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Married couple, both secondary PE teachers, considering teaching abroad...

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by peteacher86, Aug 28, 2019.

  1. peteacher86

    peteacher86 New commenter

    Hi all,

    My wife and I have been married a year and have just returned from visiting teaching friends out in Singapore and Qatar and are starting to think it might be an idea for us!

    Bit of information about us-

    - I'm 33, have been teaching secondary PE for 11 years, current 2nd in dept, aspirations to be Head of PE / assistant head for quite a few years. Been teaching in same school since NQT year, lovely school where staff never leave therefore very little opportunities for leadership- kids are great and sport is very prominent at school. Would be very sad to leave.

    - My wife, 29, has been teaching 5 years, currently in a middle school, which she loves. would be happy just teaching PE but would consider further responsibilities. She also would be very sad to leave.

    We are interested in teaching abroad primarily for lifestyle/climate and financial reasons. we currently own a house which we would probably rent out to pay the mortgage.

    We would ideally like to teach in an international school in a 'couples deal' which I know a lot of international schools offer, including both our sets of friends in Singapore and Qatar.

    After doing quite a lot of research, The UAE/Qatar seems the most likely place as it's only a 6/7 hour flight away, we very much enjoyed seeing the lifestyle available and the money is very good.

    Our main concern for years has always been we're both in lovely schools, a short commute from where we live, have a really good work/life balance- if we did a stint for 3 or 4 years and came back I'd worry we'd really struggle to find a 'good' school again. PE posts are so so popular now and as I'm now UPS 3 I feel expensive and this would hold me back. However, I also think that having a international school on the CV also would look very attractive to employers.

    Main questions-

    - Are PE teacher couple posts common in international schools?
    - Do you have to teach all ages from 2-18 in international schools for PE? I'm not a huge fan of the needy really young kids plus I only have experience with secondary school ages. My wife loves the younger ages, she'd be fine!
    - What financially might we earn as a teacher of PE / Head of PE with 6 and 12 years experience in UAE/Qatar?
    - We have planned to try for children in the next year or two- how would that work in UAE/Qatar for hospital fees, maternity leave etc?

  2. T0nyGT

    T0nyGT Lead commenter

    I wouldn't go if you're planning on going back in 2-3 years. What's the point? You'll be leaving your awesome schools and will spend a whole year settling in before thinking of coming back again. Unless it's purely a financial decision then I understand.

    With you both teaching the same subject is going to be a case of simply applying for jobs in the same country and seeing what happens. It's tricky because do you apply for the same jobs / different jobs and alternate with applications?

    Some schools hire international teachers for PE while others see it as a less important subject and rely on local staff. I do have friends who have taught in several countries as PE teachers though and have never had difficulty finding positions in some decent schools

    Whether you have to teach the whole range of ages will depend on the size of the school

    As for insurance for child birth, you would have to check with the insurance provider.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2019
  3. peteacher86

    peteacher86 New commenter

    Thanks for this. As long as we liked our life I'm sure we would teach abroad for at least 4 years. I wouldn't move abroad just for 2-3 years, I'm just thinking hypothetically.
  4. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    As the 2022 WC draws closer, Qatar is becoming a popular destination. As for the job hunt itself, both of you can get a job in the same school. BUT, (huge) buts. Having been here for the last 8 years and a HoD here are your options:

    1. Get a HoD job in one of the embassy schools where the kids are outstanding and sport is established... NO CHANCE! Those HoDs have landed the dream job and won't be going anywhere, anytime soon.
    2. Get ONE job as a PE teacher in one of the embassy schools. Slim, most position are recommended by current staff. But worth a try. AND.. They have, literally the Earth's pool of teachers with international experience. At last recruitment, 300+ for one position.
    3. Get a HoD + wifey's position in the same school. YES, it can happen! But, heere lies your first clue.
    4.Get a HoD job without international experience. Yes, it can happen! But there lies your second clue.

    Of course throw your hat into the ring. But will leave you the third and last clue. There are PE teachers in schools who have been there for 7+ years and would not touch the poison chalice advertised every year.

    In regards to £. Embassy school = £££££
    Black gold schools = £££££ but as middle management you lose between 15-22 days of your holidays. Between 2 IB schools = ££££. Unless you were head hunted, without IB experience... No chance!

    PM if you need and can go to specifics.
  5. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    If you think you might only want a few (i.e. 3 or 4 years abroad) then I think there are two definite possibilities. Firstly, consider one of the teacher exchange programmes - this would allow you to sample living in another country (usually the USA, Canada or Australia, but I think others are available) with the knowledge that it's only for one year before you return. Alternatively, you could see if you could get a leave of absence with a guarantee of return - we did this when we left initially with a 2 year guarantee of jobs within our local authority (Scotland). However, many set out with the idea that they will teach abroad for a couple of years and then 5 or 6 years later find themselves wondering "why would I ever go back?"

