, Jenny finished university and came straight over. We're Australians; we like to travel because our country is isolated. There's no history of teaching in the family, at least not professionally. We were taught to read and write by our parents before we went to school and our mother, a carer in a nursing home, would come into school regularly to help out.

Our mum instilled in us the idea of learning for its own sake, and that's what I love about teaching - being able to share information with people.

Tim Silk, 26, has been teaching at Burnham Upper School in Buckinghamshire. In September he moves to Reed's School in Surrey.


I've been doing Year 2 maternity cover at the Meadows School, a small village primary in Wooburn Green, Buckinghamshire, since January. It has been a working holiday, to gain a bit of experience.

I came over to the UK last November and am heading back to Adelaide in September. There, I'll do supply work and start applying for jobs for January, the start of the Australian school year.

I have always been interested in the UK, and was keen to see what it was like, generally and within education. The main difference with teaching, I suppose, is that the curriculum is stricter here, there are more schemes of work to follow, whereas in Australia, it's more open and less pre- determined.

Tim was here already, of course, and his advice to me was to go into it with an open mind and, most of all, enjoy it.

What we share is the desire to help others. I've wanted to be a teacher since I was at primary school. Over the years I have had some great teachers and I wanted to have the impact on others that they had on me. Most of all, I like helping to improve the young children's confidence.

Tim and I are different personalities - he's more outgoing in a way that suits secondary teaching, especially in his subjects, English and drama, whereas perhaps I have more of the patience and understanding suited for primary teaching, not that he isn't patient.

Nicole, who is training to be a secondary science teacher, is more like Tim in that sense. They will get to know everybody as quickly as possible.

Jenny Silk, 23, is a Year 2 maternity cover teacher at the Meadows School in Buckinghamshire.

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