- Teacher Supply
Kathryn Brown, Rainbow International School, Uganda
Read the results of our Teacher Supply research here
Kathryn taught in the UK for 15 years before moving to Uganda. After more than 10 years in Uganda, she started teaching in a British international school. She taught for four years as a class teacher before moving into a Deputy Head role.
MOVING TO A BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
Kathryn had been teaching in the UK state sector for 15 years when she and her husband decided to move to Uganda to run a project in a children’s centre. They had young children at the time, and because they were living in a village, Kathryn home schooled the children.
We didn’t want to send them to boarding school, and there was no British school anywhere near, so I home schooled them for ten years. It was handy I was a teacher.
The family later moved to the city in order to provide support for young people from the children’s centre project who were taking up internships. This move to Kampala had the added advantage that her children could go to the international school. The two eldest children started at the school, and eventually a job came up at the school.
Kathryn knows that many people think of international teaching as a great way to see the world, but that wasn’t her thinking.
I just fell into international teaching. I was very happy to go back into teaching – I just happened to be abroad.
But she says she has loved teaching internationally.
I came from the British state sector – lots of policing, paperwork, red tape – and I have loved it abroad – smaller class sizes, less government pressure. We can make decisions in school based on seeing how directives from the UK government have gone down, seeing what worked.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN UK AND INTERNATIONAL TEACHING EXPERIENCE
Kathryn is aware of the difference between her current experience working with privileged children, and her experience in the UK where her schools were in more diverse catchments. She also feels there is a greater appreciation of the value of education in her international context.
Education is highly prized by our parents – more so than in the UK – and that filters down to the children. There is more appreciation for education here. As a teacher, it is more fulfilling. You have more supportive parents, and children with a more positive view of education. It is empowering.
She points to smaller class sizes as another positive difference, but also suggests that technology may not be as progressive in regions such as hers.
RETURNING TO THE UK
Kathryn is planning to return to the UK at the end of this academic year – primarily for family reasons. Her eldest son is already in the UK and her daughter, currently doing A Levels, will be following shortly. Her husband has passed away, so it would just be her and her youngest child left in Uganda. All of their extended family are in the UK.
The project she and her husband moved out to start has also now largely been handed over to Ugandan staff, so she feels she has done what they came out to do. Kathryn is quite open minded about possible jobs back in the UK.
I’m happy to do class teaching or take on a pastoral role. I think there is much more wellbeing awareness, and related jobs, than there was when I was last in the UK 15-20 years ago.
She does have some anxiety about returning, and whether there are areas where she may have become deskilled. She points to the fact that her school uses specialist teachers for subjects like PE and Music which means she hasn’t taught those subjects for years. Kathryn also thinks behaviour management could be more challenging on her return, as well as adjusting to the volume of directives from the Government.
Kathryn will bring a range of skills and experience from her international work to a new job in the UK including a broader world view and resourcefulness. She believes international experience can have a positive impact on teachers, and would particularly recommend it for those who might be thinking about leaving the profession, or feeling demoralised. She hopes that she might bring some of that enthusiasm and insight into her next school in the UK.
I think teaching internationally, if you’re brave enough, can really bring back the love of why people went into teaching in the first place. I’d take some of that back – maybe be a bit of a staff motivator in the middle of all the paperwork, red tape, fatigue. I might have a deeper understanding of the beauty of teaching and why we all do it.
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGE OF TEACHER SUPPLY
Kathryn thinks the UK could learn from other countries that appear to have a greater appreciation for the importance of the teaching profession. She also points to teachers being given more professional freedom.
You need the leeway for teachers to say ‘this really works’ and not all be pushed through the same machine.
But she recognises this isn’t a quick fix, and requires governmental support as well as bold headteachers with the freedom, flexibility and trust to make decisions for their schools.
I guess that would be my hope in the long run for UK education – that it could become a bit more fluid.
Find out more about our Teacher Supply research findings here