A break abroad may not change your world view, boost your career and give your school a cultural lift, but it could. Jill Parkin reports on work exchange schemes
If all the holiday advertisements are stirring your wanderlust, you could satisfy the craving with a new work direction - an overseas spell which gives you a professional boost as well as a change of scene.
A job abroad probably conjures up visions of teaching English as a foreign language in Turkey or a gap year stint as an English assistant in a French school. Of course there are permanent postings overseas in any number of British schools abroad, but what is there for those with a mortgage and no desire to go indefinitely?
Working abroad on a return ticket is best done via an exchange programme, such as one run by the League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers or the Central Bureau for International Education and Training, which is part of the British Council.
Through the CBIET, full-time language teachers in secondary schools can swap jobs with a teacher in another part of Europe, either Austria, France, Germany, Spain or Switzerland. The exchange lasts for anything from three weeks to a year and should update your language skills and widen your professional abilities. You need to apply by February.
Exchanges bring benefits to the schools in both countries as well as the teachers. They provide a basis for networking and joint projects, plus access to authentic teaching materials and a native speaker.
The opportunities are not limited to language teachers. The CBIET also runs a German hospitality programme with three-week work shadowing exhanges as an aid to curriculum development. You don't need to know any German. Apply by September.
If you want to try working in the United States, you migh consider the Fulbright teacher exchange programme, through which UK teachers of any subject and any level can swap jobs for a year with an American counterpart. Funding is available for travel costs. Apply by the end of November.
There is also a six-week UKUS exchange available for headteachers and senior managers, for which you can apply at any time.
The CBIET has a world links team which can give funding of up to pound;1,000 to help with reciprocal visits to Africa, South America or the Asian sub-continent. Both legs of the visit have to be completed within 18 months of receiving the grant. You can apply at any time.
The League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers runs a variety of exchange visits, which may last three weeks, a term or a year. So far exchanges have been arranged with 25 countries on five continents. Teachers, headteachers and administrators can apply.
There is little doubt that a spell abroad can be good for your CV. "Nobody's going to be impressed that you opted out to spend a year lazing in the Caribbean," says Bob Carstairs, an assistant general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association. "A year away is a good thing if it's spent in a way that's relevant to your job.
"A stint teaching in Namibia is likely to extend you in ways that will be good for you and your school. Most heads would be impressed by teaching abroad and many would like the idea that you had spent some time doing good for others. Exchange trips are a positive experience. The important thing is to include in your CV why you did it, what you put into it and what you got out of it."
League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers, tel 020 7498 1101; www.lect.org.ukCentral Bureau for International Education and Training, tel 020 7389 4004; www.centralbureau.org.uk