After Brexit, is it too late to teach in Europe?

How Britain leaving the European Union could affect UK teachers looking to work in international schools on the continent

Brexit will take two years if not longer, but we are already seeing consequences and that includes opportunities for British teachers working overseas.

Good news for now

People may have been complaining about the value of the pound during holidays to Europe this summer. But for British teachers working in Europe, the impact on their income is positive.

Many international schools pay in local currency which is currently worth much more in comparison to the pound. This means that many teachers have received an effective pay rise without the school paying more! By spending earnings in the UK, or transferring savings back home, they’ll get more for their money.

With Brexit anticipated to be protracted, and continued market uncertainty throughout this time, British teachers working in Europe will likely be able to enjoy financial benefits for several years. And with most international school employment contracts lasting just one or two years, opportunities still exist for British teachers wishing to enjoy the benefits of working in Europe before the UK leaves the European Union.

Long-term impact

The consequences of Britain exiting the EU are still unknown - for international schools in Europe, and for teachers from the UK wishing to work there. Free movement of labour is the main concern. British teachers could find the process of getting a job in an EU country more complex.

Lorraine Wittenberg, Recruitment and Admissions Co-ordinator at HSV International School in The Hague, says: “For us to recruit a non-EU teacher, we have to prove that no suitable recruit could have been found within the EU in order to secure a skilled migrant visa. As this is very difficult, it is not something we do at the moment.” This could be a real challenge for the school once Brexit occurs. “We pride ourselves on hiring highly qualified and experienced teachers, predominantly from the UK. If it becomes too difficult to secure them work visas (if that does become necessary), we will have to rethink our recruitment,” she says.

Teachers currently in Europe and wishing to stay could be faced with challenges too. Malcolm Davis, Director of the International School of Bremen, Germany explains: “No one is yet saying that those in employment can simply continue as if nothing has changed. The renewal of contracts might face the same steps as a new hire.” Because of this possibility, Lorraine Wittenberg and her British colleagues at HSV are considering Dutch nationality or permanent residency, allowing them to continue living and working in The Netherlands without restriction.

Some British teachers considering international careers are searching their family trees for Irish roots and applying for citizenship; opening access to Europe that might not otherwise exist. Of three new British teachers at HSV this year, two have Irish passports. “They’ll be fine, regardless of Brexit,” says Lorraine.

Steve Ellis, Secondary School Principal at Dresden International School, Germany, agrees that Brexit will create more challenges for international schools in the EU wishing to hire British teachers. “It will add more complexity, more paperwork,” he says. However, he adds: “I sense that employing British teachers will continue.”

Interestingly, the number of international school teaching jobs in Europe could actually increase. Many analysts are predicting a relocation of some businesses from the UK because of Brexit and this could benefit international schools. Peter Kotrc, Director and CEO of Berlin Brandenburg International School, Germany says “some places like Frankfurt, where banks will have to move, will experience further pressure on school places and new international schools will open.”

Beyond Europe

The impact of Brexit isn’t just being felt in Europe. Brian Christian, Principal of the British School in Tokyo told the TES in July that the Brexit referendum had benefitted his British teachers. Because of the weak pound, Brian’s staff who are saving their earnings in the UK are significantly better off. “A year ago, a pound was costing me ¥185 (Japanese yen) and now it costs me ¥135,” he said. His Assistant Head is British. “She contacted me a week after the referendum to say she had never had such a rapid pay rise, but it didn’t cost me anything! This could help with recruitment,” he said.

Britain’s economic uncertainty has created a golden opportunity for British teachers, who are in extremely high demand by international schools. Not only do they have the incentive of extensive job choices and excellent career opportunities all over the world, but right now they have the chance, when paid in foreign currency, to earn comparatively more. For many teachers, this will be an opportunity too good to miss. Too late to teach overseas? Not yet at least.

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