The birth place of the English language, the UK offers many opportunities to Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). While the best opportunities are reserved for UK nationals, native speakers from around the Commonwealth and even the US can enjoy employment here.
The UK’s open-door policy on immigration means that great opportunities await TESOL teachers. In the last 40 years or more, wave after wave of immigrants have decided to make the UK their home. Presently, the greatest influx is from Eastern Europe, and new arrivals tend to have a lot of motivation to learn the English skills they will need to survive in the UK.
Opportunities are best for those who have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) or a Post-Graduate Certification in Education (PGCE). If not already certified in TESOL, this certificate is highly recommended for anyone wishing to teach ESL as a subject. Two years’ language teaching experience is an advantage, but not a requisite, at this end of the market.
If you land a job in a language school, you can expect to find yourself teaching anybody and everybody. The majority of migrant workers from Eastern Europe are eager to improve their language skills and constitute a substantial part of the student population. There are also students on study holidays who wish to get their English up to standard, as well as those who do business in England, the latter of which take their English tuition particularly seriously.
On the whole, enthusiasm for English is high amongst this varied student body. The vast majority of the students you would be teaching will be there because they need to speak English, rather than because it is a hobby or someone is forcing them to attend.
In addition to these opportunities, there is always an annual need for teachers to work in the UK’s plethora of summer camps. The best time to look for these temporary jobs is in the spring. These positions will pay fairly well and allow you to network and possibly find a permanent position teaching in the UK.
Visas and Regulations
Some schools are not prepared to go through the difficult process of hiring native English-speaking teachers from outside of Europe. That being said, in some cases it is easier to place teachers from the US than from other countries. Non-EU citizens should check with their local British Consulate to look for language exchange programs, etc. Americans may wish to contact the New York-based, Interexchange (www.interexchange.org), who run an exchange program.
It is important for non-EU citizens to look at all the available angles. For example, America has a reciprocal arrangement with the UK, whereby those with an undergraduate degree can work for a sponsoring company for one year. In addition to this, those from the Commonwealth can take advantage of patriarchy - having a grandparent or better, who was actually a British citizen. It also pays to present yourself as a specialist. Just 'English Teacher' doesn't look that special, but a 'Specialist English teacher for Air Traffic Controllers' is one way of finding a niche market. Think about what specialist part of the market you might be able to cater to and sell yourself within it. It’s worth using your imagination and putting in the work because once you have naturalized status in the UK, then Europe is yours for future positions.
Most individuals working for institutes are self-employed, or working on a freelance basis. This means they are responsible for paying their own taxes and social security. New arrivals are required to get a National Insurance number, entitling them to free medical care, to open a bank account into which their wages will be paid, and get a tax code at their local tax office.
Getting a Job
A job search for the UK couldn’t be easier: just look in the electronic Yellow Pages under ‘language schools’ and you will find plenty of positions available. In London, the trend is towards classes at institutes.
Obvious questions you should ask in the interview are regarding class sizes, preparation time, materials, etc. Look for well-resourced schools, and be aware that you probably will not get paid for preparation time.
Teaching IT English or Business English are good areas in which to work. In addition to this building up a portfolio of your own private students is an excellent mid-term goal, and is a method of greatly increasing your earning potential.