Team effort for travelling teachers

June 2010


Facebook       Tweet

ROSIE BUCHANAN let her offshore experiences grow into establishing an agency for teacher recruitment

Embarking on my ‘Big OE’ after 14 years as a teacher, I thought I might have been among the oldest heading to experience teaching in UK schools.

To my relief that wasn’t the case. In my mid-30s, I was in great company with teachers of all ages from around the world. Together we mastered the tube, experienced diverse schools as supply teachers, and taught a whole range of classes from five-year-olds one day to 11-year-olds the next.

I’m thankful to have taken the plunge as it set me on the path of a long-term career I love. Eight months of daily (relief teaching) supply took me to schools all round London, and out into the picturesque Home Counties: Kent, Surrey, St Albans, sometimes working in faith schools, other times in special needs units, though more often working in schools that were truly multicultural. My need to have my own class and a fixed salary saw me move to a little Catholic school in west London, where I enjoyed a wonderful 18 months.

I experienced school camps to Gibraltar, staff social weekends to the Isle of Wight, and teaching a year 6 class taking their national standards (SATs) exams after enduring a gruelling week of an OFSTED (viz. ERO) inspection.

Leaving the UK, I knew I had found a new direction in education – recruiting others to experience the excitement of travel and teaching in a variety of schools and in a different curriculum. Most importantly, I wanted to work with teachers before they left New Zealand, to provide an easy transition from stepping off the plane and into their new work.

I brought a teaching agency back to New Zealand; worked as an assistant principal during the day and recruited for our agency in the evening. By the end of the year teacher recruitment totally won my heart and I left classroom teaching for good.

That was all 14 years ago. Today I am the founding partner of a mid-sized teaching agency (Smart Teachers) which I helped establish nearly seven years ago. We specialise in recruitment of teachers and school administration staff for the UK and Australia.

I’m fortunate to be working with consultants from our offices in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK whom I have worked alongside now for many years. We are a close team of experienced staff, meeting frequently to share knowledge of schools and locations, and collectively ensuring we promote the personal partnership between consultant and teacher.

I choose to meet the majority of teachers I represent, which helps me to match teachers to schools overseas. I travel frequently throughout New Zealand, interviewing teachers personally. It’s important I have a solid understanding of who my teacher is, where their skills lie, and where they want their career to progress – to ensure I help develop their career path, along with travel aspirations.

Realising the most important introduction to any school is the CV, we format the CV into an impressive UK-styled teaching CV. My work also involves gaining employment references, verifying qualifications, requesting New Zealand and UK police clearances, assisting with visa applications, and ensuring a teacher arrives in the UK able to gain immediate work experience and understand UK teaching regulations.

I also maintain up-to-date knowledge of visa and curriculum changes in the UK. We understand the importance of newly qualified teachers being placed in schools where they will be well supported, and ensure they know long-term positions overseas will go towards New Zealand registration.

Our consultants are based in our head office at Covent Garden, London, and we match CVs with prospective schools and keep our teachers informed of pending interviews. Once a school shows interest in one of my teachers I follow up with a phone call.

Having met and interviewed my teachers and spoken with referees, I’m able to affirm a school’s choice and contribute further. I guide all teachers in preparing for and performing in a telephone interview, and our UK consultants follow with feedback afterwards.

An experienced consultant then completes the recruitment by negotiating pay rates. A late night conversation and interview is often met with an early morning call from our office passing on words of congratulation for a successful placement. The Kiwi/UK Smart Teachers team works 24 hours and for teachers wishing to work on a temporary supply basis we are able to offer guaranteed work.

Working as a teacher recruitment consultant is exciting. I visit most teacher training institutes throughout New Zealand for their careers fairs, often speaking with groups of students and also meeting with people referred to me by teachers, whom I’ve kept in touch with. We are also able to offer our incentive programme (a free return flight from London to New York) to encourage teachers to refer others to us.

In seeking references I get to speak with principals and teachers throughout New Zealand who understand the benefits of teaching overseas.

We maintain excellent relationships with other supporting teaching and travel organisations and with agency colleagues.