Returning to teaching with international experience

Published 7 October 2019
By Katie Lockett

After 4 years of teaching modern foreign languages in London, I decided to try something different. I moved to China to teach in an international school, but after a while, I wanted to move back to England to be closer to my partner.

We’re fortunate to have so many research-based educators here who share their ideas at exciting events like ResearchEd.

I missed being at the cutting edge of educational research, like I felt I had been while working in London.

I started looking for jobs in January. I looked in the normal places like ETeach and TES.

Interviews from a distance

Before I applied, I always emailed the headteacher of the school to ask if they would consider international applicants and if they would interview me on Skype.

They were always grateful to me for being proactive and considerate of the fact that interviewing by Skype was a new concept to them. I applied for about 10 jobs and was offered 4 Skype interviews.

I was offered a job in February, 2 months after I started looking. I was used to Skype interviews from applying to international schools, so I probably found it less daunting than the headteachers did.

My international school was very supportive. They contacted the headteachers in England to describe my teaching. They also provided permission for me to share performance management reviews and videos of me teaching.

Moving home

Moving from China to England was very easy. Like most international schools, mine had a comprehensive repatriation package and arranged my flights and shipment. They even arranged for my cat to be repatriated for me.

Back in an English school

Starting back at an English state school was hard, like starting any new job - so much to learn! But it didn’t feel different just because I was back in England. By October half term, my new school felt like home.

Though I was only away for 2 years, during that time a new General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) curriculum and Ofsted framework1 were introduced.

While in China, I’d kept up-to-date with the UK education scene via Twitter. I visited UK schools and went on UK-based courses whenever I was home in England for the holidays.

As for behaviour management – teenagers are teenagers. I still had to manage behaviour in China in the same way I did back in London, so I didn’t lose any of my skills there.

I’m enjoying the freedom to teach the way I want to. I felt a huge amount of pressure in a fee-paying international school (where parents call a certain amount of the shots) to teach in a certain way.

It’s so much easier here to engage with research, learn new things and try them out in the classroom - without being judged. I feel professionally free in England.

Advice for teachers planning to return to England

My advice would be to:

  • always contact headteachers in advance of applying for jobs in the UK
  • engage with social media, blogs and education books to stay up-to-date while away
  • visit schools and attend conferences on your visits back to the UK
  • not worry about behaviour management - honestly, teenagers are teenagers everywhere

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  1. Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills(opens in new window) that inspects services providing learning and education. The Ofsted education inspection framework(opens in new window) sets out how they inspect schools in England.