Faye Stream - Teacher Supply Case Study
Faye Stream, Rainbow International School Uganda
Read the results of our Teacher Supply research here
Faye taught in the UK for two years and is now in her first international teaching role in Uganda where she is a primary class teacher and PSHE coordinator. She has previous experience as a TA and nursery experience both in the UK and abroad.
MOVING TO AN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
Faye completed a PGCE in the UK and taught for two years in the State sector before moving abroad. She had had a varied career before moving into teaching. She had worked as a TA and nursery assistant in a Special Needs school, and ten years ago she worked as a TA in an international school in China. But she had also worked in hospitality, having completed a degree in international hospitality management.
I always knew I wanted to go into teaching – from the time that I was a teaching assistant in Beijing. I made other choices along the way, but all the time, in the back of my head, I always knew I would teach.
Her diverse experience prepared her well for a career in teaching, and even before starting her teacher training she knew she wanted to work internationally.
Faye loved her teaching in the UK, but also has a great love of travelling, and felt teaching abroad would allow her to combine two of her greatest passions. Faye wasn’t specifically looking for a job in Uganda – she had applied for a variety of roles, some of which she turned down, because she wanted to be sure she found the right fit. During her interview for the school in Uganda, she knew that this was the job she wanted.
I came out of the interview thinking I really want this job. It was to do with the school, and the panel – feeling that connection to them and to the ethos of the school.
Although some international school salaries are higher than in the UK, for Faye the decision was not based on salary.
I had a choice of choosing somewhere for pay, or for location. I chose the location. I’ve taken a pay cut to work here – I’m on half the salary I’d be on if I’d stayed in London. But there’s more to it than money – I’m very happy here.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN UK AND INTERNATIONAL TEACHING EXPERIENCE
In many ways, Faye finds her international experience quite similar to her teaching in the UK. Her school follows the English national curriculum, and her recent training experience from the UK allows her to share that expertise with her colleagues. But there are also differences – smaller class sizes, and guaranteed non-contact time because of the use of specialist teachers in the school.
It’s nice having smaller class sizes. You can give more one-to-one attention to every child. Within a lesson I can speak to every child – ensure they have received some form of feedback. And although the workload is quite similar in terms of marking expectations and evidence assessment, there is less data entry than in the UK which frees you up to focus on the teaching.
But one of the biggest differences for Faye is the fact that her current school has fewer resources and less access to technology than her previous schools.
I’m adapting to that – this year is a big learning curve.
RETURNING TO THE UK?
Faye does not have any plans to return to the UK at this time.
That’s more to do with me and what I want to do. I enjoy travelling and experiencing different cultures and places. Working in the international sector allows that.
She also comments on things like political issues in the UK, cost of living, work/life balance, and lifestyle as reasons for remaining in the international sector, along with the fact that it is easy to stay connected regardless of location.
The world is becoming a much smaller place. It’s easier to travel. With Skype, WhatsApp, it’s very different from 10 years ago when I was in Beijing. I felt more cut off and missed people more. There was more pull to return.
If she were to return to the UK, she would bring a range of useful experience, including dealing with different cultures and beliefs. She also points to the EAL skills she has developed, which she would be able to share with colleagues in the UK.
International schools prepare you beyond any training for supporting EAL learners. In the UK that’s an area teachers can struggle with – in terms of accessing training and resources, especially with funding cuts in the UK. I would have that skill to pass on to colleagues – upskill from within.
Faye does believe that there could be barriers to returning to the UK, with some Heads dismissing international teachers as having been ‘out of teaching’. But she also feels that international teachers need to market themselves and fight their corner.
Interview panels need to recognise that someone from an international teaching background has got skills they may not have in their current workforce. And teachers need to feel equipped and empowered to highlight the skills they can bring.
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGE OF TEACHER SUPPLY
Faye points to the financial considerations for teachers – both from a UK and international perspective – having a bearing on retention. Living in London, Faye found she couldn’t afford to support herself on a teacher’s salary (despite London weighting) and ended up moving back in with her parents. And the challenge is not just linked to salary, but also to school funding.
In the UK, because of funding problems, most teachers are buying supplies and resources for their classroom – choosing to take that out of their own pocket.
For Faye, this led her to think about moving abroad; for others this leads them to consider other professions.
Internationally – in some regions – the package can be a big pull for some teachers. But even in some international locations, where the salary is less competitive, schools may need to think carefully about how to attract and retain teachers.
It’s naïve to pretend that the package and benefits isn’t a consideration for candidates. I’m very happy. I love the school and love the experience. But thinking long term, I know my pay package isn’t great. I have to consider forward planning – it is difficult to save for the future. There is always this little voice saying ‘but what about when you retire?’
Find out more about our Teacher Supply research findings here