International Opportunities - case study

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When Rudi Powell was about to retire after 35 years of teaching in various schools including the last 10 years as a head of science in Penarth, he heard of a job opportunity in Vienna International School in Austria. Here’s his story.

“I had been walking along those same Penarth streets, to and from work, for quite a few years and felt I could do with a change. Six weeks later I was a city dweller and working at a school that takes students from over 80 nationalities taught through the medium of English, all preparing for the IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma.  I had worked in a very successful school in Penarth and this experience was very useful in my new school, where students were also highly motivated and disciplined.  Some students came to the school with little or no English but within months they appeared to overcome this and make remarkable progress.  I had never previously worked with the IB Diploma, a programme that is used in international schools around the world but it is similar to A-level in standard though broader with more scope for special options and projects.”

Rudi’s advice to other teachers considering teaching in international schools is “Go for it. There are so many opportunities.  I would however advise anyone considering this option to find out more about the school, location, conditions, teaching duties and accommodation.  This is where the advice I received from Andrew (Andrew Wigford at Teachers International Consultancy), with his teaching experience, contacts and first hand knowledge was so useful.

“I would certainly do it again.  It was a great experience: the new challenge, the school and the city…although my right shoulder continues to remind me that, at 60, I should really have given the VIS science department’s ski weekend in the Alps a miss!”

Since this interview, Rudi has gone on to a short-term post teaching science at the Rotterdam International School.

Rudi is one of 150,000 teachers from all over the world who are teaching in the more than 4,000 international schools located around the globe. English is the primary language of instruction and teachers teach their skilled subjects. They may well teach the British curriculum but a variety of other respected curricula are used including the International Baccalaureate and the American Curriculum. And it’s the British teachers that the International schools are keen to employ. “Not only is English the first language of choice, but the skills of British teachers are highly valued throughout the international school system,” says Andrew Wigford whose company TIC (Teachers International Consultancy) based in Cardiff, specialises in recruiting teachers for International Schools. “Once you’ve taught for a few years in the UK, you can literally work anywhere in the world that you choose, the opportunities are limitless.”

International schools are renowned for their small class sizes, excellent resources and exceptional facilities. But many teachers in the UK simply don’t realise the opportunities available to them. “Many teachers don’t know that there are short-term contracts and that there’s the chance to move on to another post in another country after two or three years,” says Andrew. “We also find many teachers haven’t applied sooner because they were under the common misconception that they needed to speak a foreign language. That is not the case. It’s their teaching skills that are valued and many of these schools are following the British National Curriculum. The transition from British to international school can actually be very straightforward.” Andrew even encourages teachers with families to consider it as a serious option.

“My wife, Angie, and I have both worked in some fantastic schools all over the world and travelled to some amazing places. Our two children were both born during our time abroad and that was no problem at all. In fact it’s given our whole family a sense of adventure, great confidence in travelling and a bigger perspective of the world.”  Rudi agrees: “I definitely think that teachers with families should consider international teaching, even if just for your kids and the experiences that they will have learning and living within a new educational and cultural context.”

For more information about opportunities at international schools visit www.