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Boarding schools are best for summer work

Stated hours, better-than-minimum wage and, often, accommodation are part of the package, making them an attractive option

Since Brexit means fewer EU teachers work in UK schools, you might think the institutions would be falling over themselves to get summer school staff with the right to work, so why aren’t the operators paying more for teachers?

Wages are indeed creeping up, but the pay can still fall below minimum wage when you add in all the extra duties they may ask you to do for free.

Under UK national minimum wage conditions, the least you can be paid for a 48- hour week is £456 before holiday pay for a non- residential teacher aged 23 or over. But, under minimum wage law, they can deduct up to £60.90 for accommodation, leaving £395.90. Alternatively, they can pay you the full wage and make you work some extra hours for free: a maximum of 6.5 hours a week if you’re 21 or over.

Apart from accommodation hours, you must be paid for all work-related activities you’re asked to do, including non-teaching duties.

If you’re an experienced teacher looking for a summer job which pays well above minimum wage, and you don’t want to be at the management’s beck and call 18 hours a day, your best bet is a boarding school. Millfield, Haileybury, Fettes, Whitgift, St Clare’s Oxford and Bede’s Summer are all offering posts starting at around £550-£600 a week.

“Kids are looked after by welfare staff between 8am and 8pm when you 
are generally off duty”

Most boarding schools are now running the ‘house system’, where kids are looked after by welfare staff between 8am and 8pm when you are generally off duty. All offer ample free time, often with a day and half off a week or even a full weekend. If you need accommodation, check the ads, as some of the city-based schools don’t offer residential options.

Among the private providers whose rates have been published so far, only Discovery Summer and SBC come close to boarding- school levels. While they expect slightly longer hours, they both timetable evenings off and other free time. (Exsportise, also traditionally one of the better payers, hasn’t published its rates yet.)

Not all boarding schools are so generous. One is offering just £400 for teaching, plus residential duties, plus excursion work and gives no clear idea of the total hours. Others just say their salaries are competitive – always a worrying sign.

For your average private language school summer operation, £400 a week is probably average, but the hours of work are rarely clear. It’s pretty easy, however, to figure out from the wage the maximum hours they can legally ask you to work for the money (see box below).

So where, for teachers with the right to work in the UK, is the Brexit bonus? There is some evidence that summer schools are struggling to get enough responses and a number have advertised a ‘competitive salary’ and then had to re-advertise with the pay rates.

Unless you can find a school offering £450+ a week net of holiday pay for a guaranteed maximum of 48 hours, you might still be better off in your local supermarket – in the UK most of these now guarantee £10 an hour.

How many hours can they legally make me work?

  1. Take the figure quoted as a weekly rate. For this example, £450 including holiday pay.
  2. If the figure includes holiday pay, deduct it. Holiday pay only counts towards minimum wage when you take holiday. Divide the wage (£450) by 112.07. This comes to 4.015, then multiply this by 100 = £401.50.
  3. Add £60.90 for accommodation: £401.50 + £60.90 = £462.40.
  4. Deduct anything they are charging for accommodation, eg, £55: £462 – £55 = £407.40.
  5. Divide this total by the hourly minimum wage for your age group. From 1 April 2022, the hourly rates are: age 23+, £9.50; age 21-22, £9.18; age 18-20, £6.83. Then round to the nearest quarter of an hour, eg: you are 23+ and your weekly wage after accommodation is £407.40. £407.40 ÷ 9.50 = 42.88 hours. To the nearest quarter of an hour, that’s 43 hours.

The final figure must cover not only your main job, but any non-teaching work and time you’re asked to spend on work-related activities, including meetings, admin, cover and CPD. If you work more than the maximum legal hours, you must be paid overtime.

Keep a record of your working time (using a free work-tracking app like Clockify is a good idea) and hang on to your weekly work timetables. Politely let the employer know you have done overtime by email, so you have documentary evidence. If they don’t pay your overtime by the end of the contract, and haven’t given you time off in lieu, phone the employees’ helpline ACAS on 0300 123 1100 (you can do this anonymously) or contact the Union ( You don’t need to be a member to get help.

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Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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