Getting into TEFL in the UK
September 18, 2006 7:50 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to get qualified in TEFL and find a teaching position, given that I've probably missed the start of the academic year?

With typical bad timing, my brain has just informed me that teaching English to adults is the right career for me. I would like to put my plans into action as soon as possible, and am baffled by the amount of information on the web.

I think I would like to take a CELTA qualification, as this seems to be the best for teaching in the UK. I don't have huge wanderlust, but am able to work abroad and would enjoy it. It seems that it's much easier to get a job in the UK if you have experience.

Are there any programs where I can take the CELTA leading on to a teaching position?

If I do a course and then look for work, what are my chances of finding a position late in the year or early next year, allowing that I would need some time to prepare travel? And what locations are on the hunt for teachers?

If I do a course in the UK is International House in London any good?
posted by London Irregular to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I know you mention UK, but you could take into account that the academic year in southamerican countries starts next March, and they/we always need native speakers of english for teaching.
posted by Memo at 11:23 AM on September 18, 2006

OK, it's been five years since I did my TESOL course, and four since I've used it in anger, so all of this might be out of date...

There are certainly places where you can do your training and then go straight into a job, but I don't know of any (or more accurately can't remember any). So I'm afraid I can't recommend any. A Celta or TESOL is a good way in, and a good way to get jobs abroad. I did my mine through a local further education college, which was significantly cheaper than doing it through a private school.

I've heard of International House, but couldn't tell you if they're good or not! Sorry!

The four week course was fun but intense be prepared to put your life on hold. I'm a snob, but I think you need a minimum of a four week course, with actual classroom experience, just so that you aren't completely swamped when you start work. When I worked in Poland I was working alongside Polish teachers, who all had masters degrees. You get cut a lot of slack if you are the native speaker, but if you are going to take the job seriously, you need to spend time on getting qualified, and being prepared to learn lots lots more on the job.

My course at least, job hunting, where to go and how to go about it, was included. When I started I had a vague idea that I'd go to China or South America (I was in a similar situation to you, I didn't get on a course until January). By the last week off the course I had job lined up in Poland, starting in one weeks time (believe me, moving abroad doesn't necessarily need lots of planning!)

Teaching English as a career is slightly different to using a teaching qualification as a springboard to working abroad. If you want to teach English to adults in the UK, you might want to investigate different qualifications as well. Look into the qualifications for basic skills teaching (NVQs maybe?), as ESoL falls under the government's basic skills strategy (one of three strands: ESoL, literacy and numeracy). There is also a qualification (also NVQ?) that lots of colleges offer, that's designed for people teaching adults.

It's very easy to get experience of teaching English to adults in the UK, just contact the basic skills department of your local college of further education and offer to volunteer as a classroom assistant. They will jump on you. The students will be fantastic, and it will be a great way to find out your options and find out what you actually want to do, as many of the tutors will have come from an ESoL background.

If you are interested in looking abroad, when I was teaching the place to go on the internet was Dave's ESL Cafe. I've no idea if it's still the place to go or not, but a quick glance at it suggests it's stll being used and updated...
posted by Helga-woo at 2:23 PM on September 18, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks!
posted by London Irregular at 3:51 AM on September 19, 2006

Sorry to start off on a negative, but there are few good EFL jobs in the UK. An awful lot of the positions out there pay £10 per teaching hour, so perhaps £7 per hour if you are a fast lesson planner. Here's a summer TEFL job paying £180-£200 per week plus accommodation. There are some decent UK teaching jobs, but they're not easy to find and they generally require plenty of qualifications and experience, as you have discovered.

Going to another country solves both the experience problem (it's easier to get that first job outside the UK) and the time of year problem (for various reasons, schools outside the UK hire at many times of year). However, you do need to be sure that you're the sort of person who can cope with living and working abroad. I've no idea how old you are, but I've seen many unhappy young TEFLers who assumed that teaching abroad would be roughly like an extended holiday. No offence.

I'd agree with you that the CELTA is the best way to go. It's not perfect, but with good tutors it's a great introduction and it's easily the most widely recognised introductory qualification. I don't know of any courses that promise a job on completion of the CELTA and I'm not sure that you'd want to work for a school that was that relaxed about its hiring policy. There are non-CELTA courses that promise a job on completion, but when you read the small print, it's with a partner school in China and anyone can get a job teaching English in China, qualified or not. (Not necessarily a particularly good job, but that's a side issue.)

International House in London may not be the best place to do a CELTA, but they're probably not far off (of course, it always depends on the tutors you get) and they're certainly reliable. If you find them expensive, other IHs run CELTAs around Europe which have lower course fees.

I'd agree with Helga-woo that volunteering in the UK is a great way to be sure that this is what you want to do before you commit money and time to it. She's also right that if you want to do this for life in the UK, there are alternative entry routes, involving getting 'proper' teacher training, but I'm not an expert in these.

However, I'd respectfully disagree with her over Dave's ESL Cafe (satirical link). An awful lot of the posters on its message boards appear to hate both teaching and the country that they live in, so it's a hive of negativity. You can sometimes find handy practical hints, but take any opinions with a large pinch of salt.

I'll try to keep an eye on this thread, so if you have any more questions, feel free to post them.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:27 AM on September 19, 2006

I did my CELTA last November at the International House in Krakow, Poland and am currently working in Indonesia. If you're willing to head over to eastern Europe (or Bangkok!) for a few weeks, the cost savings can be significant - back home in Los Angeles, the only school offering the CELTA wanted $2700, while IH Krakow wanted about $1300; it was cheaper for me to fly over there and share an apartment with some other people on the course than it was to stay home!

The CELTA is definitely worth it but as Helga-woo mentioned, the course is intense and you'll have to hit the ground running to catch up with your local competition. And while you don't mention much about it in your question it's to your advantage to shop around for contracts which seem advantageous to you; there are some unscrupulous money-grubbing schools out there and you've got to protect yourself and your career.

I'm happy to hook you up with the contact details of a bunch of folks from my course; I'm pretty sure all of them ended up with jobs no longer than a month or so after finishing the course, and many were hired mid-year for partial contracts and then went in for the full-year contract this fall - I imagine any number of schools in any number of places will require someone immediately, and their need is your advantage when it comes to negotiating compensation terms. I've posted a pretty exhaustive reply here to a similar question. Good luck!
posted by mdonley at 7:14 AM on September 19, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks a lot and sorry it took me a while to get back. It's great to get such useful replies when I thought the post was over.

I'm currently sorting out a temp job for the next few months, so the CELTA is on hold. Maybe I could email you if any questions come up later if you don't mind.
posted by London Irregular at 2:21 AM on September 25, 2006

« Older What to expect from auto insurance companies in an...   |   Should a Secondary Monitor Be The Same as My... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.