How hard is it for an overseas-trained Teacher to get into British schools? Immigrant Teachers give unpredictable answers!

A main question for every overseas-trained Teacher or Educator trying to find a permanent position in a UK school is ”How hard is this going to be”? Everyone wonders how long this is going to take; And not knowing how much of a demand there is or what to expect can be quite unsettling.

As professionals who were not trained in the UK and who did not grow up in an English speaking country we may encounter many difficulties before securing a school role. First there’s the language barrier and when this is no longer a problem, there is the accent barrier: Distinguishing between ”s” and ”sh”, the variations of ”oo”, the irregular words, the expressions and vocabulary.

And when we finally master both the accent and the vocabulary there is a lack of UK experience as well as the fact that in the job-seeking world there are dozens of UK trained Teachers as well as those trained overseas in an English speaking country who will apply for the same position as us; And whose school curricula are very similar to the UK curriculum.

Each of us has different experiences when in comes to job-seeking. Some overseas-trained Teachers and TAs who are non-native English speakers found a job quite quickly whilst many of us, like myself, took at least 2-3 years of hard work and supply teaching. But what is the truth?

During this thought process I decided to stop speculating and to find out using a real sample instead; After all, it would be a great warm-up for my Masters thesis which I am hoping will be focusing more on this matter. As a result I decided to create a survey targeting non-English speaking, overseas-trained Teachers and Educators who are currently employed on a permanent basis in a UK school.

The purpose of my survey was to examine their level of difficulty in finding employment as well as how long this took, hoping that future readers of this website will be able to have an idea of how hard or easy it could be moving and teaching in the UK. You can view the questionnaire here.

Of course I am fully aware that there are many variables to this survey and therefore it cannot be considered an official, academic research piece; However completing it was great fun and I am hoping to expand and look into it more in depth in the future.

The survey comprised of 4 simple questions, focusing on where those professionals worked before they got a permanent role, how long it took them to find a permanent school role, how they found their permanent school role and if they felt that not speaking English as a first language affected their ability to find employment.

The 124 respondents were all speakers of English as an additional language and trained outside the UK. The vast majority was Greek and Spanish even though Teachers from any non-English speaking country were welcomed to answer the survey (such as Italians, Portuguese or anyone outside the EU).

However, being able to target groups of Education professionals other than Greek or Spanish was quite challenging; Whilst finding Spanish or Greek Teachers’ forums and groups on the internet was really easy, there appeared to be almost no group for UK Teachers from Portugal, Italy, France or any non-EU country. Having that said, the survey was successful.

And the results were rather surprising!

Let’s take a look.

1. ”Where did you work before finding a permanent school role”?

Out of 124 professionals who answered this question:

  • 7 of them worked as TAs before becoming Teachers.
  • 42 professionals responded that they worked with supply agencies.
  • 15 people responded that they worked in Day Nurseries as well as supply agencies.
  • 27 people said they worked in Day Nurseries.
  • 11 people said they worked in posts unrelated to education such as Super Markets or as Cinema employees.
  • 2 people worked as volunteers in schools.
  • 4 people worked as Nannies or Au Pairs.
  • 4 people were here through student exchange or placement programs.
  • 6 people said this was their first ever UK role as soon as they arrived in the UK.
  • The rest 6 answers were hard to read as some of them gave very general responses such as ”nowhere”.

2. ”How did you find your first permanent school role?”

  • 67% of the respondents said they applied directly to school ads.
  • 30.6% of the respondents said they found their role through a supply agency.
  • The remaining -approximately 13%- of the respondents said they found the role through knowing someone at the school. One said they found a role through the Spanish embassy.

3. ”How long did it take you to find a permanent school role since you started trying?”

  • 21% said that they found a role straight away.
  • 33.9% of the respondents said that it took them 1-6 months.
  • 16.1% of the respondents said that it took them 1-2 years.
  • 10.5% said that it took them over 2 years.

4. ”Did being a non-native speaker of English affect you in finding a school role?”

  • 51.6% of the respondents said that not speaking English as a first language did affect them in finding a school role.
  • 48.4% responded that it did not affect them.

The conclusion!

Looking at the above results one realizes that immigrant Teachers and Educators in the UK have so many mixed and varied experiences that making any type of generalization is be very hard. However there are some notable outcomes:

The number of people who said that being non-native English speakers affected them was slightly higher than the number of people who said it didn’t; However the percentages are really close.

Each respondent worked in lots of different jobs before getting into a school, however it is notable that 84 people out of 124 worked with supply agencies, in Nurseries or did both. This could mean that working within the field of education before applying for permanent school roles can be more beneficial.

Acquaintances and circumstances seem to be influential. Looking at the results one could argue that knowing someone who is already employed in a school, having connections with schools or making links through volunteering or student exchange can have a positive impact in finding a school role.

Finally, whilst many of the respondents seem to have worked with supply agencies during their careers a big percentage applied directly to school job adverts such as those advertized by councils or on Teachers’ websites.

Would you like to see the results of any other survey regarding overseas-trained Teachers in the UK? Feel free to leave your suggestion in the comments!

About The Author


Η Χριστίνα Παναγοπούλου ζει και εργάζεται ως εκπαιδευτικός στο Λονδίνο απο το 2008. Είναι απόφοιτος του τμήματος ΑΕΙ Προσχολικής Αγωγής Πατρών (ΤΕΕΑΠΗ), και τελειόφοιτος του μεταπτυχιακού προγράμματος Συγκριτικής Εκπαίδευσης του UCL. Απο το 2015 διδάσκει στον κρατικό τομέα της Αγγλίας στην προδημοτική τάξη Reception ενώ τα πρώτα 5 χρόνια στην Αγγλία δούλεψε σε ιδιωτικούς παιδικούς σταθμούς του Λονδίνου με παιδιά ηλικίας 0-5 ετών.

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