Education & Family

Why teachers quit the UK to work abroad

Student and teacher photo

Teachers have been speaking out about why they left England's classrooms to teach overseas.

The chief inspector of England's schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has warned of a teacher brain drain as thousands seek opportunities abroad.

BBC News has spoken to teachers to find out why they decided to go and what life is like away from home.


From London to Qatar

Image copyright Adrianna Boden
Image caption "The pay in Qatar is much better. Our bills and accommodation are paid for"

Adrianna Boden moved with her husband Andrew from London to Qatar in 2014.

"We were both newly qualified teachers," she says.

"We had only worked for a year in London, but the toll of teaching there had already begun to take its toll. We were arriving at school at 7.30 in the morning and not getting home until 7pm.

"There was so much paperwork and data to go through every night. It put a strain on our home-life balance. We were exhausted by the weekend. We had no energy - it was so draining.

"We decided we couldn't do this any more, and started looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Image copyright Adrianna Boden
Image caption Adrianna Boden: We never want to go back to the UK

"We began applying quite late, as the ideal time to recruit new teachers for the academic year is from January to March. We started looking in May, by which time the only opportunities left were in China and the Middle East.

"The package we were offered in Qatar was good, and the pay is much better than in the UK. Our bills and accommodation are paid for, and the standard of living is superior.

"The cost of living was too much in London compared to our take-home pay.

"We love it here, and we are going to Vietnam in August, as we really enjoy the international teaching lifestyle.

"We never want to go back to the UK."


Teaching in Turkey

David Draper was a head teacher in Surrey. He recounts why he left the UK to work in Turkey.

"The pressure and workload were so much that I saw many colleagues suffer breakdowns.

"In 1998, after much soul-searching, I decided to leave and apply to schools abroad.

"I found a job as head of a British School in Ankara, Turkey. I ran the British School for nine years.

"I was then invited to open the first British School in Azerbaijan.

"I only returned to the UK last year.

Image copyright David Draper
Image caption David Draper: "It can be difficult to move to another country because of the effect it can have on personal relationships and family"

"I recruited many of the teachers for Turkey and Azerbaijan. They wanted to have the experience of teaching, not spending their lives on administration.

"They were all excellent teachers who had largely come from UK state schools.

"I often heard complaints from them about running budgets, administration and the huge amounts of paperwork. Teachers are not bankers.

"It is sad that the profession is losing people.

"It can be difficult to move to another country because of the effect it can have on personal relationships and family.

"I did have to give up some hobbies and personal interests, but I had more freedom.

"The pay was about the same as I would have received had I taught at a private school in Britain but accommodation was also provided.

"With the number of new British Schools opening in countries such as China, I can see the exit of teachers from the UK only growing."


I met my wife while teaching in Italy

Image copyright Richard
Image caption Richard: "It was unfortunate that I felt like my career was stagnating"

Richard moved to Italy from the north-west of England in 2009.

"I moved here with the intention of staying for two years and gaining experience that I hoped would improve my CV," he says.

"I just felt that I wasn't really going anywhere in the UK and I wasn't able to spend time with friends or family as much as I'd have liked to.

"When I did, I felt like I should have been working or planning, and even though I was involved in a number of activities such as football and amateur acting societies, I was always really tired.

"The schools that I worked in were filled with lovely people and great colleagues. It was just unfortunate that I felt like my career was stagnating.

"I suppose I am somewhat of an ambitious person so when the option of moving abroad was suggested, I was immediately interested.

Image copyright Richard
Image caption Richard: "I don't know if I would ever go back to England. If I did, I don't think it would be as a teacher"

"My first year was pretty difficult. I found it hard to really immerse myself in the lifestyle.

"Because of that, I spent time visiting other parts of the country. I also joined groups that were almost all Italian and focused on enjoying the new experiences.

"While working here I met my wife. My family is very settled here now and my parents love visiting.

"I don't know if I would ever go back to England. If I did, I don't think it would be as a teacher."


Compiled by Rozina Sini

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