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Probationary periods in international school contracts

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by blutack, Aug 17, 2015.

  1. Hi all - how common is it to have probationary periods in contracts for international schools? Does that include admin positions like principals and directors? Does it mean a school can just ask someone to leave at the end of however many months the period is for?

    Just looking at possibility of moving overseas in the future, and someone mentioned this. Wouldn't want to head off somewhere and find I might be asked to leave a job in the middle of a year, just a few months in.

    Thanks for any insights.
     
  2. happygreenfrog

    happygreenfrog Occasional commenter

    Do contracts in the UK have them too? Simply cannot recall.

    Never been a concern for me and never known anyone have their contract terminated. Given all the administration involved in employing new staff, you'd have to commit a pretty serious offence to be shown the door.

    I'd be more thoughtful of whether you are suited to living overseas, can adapt to the new lifestyle and what thought you have regarding the future direction of your career.
     
  3. WaylonWu

    WaylonWu Established commenter

    I think most international schools have probationary periods. I think as the previous poster said, you would have to do something pretty dire not to pass the probation.
     
  4. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    In some places, it's part of the labour legislation. In Spain, for example, all contracts have a three-month trial period and either side is free to cancel the contract at the end of the period without stating cause. It doesn't happen, in practice.
     
  5. Malaguena

    Malaguena New commenter

    No contract in UK is permanent until it has been in force for 2 years, even if it says permanent contract from the start. So unless you have sat and worried about it in the UK, I don't see why you should be worrying about an overseas one tbh.
     
  6. mikemcdonald25

    mikemcdonald25 Occasional commenter

    In my experience all schools have had a probationary period. On a two year contract it can be a semester or even the first year. On a three year contract it is usually the first year.

    Despite what happygreenfrog says, it can and does happen, not frequently, but it is not that unusual.

    As he rightly says, not everyone is suited to the overseas lifestyle, some people leave the UK thinking it will be just like home but with nicer weather and no stress (i.e.ofsted).

    Others, to be brutally frank, leave the UK because they can't cut in the UK and are just not very good teachers. In these cases it is often better to get rid of them early than let them blight your school and your students futures.
     
  7. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Hmm. I think that mikemcdonald25 is being a bit harsh. Being an expat teacher usually means being away from one's own country, culture, language, support network of friends and family etc., etc. This situation can in itself cause difficulties, especially for young singletons, and things can become unbearable if you throw into the mix some problems with accommodation, an unhelpful HR department (some of the ones I encountered in the ME were unspeakably awful), a few awkward local parents (who just happen to be good friends of the school's owner) and some stroppy students (try teaching some Saudi or Kuwaiti teenage boys). Yes, I have heard of a few teachers having their contracts ended, but usually they were simply not allowed to renew after the first two years.

    Having said that, I have also worked in schools where recruitment problems were so bad that they never fired anyone, no matter how unprofessionally they behaved. In the days of the infamous Mr Black, a colleague from the school for ex-alcholics would prowl the streets of Heliopolis, looking for young boys. The Egyptian Police finally arrested him and he left the country rather quickly, only to return a few years later and get himself murdered.

    On the other side of the coin, I knew quite a few teachers in Qatar who went away to Dubai for the weekend and then do not come back. Perhaps they would have been sacked if they had stayed.
     
  8. Probationary periods do exist in most contracts I have seen. I also know some excellent teachers who were let go right at the end of their probation, with no warning, simply because the school admin was a joke.

    Unfortunately, it's like most things overseas, you can never know in advance, but it's also what makes life as an IT so fun (most of the time!)... and some good research before you go will help making sure your choice of school is informed and you don't end up in a dodgy place (and there are more and more of those around). I'd be especially careful with new schools.
     
  9. larathegiraffe

    larathegiraffe New commenter

    I think they do exist but it is not always two-way. I pulled out of working in Kazakhstan this year because the contract stated a three month probationary period and the school could just fire me, but if I didn't like the school, I had to refund everything. After the horror stories I'd read about and heard directly from teachers who had returned from working in Kazakhstan in the last 12 months, it just didn't seem to be worth the effort.

    "I knew quite a few teachers in Qatar who went away to Dubai for the weekend and then do not come back."

    Ho Ho Ho. Exactly the same in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia! I wouldn't wish teaching teenage boys in either of those countries on anyone, as they are the most offensive, disgusting, lazy, cheating apologies for human beings on the planet. The real joke is the very high opinion of themselves that they have. And their parents are even worse. No one in these countries has any empathy for anyone else in the world. I think working in either of those countries is best described as 'character building'.
     
  10. happygreenfrog

    happygreenfrog Occasional commenter

    Whilst we are on contract tales, I know of two teachers who didn't even make it through the door for the first day. One, with a signed contract in hand, was told the day before term started the low numbers of returning students meant his job was no longer available, the second, on a work visa run to Singapore, a common event in SE Asia, got rather drunk, failed to meet the agent and then caused an 'incident' at the embassy when trying to atone for his error. As one would suspect, an alternative was immediately sought.

    Further, I've know some pretty poor teachers have their contracts renewed at the end of the term, some who have poor attendance records, tardy time-keeping and out of school misdemeanors. In some locations you need to go some to not get a contract renewal.

    On the other hand, worked at one smaller school in SE Asia where, as hippo notes, the parents are influential and very few teachers last past the end of their contract. Never known a school have such a needlessly high turnover of staff and so little regard for the value of staff continuity. Pretty good school in the grand scheme of things, but with a delusional desire for perfection.
     
  11. mikemcdonald25

    mikemcdonald25 Occasional commenter

    I take your point Hippo (harsh Moi!!) not all schools are good schools, particularly in the exploding business of international education (and I use the term business deliberately) but that is why it is usually a two way process. In the schools that I have worked in the probationary period has always been a two way street. it’s a chance for the school to unload what they see as a person who is not, ‘a good fit for the school’. It is also a way for a teacher who finds themselves in a school that, ‘has problems’ to leave without penalty and not, ‘do a runner’.

    Having said that, if all the things you say are true; i.e.

    “Being an expat teacher usually means being away from one's own country, culture, language, support network of friends and family etc., etc. This situation can in itself cause difficulties, especially for young singletons, and things can become unbearable”

    Then maybe they should have stayed at home! Harsh but fair, I hope!

    And whilst we are on contract tales.

    I worked in one school where the new staff had arrived early for orientation and went through all the usual steps; i.e. find a house, open a bank account etc etc. I spoke to one guy, just of the cuff, how is it going, etc etc and he seemed perfectly happy.

    We got to the first day of school, no sign of him in his homeroom/tutor group, didn’t turn up to first lesson, apparently he had got up that morning and gone straight to the airport without a word.
     
  12. WaylonWu

    WaylonWu Established commenter

    I've heard a somewhat similar story.
     
  13. WaylonWu

    WaylonWu Established commenter

    Under those conditions it definitely wouldn't have been. What an unreasonable contract! Totally insecure and a person could be landed with a big bill after a few months. I wouldn't touch such a contract with a bargepole.
     
  14. WaylonWu

    WaylonWu Established commenter

    I've also heard of this happening quite frequently. Usually though it's been when the school (private) doesn't want to pay the end of contract bonus and flight back. No problems with the teacher up to that point when all sorts of 'problems' with the teacher crop up as an excuse to fire them and save themselves some money. Very dirty way to treat people.
     
  15. serverservant

    serverservant New commenter

    Never had a job overseas that didn't have probation. However, Germany was the only place that after probation the contract was permanent. In many schools you get a second probation on signing your second contract!
     

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