    From what I can see, you don't have to be able to teach at all age groups for PE but it definitely helps. Not all schools teach PE at IGCSE or A Level / IB Diploma (in the IB, PE sits within the science subjects so will lose out to Physics and Chemistry every time, I'm afraid) so I suspect being able to do this will help your opportunities.

    In terms of your destinations, Singapore and UAE are pretty competitive to get into, Qatar less so. You could probably also consider Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur as alternatives - they may be less "expat friendly" but still interesting and probably easier for teachers with no international experience to start off in.
  6. Mr_Frosty

    Mr_Frosty Established commenter

    I've known a few PE teachers here in the UAE and I'd think it was doable - not sure about the HoD, you'd have to find a school with the HoD and another PE role open for the same school, but there are a few chains/groups that could work but it might mean you'd be working in different campuses which may not be that close to each other.

    Salary depends on the school, but I saw two jobs for an immediate start at different schools advertised yesterday - one Maths one Primary and they were both offering 12.5k plus housing - one did give the option of an allowance instead. As someone pointed out to me recently there are schools offering more, but with so many people looking to move here I'd say the average advertised at the moment is 10-12.5k. If you both worked on for the same school/group you might be able to negotiate more based on sharing an apartment.
  7. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    I have had the impression that salaries and benefits are not so great in the UAE and in Qatar these days. Yes, maybe the more reputable and well-established schools still pay reasonably well. I absolutely agree with the comments that have already been made about the lack of vacancies at the "better" schools, not to mention the very large numbers of candidates who will apply for anything that does pop up. Generally speaking, a lot of teachers who do have good jobs in the ME will not be resigning any time soon.

    Ho hum. The UAE and Qatar are still quite popular places, so my advice to the OPs would be to spread your net as widely as you can and read the TES Conversation that a smelly old hippo has sent to you.
  8. bigfatgit

    bigfatgit Occasional commenter

    Big difference between visiting a place and actually living there

    That "isn't the weather lovely" in, say, February feeling gives way to the "*** is it with this heat" in June

    You'd have to both be on good money to have a really good lifestyle in the countries you've mentioned

    What if one of you gets a job and the other becomes a "trailing spouse" on local salary?
  9. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    BFG - if you're prepared not to go, you can hold out for the couples offer (they do exist!)

    But you're right about the weather. Anyone who visits China in the spring or the autumn thinks it's lovely, but try coming back to Beijing in mid-January....
  10. february31st

    february31st Established commenter

    I would look at one of you diversifying your skills into a full time primary teaching position as this would be easier for a school to employ you both.
  11. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    Why don't you stick with your current jobs and volunteer to teach abroad in August. I've had some amazing experiences volunteering in East Africa, in countries short of teachers in schools who can't afford to pay more than one adult per 50-100 children. You don't give up your own home, job and security, but get to wee more of the world and experience other cultures and situations and make a difference to children who otherwise would be getting less of an educatation.
  12. Mr_Frosty

    Mr_Frosty Established commenter

    It's important to remember when discussing "not great" salaries in the UAE that 12,500AED is £2,800 with no deductions and no accommodation to pay for. Based on an online tax calculator it's the equivalent of Earning £49,000 a year in the UK and still getting free accommodation. It's not what it once was, but for a lot of people (me included) it's much more than I could earn back home, even when you factor in the higher cost of living.
    gulfgolf and Leonardo1983 like this.
  13. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Beijing in January? Shenzhen in August was horribly wet and sticky.
  14. peteacher86

    peteacher86 New commenter

    Thanks for all the replies, they have been really helpful. To be honest, if a really good offer was put on the table for just 2 posts of just PE teachers, I would probably take them and wait for an internal position to come up for a responsibility role. Several of my teacher friends teaching in international schools have said there are regular opportunites to progress quickly pastorally, subject specific , whole school, etc.

    It's reallty difficult with the timespan as I just don't know how much we'd miss the UK, our families and how much we'd enjoy our lifestytle/new jobs. Therefore, I can't just say we want to move for 8-10 years as we very little idea of what life would be like!

    I'm currently earning £2500 (£43k) take home per month- my friend is a primary teacher in Qatar and earning 15k or 16k QAR per month (£3500 ish) with apartment & utilities paid for, he's been teaching 5 years in UK. Would this be what I'd expect in Qatar, Dubai/Abu Dhabi etc?

  15. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Well, yes, some primary teachers in Qatar might get salaries like that, at some of the better schools. The bad news is that there are rather a lot of horrible schools as well, both in Qatar and in other places in the ME, plus plenty of competition for any jobs that do appear at the good ones.

