It is still a fairly difficult time to qualify as a teacher in Ireland. There simply are not enough jobs. As we all know, large numbers of young teachers are moving to the UK to teach. There are lots of reasons for this: the language, the ease in coming home for breaks with short, cheap flights and of course the fact that they simply cannot get enough teachers in the UK. I moved to the UK to teach at Easter of last year, having done my PDE and spending a term and a half subbing in various schools, hoping for “a foot in the door”. I got tired of waiting for a maternity leave or retirement that would lead to something long term. I’m still here in the UK, so it can’t be that bad! In fact I can honestly say it was a great decision. But how different is it from teaching in Ireland?
Well, in a lot of ways it is very different, but in other ways it is quite similar. The first thing is that kids are kids. Teaching kids and talking to kids is the same wherever you teach. Like Ireland, some schools will have more challenging behaviour than others, and some will have very little. There are plenty of horror stories about behaviour in UK schools and I heard them before coming over too. How you deal with behaviour is the key and smart modern strategies make all the difference. There is greater support for teachers within schools in the UK than in a lot of Irish schools. Most UK schools will have a pastoral team whose major duties are in supporting teachers as they deal with challenging students. Management also takes a more active role in ensuring positive behaviour for learning, so you are not on your own.
The culture of accountability is very different to Ireland, where a whole school inspection may come around once in four years. There is pressure as your head of department regularly checks on you and the senior staff check on them. Paperwork and planning is more intense in the UK. There is a lot of it, there’s no point in denying that. You have to mark student work regularly and formatively. Your lesson plans need to be precise; active learning is not an occasional treat but the daily routine. However, you are usually given a highly detailed scheme of work with all the resources, PowerPoint’s, etc. attached and ready to go. There is a lot of support, mentoring and assistance from more experienced colleagues to help settle in and improve. As well, the accountability means that students get a good deal. They learn more and they learn better, and at the end of the day, that is why we do the job. The long term effect of this is that you are a better teacher with skills desired by Irish principals if you decide to look for work in Ireland.
Finally, teaching in the UK is a great way to get your probation year completed. Getting three hundred hours of teaching time in Ireland can be really tough. However, while working in the UK, you can do the English induction programme and have your hours and training recognised by the Irish Teaching Council for when you return to Ireland. In addition, if you are looking to move to the UK, Uteach really are very helpful. The interview practice in particular was really great and helped me go into the real interview feeling really confident.
So in short, there is more paperwork and accountability in the UK. However, this is to help you be a better teacher and make your lessons more enjoyable and more educational. The biggest difference for me is that I feel valued and respected again. I’m not an on-again, off-again substitute, I’m a teacher.
David O’ Reilly was placed by U Teach Recruitment with a position in the UK.
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