Archive

Posts Tagged ‘moving to spain’

Posts you may have missed

February 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Relocating to Spain with family

January 26, 2015 Leave a comment

So, you’re a teacher and are considering relocating to Spain to work but you have family. What about your partner and child/children?

As with all these posts I can only speak from experience of the schools I work with but hopefully this information will at least help in asking the right questions and making sure that any job offer you receive is right for your whole family.

It is often said that when you are moving to another country with a partner that there are two necessities for the move to be a success. Firstly, you should both make an effort to learn the language. Secondly you both need work. I can imagine that without something to occupy each day and the social interactions of work that life in a foreign country could become quite an isolating experience. One of the offers we make to families moving to work in our schools is to endeavor to offer a position to both parties. If both are trained teachers that is always a bonus but where the other person is in another line of work, if they are interested we offer a position within school. It may be that of classroom assistant, support class assistant or even librarian. That offer of work always helps the process of adapting to the new situation and also alleviates financial pressure. Assistant staff in school are paid on a salary of approximately 16,000€ so the extra wage certainly helps.

Children are offered a tuition free place in the school. Although not completely free, as there are still uniform and dining room expenses, this is a substantial help to most families with children. It means that children can continue in the British education system. Children of secondary age would go on to study iGCSE and A Levels as they would in the United Kingdom. Children of primary age or younger are working to the same curriculum that they would experience in the United Kingdom.

In terms of language support children below the age of five are usually quick to develop language, learning from their peers. It is unlikely that a child joining the school at five or younger would need any additional support. Children over the age of five are usually given individual support classes to help them learning Spanish. The successful social adaptation of children depends on a fluency with the language. My own daughter was six years old when we moved to Spain and after around 18 months had sufficient fluency and confidence to socialise in the same way as she would with children speaking her native language. We also offer language lessons to all our staff as learning the language certainly helps with integration.

If you are considering a move to work internationally and have a partner interested in finding work it is worth considering how to present as an asset to the school. Undertaking a TEFL qualification or even just volunteering in a school or youth setting may be of interest to a potential employer. Beginning to learn the language before you leave the UK, or showing a commitment to doing so, is also a move that sends a future employer a strong message about your determination to adapt and make your move work. Any evidence of preparing the family as a unit for the move is important to share. As an employer we always feel a duty of care to a family joining us and evidence of the family preparing as a unit for their planned move is always reassuring.

I hope this helps anybody considering moving to Spain, or elsewhere internationally, with their family. If anybody has any questions regarding moving a family please do post them in the comments section and I will answer as best I can from my own experience.

A comparison between teaching in Spain and teaching in the United Kingdom

January 20, 2015 1 comment

I started my teaching in Plymouth in the United Kingdom. Having worked there for fourteen years I moved to Spain where I have lived and worked for the last seven years. Teachers from the UK often want to know what the differences are or automatically assume everything here must be fantastic. This is just a brief overview of what I consider to be the five most significant positive and negative aspects of teaching in Spain. I will ignore bland comments about the weather and the beaches and focus instead on the teaching and life in school. All of this is from my own experience and therefore other teachers in different schools or different parts of Spain may hold differing points of view.