    If you are very close to your families in the UK, then maybe a career in international education is not for you. Talking to someone on SKYPE is not the same thing as actually being with them. Yes, it might (or might not!) be a good move from a financial point of view, but there are some things that you cannot put a price on. If you are already thinking about returning to the UK at some point in the future, then maybe the sensible thing would be not to go overseas in the first place. You can always have a foreign holiday (or two).

    Have you tried to discuss this idea with the members of your family, jwilliams11? What was their reaction?

    As I have wearily pointed out many times, comparisons between salaries in the UK and elsewhere can be misleading, confusing and just plain wrong. Your salary each month is only one piece in the financial jigsaw. What about extra expenses, such as buying a car? Or two? What about pension contributions? (Yes, I know that you youngsters never want to think about pensions, but the big six-oh will come round for all of us one day.) If you have children, then what about the school fees? What about the opportunity to let out your house or apartment in the UK? All of these things (and quite a few more) have to be taken into consideration. A small salary with modest outgoings might in fact be worth more than a big salary with higher living costs.

    On the other hand, there are also those things that you cannot put a price on. Living in a foreign country can often be an amazing and deeply rewarding experience. How many international teachers go back to the UK? Well, some do, in order to look after elderly relatives and one has to respect that decision, but on the whole I would say that most international teachers never want to go back to teaching in the UK.
  16. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    True. But are your friends being honest on what type of schools these are? In the ME there's a reason as to why these routinely come up.

    Do not get confused between you as a PE teacher and your friend who is a primary teacher. First lesson in the international circuit, primary teachers have more power in negotiating thier salaries than PE teachers.

    The scope to earn that is closer with the 'better/good' schools. But as stated earlier the competition is nothing short of fearce. Some inside knowledge, with 300+ applications to rumage through, unless your degree have come from one of the Ivy league/top notch esque universities AND have represented the UK in something; the first pile to be culled are those without international experience. NQTs have a better chance than you because they are CHEAP.

    Again, no harm in tossing your hat in the ring... Best of luck.
  17. peteacher86

    peteacher86 New commenter

    Thanks again for replies, much appreciated.

    The Hippo- I've been living 100 miles from family for the last 11 years and only see them every half term for a few days so moving abroad wouldn't be an issue for me for missing family too much.

    I have researched and spoke to friends/old uni mates teaching there and know what to expect for most of outgoings in living in UAE/Qatar with utilities/car/lifestyle etc.

    I actually had a few interviews on skype for Head of PE jobs in Dubai 5 years ago, but then I met my wife to be and fell in love so stopped looking! Therefore, although there will ALOT of applicants, I am still confident with my CV & experience I/we will have a good chance of at least an interview, like I have already had.

    Taiyah- Many thanks for your advice, I appreciate there are so many more primary teaching opportunities and they can negotiate. We would only ever accept an offer if we felt the country, school and offer was right for us a couple. With representing UK in a sport, is this seriously how fickle heads can be? You could be an awful teacher but played Squash for England 20 years ago and that will impress them?! Would you recommend to bend the truth ever so slightly regarding your previous sporting achievements in your CV? ;)

  18. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    @jwilliams11 funny you ask about bending the rules.. everybody can be a “superstar” mainly because of the western features one comes with... There is supposedly a former “NBA” star. Let’s just say this ego inflation worked 10-15 years ago but countries are smarter now and pretty much everything is on Google. There are also a few "swimmers" around... Well..... Let's just say, they look oddly (very) splashy when they grace the beaches or hotel pools. Previous, meaning university or high school? Leave those out, if you've been teaching for 4+ years. That is another culling moment, including their A-Level results. The amount of NQTs and even some seasoned ones who still write those in makes everyone smirk a little bit.

    Just be honest because let's face it, if you get that Skype interview you're more than half-way there. As PE teachers, just like students, there's nothing worse than not trying. If you and your wife land a job in the right school or schools, it is certainly very lucrative. Best of luck.
  19. bigfatgit

    bigfatgit Occasional commenter

    Regarding "bending the truth"..

    I interviewed a candidate that claimed to have been a member of a team that I coached. He couldn't remember the coach's name as it was a "long time ago" Another team he claimed to have played for (different sport) was coached by my brother who had never heard of this particular person either

    It's a small world and getting smaller
  20. peteacher86

    peteacher86 New commenter

    Thanks for the replies again. To be honest, I've never had to or wanted to bend the truth regarding my sporting background. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades which I've always thought has made me a better and diverse teacher.

    When is the recruitment window for international jobs? Is it still around November- March time?
    If we got an interview on Skype, would you discuss salary and package then or only after you had been offered a job?

    Any advice how cover letter should be significantly different from a UK one?


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