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How one English school succeeds in recruiting and retaining staff

In a world where EFL teachers are in short supply across the Anglosphere, a language school in Bournemouth, UK, has come up with what is, in this industry, an unusual solution: combine a teaching role with other work and offer them a permanent, salaried, year-round position at more than they can earn stacking shelves at a supermarket for the national average working week of 37.5 hours.

So, our Job of the Week award goes to Westbourne Academy of English, which is advertising a Teacher/Activity leader role at £26,000 to £29,700 a year for 26.5 hours of teaching, and one evening activity per fortnight, year-round. The balance of activities, however, may well change in the summer, and weekend excursions are paid on top. The rates of pay may look low to those in the state sector, but in EFL we’ve seen adverts for Directors of Study offering less.

This is only one school and there is only one position, but it deals with what has become the major stumbling block in EFL teacher recruitment: precarity. Hourly rates may have gone up in much of the UK – and dramatically so in London – but most contracts remain for zero hours and the average number of teaching hours remains 15. Not only is this not enough to live on, but it also may be too few to allow teachers to apply for in-work benefits. The language school industry is contributing to one of the great problems in the UK employment market: under-employment.

A handful of other schools have advertised salaried jobs in recent months, but at rates around the £22,000 mark for jobs which just involve teaching and finish at 3 in the afternoon. This is around £1300 a year less than you can make in a full-time job at Sainsburys, where you work longer hours but have no lesson planning, preparation and marking when you get home.

Teaching and preparation time – though still legally not counted as working time unless it is done on-site – is often considerable. In 2019, the Department of Education in England reported the lowest weekly time taken for lesson planning, preparation, marking and admin they have ever recorded: for every 20 hours of teaching, teachers averaged 15 hours of planning, prep, marking and admin. A similar study in Scotland’s state schools found that planning and preparation alone took about 20 minutes per teaching hour, while demands for full written lesson plans, weekly plans and schedules of work all increase the time taken considerably.

Westbourne Academy of English is unusual in that, along with Oxford School of English, it is part of the profit-making arm of New City College, a not-for-profit Further Education College in the State Sector. Language schools owned by not-for-profit educational institutions tend to put more emphasis on teaching quality. Indeed, Westbourne Academy is the only accredited school in Bournemouth to have the majority of its teaching rated as ‘very good’ on its last British Council Inspection. Education professionals who own schools are also keenly aware of the balance between student numbers and the need to offer teachers secure jobs.

A spokesman for owners, New City College, told the Gazette:

‘With student numbers to the UK increasing over the last two years, we are confident in offering a full time permanent contract with generous benefits in order to recruit and retain the best possible candidate.’

In the current market for teachers, language schools across the world who can’t offer secure teaching jobs may struggle, not just to recruit teachers, but to retain them. Salaried jobs with some non-teaching tasks included in the contract may well be the answer. 

To find out more or to apply, email: mark.halls@westbourneacademy.com

Image courtesy of Westbourne Academy
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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