Education and Arts

The New Londoners

An acute shortage of qualified teachers across Britain has forced teacher agencies to recruit heavily from countries such as Australia. Late last year the BBC reported that for the third year in a row the British government was set to miss its target for trainee teachers across primary and secondary schools – and the 'ghastly' shortage was forcing schools to look overseas to fill vacancies. The report suggested that if the crisis continued, there could be a deficit of almost 27,000 teachers by 2017. Melissa Worman, who recruits Australian teachers to work in the UK, said her agency Smart Teachers had seen a record number of Australians start work in primary, secondary, and special needs schools over the past year.

"The number of Australian teachers we recruit has continued to increase year on year, as has the number of schools turning to Skype and telephone interviews to secure the best teachers prior to their arrival in the UK," she said. "Yet many schools are still looking for long term teachers well after term has begun. We have so much supply work available we offer a Guaranteed Work Scheme to our day-today candidates. We could easily double our business if we could only encourage more Australian teachers to come across to the UK.

"We find that our Australian teachers are highly sought after as they can transition to the UK curriculum seamlessly, have a positive work ethic, and come so well regarded by the schools we work with." Katherine Gibson from Teaching Jobs London said her agency pays to fly selected Australian teachers to England so they can interview face to-face with a range of schools. "UK schools are now much more open to taking Australian teachers who need sponsorship than they have previously been, which shows the shortage in their local market, and the lengths they are going to in order to staff their schools,"she said.

Victoria Galvin, 24, and Evonne Smith, 31, are teaching graduates from ACU's Canberra Campus, who live and work in London. Both are on a two-year working visa but have started the process of being sponsored by their schools.
"Australian teachers are very sought after in London, nearly everyone I have met secured a position straight away," Victoria said. "They have a good work ethic and can relate to both students and staff. The curriculum in London is similar to ours at home, but I think Australian teachers give a fresh and fun spin with their down-to-earth teaching style.

"There is never a dull weekend in London, with a great music scene and various quirky events. Not to mention the close vicinity and easy access for traveling through Europe. "Teaching in London has helped me develop confidence in my ability. The differences in the classrooms, teaching styles, assessments and the children – many of whom are from all over the world – make the experience a huge learning curve."

Evonne said she had also found it easy to secure a job after arriving in London. "Australian teachers are generally a very easy going, pleasant and well-trained group who understand that while working hard is the basis of the job, a sense of humour is essential," she said.

"History is my passion and living in England has been like a playground in that regard. It has everything from Roman, Medieval, Tudor, and Victorian history to Edwardian and beyond. "I have always thought that teaching is the most demanding and rewarding job.

Immersing yourself in another education system inevitably means you learn so many new things that you can use daily in your teaching practice."

This story first appeared in Insight.