- Teacher Supply
Rosie Twells, St Paul's School, Brazil
Read the results of our Teacher Supply research here
Following a PGCE at the University of Derby, Rosie taught in the UK for two years. She is now in her first year at a British international school in Brazil.
MOVING TO AN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
Rosie completed a PGCE at the University of Derby, involving placements in five different schools, and then went on to teach in one of those state schools for two years. She had always known that she wanted to teach, and in Year 10 when she and her peers were encouraged to do a work experience placement, she chose a placement in a primary school. She had also always been keen on travel. Although international opportunities weren’t specifically mentioned during her training, she was aware of this possibility through speaking to other teachers.
There were a number of factors that influenced her decision to look at international school opportunities – the state of education in the UK, personal reasons, and wanting more of a challenge.
I thought it would be a good opportunity. In schools in the UK there is lots of pressure around monitoring, observations, workload. I know those are all buzzwords, but it influenced my decision. I wasn’t thinking it would be any less in an international school, but I wanted to compare and have a new experience. I wanted more of a challenge.
She wasn’t thinking about leaving the profession, but she points out that she was one of the youngest teachers at her school in the UK, and that some of those who had been in the profession longer seemed more disillusioned with the profession.
I think it is important to look forward rather than keep comparing to how things were in the past – think about what is going to drive us forward?
Rosie is now in her first year at a British international school in Brazil and is very positive about her international school experience.
I am loving it so far – the whole experience from the educational side of things to simply being abroad and living and working in a new country. All the opportunities are really positive.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN UK AND INTERNATIONAL TEACHING EXPERIENCE
Rosie has found the work/life balance at her international school to be much better than her experience in the UK, which also has a positive impact on teaching practice and pastoral care.
It is down to the way St Paul’s is organised and the focus on managing teacher workload. I have more time out of the classroom – time to plan and prepare classes. This allows me to build better relationships with students, which leads to more conversations with them about academic or pastoral issues.
This improved balance allows time for teachers to think about their own teaching practice – to collaborate with others and reflect on what works and what doesn’t.
Having more time affects the overall perspective of teachers. I’m more relaxed and happy to go into the classroom because I feel prepared.
RETURNING TO THE UK?
Rosie is hoping to stay in Brazil at least until the end of her two-year contract, and at this stage would be keen to extend the contract further – particularly if opportunities were to come up in middle or senior leadership. She is considering six to eight years in Brazil, and then possibly moving elsewhere.
She might consider returning to the UK at some point, but suggests some fundamental changes in the UK system would be needed to entice her back. She points to the class sizes in her international school which are a third smaller than UK classes. Larger class size in the UK has a knock-on effect for marketing and preparation.
You want to give quality, but there is no time, and the result is that you don’t feel you’re doing the best job that you can.
She would like to see the UK system adopt some of the strategies from the international sector – particularly around teacher welfare and workload, and consideration of what matters most in education.
Observations, data and assessment are obviously pivotal to teachers’ day to day working, but pressure from Ofsted and others does place significant additional pressure on teachers in the UK which can become overwhelming.
If she were to return to the UK, her teaching practice and outlook would be influenced by her international experience. She points to having had access to a new culture and new way of life, as well as experience with new resources (including the school’s use of remote learning and technology in response to Covid-19 school closures).
I also see how children here view their education and how they value it. This is part of the key ethos of the school, and feeds into my personal values as a teacher.
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGE OF TEACHER SUPPLY
Rosie suggests that teacher retention in the UK could be improved by looking at benefits and initiatives to support the workforce – both in terms of whole staff morale and one-to-one support for teachers. This could include additional training to meet the specific needs of individual teachers. This is the experience she has had in her international school.
You feel the school has invested in you and wants to support you.
Overall, Rosie would recommend international experience without hesitation to other teachers. And while she recognises that moving abroad is a big step, she thinks anyone can do it with the right planning and drive.
I know it has been the right decision for me. It has changed my perspective on teaching. I have the opportunity to reflect on my own practice and think about how to innovate. These are the reasons why I came into teaching.
- St Paul's School
- Teacher Supply
- University of Derby