Positives

  1. In 2009 a survey in the UK found that most teachers reported working more than 50 hours per week. Moreover, a teacher contract in the UK is to work for 195 days of the year with 190 of those days identified as teaching days. The remaining 170 days should be protected and teachers should not be directed to work on those days. My own experience was that in order to do the job to the standard required I left work on a Friday evening with sufficient work for 10-12 hours of weekend work. I suppose you could argue that wasn’t directed but without doing that work planning and marking would not have been completed to the necessary standards. With about two and a half hours of planning and preparation time provided in the UK working week, trying to fit necessary work into the school day was impossible.
    By contrast, we give our primary teachers in Spain 6hrs 50mins per week of non-contact time during the school day. With a full hour of lunch break too there is more than enough time in the working day to complete the necessary work. The result is that evenings and weekends feel more relaxed and it is genuinely possible to walk out of school on Friday with the classroom prepared for Monday and no need to think about school until you return the next week. That provides for a far healthier lifestyle and much of the anxiety and pressure feels lifted from day one.
  2. The teacher is still a position of respect in society in Spain. This is a status that in the UK has been steadily eroded over the last few decades. The most positive aspect of this is that parents look to teachers for advice about how to help their children at home. The teacher is seen as a partner working with the parents and the sensation of parental support is very different to that found in many schools in the UK.
  3. Based on the three inspections I experienced in the UK and the three inspections I have experienced in Spain, the anxiety surrounding inspections in Spain feels very different to the UK. Inspections in Spain are thorough and professional but take place in a climate of providing external professional opinions about the school and how it can improve. There isn’t the same judgmental feel of UK inspections which, regardless of how they may be presented, still seem to be out to find the 15,000 poor teachers that Mr. Woodhead infamously declared were lurking in our schools. An inspection day in Spain is a far more positive experience. Certainly it is focused on teaching and learning but there isn’t the threatening feel that teachers often report from UK inspections. Perhaps it helps that the inspecting body is separated from the politics of education. Inspections in Spain still carry a reasonable period of notice and don’t come with the ever present threat of being labelled and placed into a category.
  4. Children’s behaviour is generally different to the UK. The culture in Spain is very different and children are an accepted part of their parents’ life. Going for meals out in the evening is always a family affair and the notion of baby sitters is alien to most Spanish people. In a way, children are permitted to remain children for longer than in the UK. Most Spanish children inherit the society view of teachers as an authority figure to be respected. In the UK a common complaint amongst colleagues was that a significant minority of children had the capacity to derail the teaching and learning. And that even after the teacher had spent all Sunday planning and resourcing what should have been great lessons. The class behaviour in Spain is significantly better than that found in most UK schools and the end result is that it is far easier to focus on aspects of teaching and learning and to be a great teacher. Conversations in school staffrooms tend to be more about teaching and learning and less about individual characters that have spent the morning disrupting classes and preventing learning from taking place.
  5. Schools and education are still supposed to be fun in Spain and political correctness doesn’t get in the way of a celebration. Our school still celebrates Christmas, carnival, and Fallas (a regional festival) and gives these celebrations the class time needed to make them an enjoyable part of the educational calendar. Multi-culturalism exists but adapts to the Spanish society.

Negatives

  1. Spanish education, even private education, runs on a significantly smaller budget than in the UK. Many UK educational authorities are spending between seven and eight thousand pounds per pupil. Typical costs for private education in Spain is between three and four thousand Euros. Clearly this translates into school in a variety of ways. Technology may not be quite so regularly updated as in the UK and resources purchased for classrooms need caring for as they may be expected to last longer.
  2. Spanish authorities love paperwork and a new teacher to Spain may find some of this daunting. Nothing can be requested without a backup file of paperwork. Even purchasing a mobile telephone can become a complicated mountain of essential forms. Most schools should help teachers with this adaptation but be prepared for a very different approach to anything official than is found in the UK. Forget online websites allowing you to fill out forms and be prepared for government offices that only open for a few hours each morning and are quite unforgiving if you are missing what they deem to be an essential piece of paper.
  3. Workers’ rights in Spain are different to in the UK. Behaviours that are trusted without evidence in the UK under Spanish law need evidencing. A sick leave in the UK for example that allows for a period of self-certification requires a doctor note from day one in Spain. Even funerals in Spain give out certificates of attendance so workers can evidence to their employers that they were where they said they would be. This attitude of needing to account for sickness, for example, is a cultural change that for some people may take a period of adaptation.
  4. Spanish school holidays do not follow the same pattern as UK school holidays. Half terms don’t exist although dependent on the region of Spain there will be other public holidays to celebrate Spanish fiestas. With the main Spanish Christmas celebration being 6th January schools tend to work more closely to Christmas than in the UK which can mean a Christmas term running from 1st September through to 22nd December without any substantial holiday periods. Although this balances out over the course of the year and holidays in fact are slightly more generous than in the UK the lack of a half term may be a shock initially.
  5. Wages in Spain are lower than in the UK. Experienced teachers may well find that their experience is not taken into account in Spain and they are placed on a standard teaching salary. With a salary of 22,500€ for teachers in independent schools many UK teachers will find themselves taking a pay cut to work in Spain. Obviously the less years of experience you have the less of a problem this will be but a teacher at the top of the pay scale with a management responsibility may well find Spanish teaching pays around 60% of their UK salary. Obviously lower taxes (14% to be inclusive of tax and social security) and in general a lower cost of living account for a significant part of that wage difference.

Overall

Is a move to a teaching position in Spain right for you? Everybody has their own personal circumstances but Spain does offer a great quality of work and private life and a balance between the two. Spain, being in Europe, is less of a culture shock than perhaps a move to the middle or far east. The culture, climate and countryside I have left out of the equation here in order to focus on the teaching but really perhaps the fact that January temperatures on the Mediterranean coast average at 17 degrees Celsius (the same as July temperatures for the south-east of England) could still be considered important in making a decision.

