UK teachers fleeing coronavirus must work all night

Returning teachers expected to respond online to pupils during Chinese school hours – between midnight and 8am in the UK

Catherine Lough

Coronavirus outbreak: UK teachers returning from China are expected to respond to pupils' emails during the Chinese school day - between midnight and 8am in the UK

British teachers employed by international schools in China who have returned to the UK to evade the coronavirus are being expected to work online through the night, Tes can reveal.

Emails sent to staff by a major international schools chain make clear that they are required to remain online during school hours for mainland China, even if the teachers have moved to a different time zone.

With their schools in China open between 8am and 4pm, this means the teachers have to be up all night between midnight and 8am in the UK.

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 "We are still being paid and our contract is to provided [sic] work," the guidance says. "It is important that you are responsive for the set times... If you are in a very different time zone, this will need some discipline."

online coronavirus

Teachers are also concerned that they will not be able to get their pay for doing this all-night work as the company will only pay their salaries into Chinese bank accounts that the staff say they will not be able to access. 

One teacher, working in one of the chain's schools in Jiangsu province, China, told Tes:  "I would expect an international company that is listed on the stock exchange to have contingency plans. [The expectation that teachers work through the night] is contravening not only UK labour law but Chinese labour law.

Teachers escaping coronavirus

"[Pupils] don’t want to see a tired, stressed, emaciated teacher near a Travelodge doing the lesson and not even having the money in my bank account."

He said he was among 17 teachers who had returned to Britain following the coronavirus outbreak and were still being expected to work according to Chinese time.

He said he knew of another international school, in Beijing, operated by the same company, that had the same expectations of teachers who had returned to the UK following the virus outbreak. 

In emails shown to Tes, the company, which runs around 70 international schools worldwide, advised that teachers should provide "e-learning" while the school is closed because of the outbreak, "at times that match normal in country timetables".

q and a coronavirus

Furthermore, the company advises that teachers must upload videos of themselves as part of these online lessons, sticking to an office dress code of shirt and tie so as not to alarm pupils, and to demonstrate "professionalism".

dress code

Teachers have been asked to create a video of instruction lasting five to 10 minutes for each class, as well as provide shared PDF documents explaining the tasks for the lesson. According to the teacher, many parents were unable to access these videos and were left feeling frustrated.

The company also will not pay salaries into overseas bank accounts. The teacher said while he was being paid into his Chinese bank account, there was no way he could access this, and that relocation had cost £5,000 of he and his wife's own money. 

salary coronavirus

According to the ISC Research, which compiles data on international schools, there are 390 British schools in mainland China, although none in the city of Wuhan where the outbreak began.


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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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