If after reading this you still have questions about the positive and negative aspects do leave comments and I will reply.

Applying to teach in Spain – which school should you choose

January 18, 2015 1 comment

It’s the time of year when International schools begin their advertising for positions starting in September. But, if you are considering a move to teaching in Spain how do you know which school to choose?

Teaching in Spain offers three options. The first option and the one I will focus on in this article is teaching in a British school in Spain. British schools will teach the British National Curriculum. The other two options are to work as an English teacher in a Spanish school or to teach in an academy. The Spanish education system is quite protective of Spanish teachers and entering a Spanish state school would require a high level language exam in Spanish and then the Spanish exam of teacher knowledge. (Convalidating English teaching degrees in order that they can be recognised by a Spanish state school is notoriously challenging and expensive.)  An academy in Spain is not the same as in England. “Academy” refers to language schools. Often these will operate outside of the normal school day and will offer language lessons in a TEfL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) style approach. Although a living can be made from an academy a regular monthly income can often not be guaranteed. Hours will be as customer demands and there is likely to be significant fluctuation in monthly take home pay.

So, what about teaching in a British School in Spain? The first requirement of any reputable British School will be that candidates for teaching positions are qualified teachers. Most will also ask that the qualification is from the United Kingdom or recognised in the United Kingdom. Applicants from outside of the European Union are often welcomed but obtaining the necessary work permits can take longer.

Within Spain the private school industry is relatively unregulated compared to the United Kingdom. Consequently there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ employers to be found. Most UK teachers with experience of working overseas will tell you that accreditation from the British Council is the most important recognition. In Spain there are only a very few schools directly licensed by the British Council. However, there is an established network within Spain that provides a considerable benefit to UK teachers looking to work in a British School. The organisation ‘National Association of British Schools in Spain’ (NABBS) has a recognition within the UK and provides a set of standards and employee rights that gives a level of protection and ensures that the school is of an appropriate standard. These schools also undergo an inspection that is approved by the British Council and responsable for ensuring a high quality of British education.

You can cross-reference advertisements on TES Online with the NABBS website. Once you have confirmed that the school has British Council or NABBS membership you can be reasonably assured that you have identified an appropriate potential employer.

Most Spanish independent schools are privately owned and most of those are privately owned by a Spanish family or a Spanish company. In essence, like many UK private schools, they are businesses. The most significant difference for many teachers moving to teach in Spain is not actually the change of country but the change from being in state education to being in private education. I would advise that happier adaptations to this change are found if the school itself has a duty of care for the education provided. This can be found out in a number of ways. Firstly, looking at the advertisement that the school has placed. I would be wary of any school not taking advantage of a profesional advertisement on TES Online. Failing to provide a school insignia, photographs or a link to the school website all indicate a business keen to save every possible penny. If the webite is available take a look. Does it appear to be just a shop window, an online advert, or does it reflect the values and mission statement of the school? Does the school provide a welcome pack as a part of their advertisement? Does the welcome pack include information about support given to employees?

Having applied to the school, reputable schools will consider an interview a two way process and will welcome your questions. If the advertisement is for a short notice position then a Skype or telephone interview may be offered. However, if the position has been advertised with sufficient time then a face to face interview is a more profesional approach. A school advertising a September post in March or April that is unwilling to finance a face to face interview in the UK I would suggest is sending out a negative message about the value they place on their teaching staff.

As a final thought, what should you expecct from an interview? British schools in Spain, especially if they have visited London or another UK city to offer face to face interview, have made a substantial financial commitment to obtaining their teaching staff. They will be interested not only in your profesional role as a teacher but also in your personal profile as somebody preparing to make an international move. Anything you can do to indicate preparation for your move will strengthen your interview. Have you begun to learn the language? Have you considered aspects of adaptation to living away from family and friends? The interview is also a two way process. There should be a chance for you to ask what support the school offers new teachers. Relocation packages in terms of direct financial gifts are not common for Spain but support in terms of finding accomodation and arranging necessary paperwork including becoming a part of the Spanish health system should be provided.

If you approach a move carefully and consider the school and the support offered then living and teaching in Spain can be a wonderful move. With sunshine, almost universally supportive parents andvery few behaviour problems it is easier to focus on the teaching and remember why you chose this profession.

If you want further information please do post questions in the comments section below and I will reply.

%d bloggers like this: