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5 Things UK Teaching Agencies Won't Tell You

When you’re doing your research to make your move to the UK to teach, it can be incredibly confusing.  So many agencies, so little (apparent) difference. Nearly all agencies will tell you the same thing:

  • Yes, you’ll have an amazing time in London!
  • As if you’ll get homesick – there’s so much to do
  • You can travel Europe whenever you want!
  • We work with some of the nicest schools in London
  • Umbrella companies are the best way to be paid


Some of the above cases might actually be true, however in the vast majority of cases it is anything but. Most teachers are too hesitant to ask the tough questions - and agencies are often reluctant to divulge unless asked – so here are 5 things that most UK teaching agencies won’t tell you:


1) London can be lonely

The enthusiasm you feel for London when you first arrive is amazing; whilst you’re fighting jet lag and 24hrs with no sleep, your mind and your body are raging to see the new surroundings. After day 1 the struggle can kick in, especially when you’re trying to find some rental accommodation (still under the influence of jet lag) and get settled in a new country. Arriving in winter? It’s worse.

Even when you get your bearings, have started work and you’re no longer living out of a suitcase it can still be a lonely place. With many teachers either travelling by themselves or with a friend, having such a reduced support network makes it hard during the tough times. Even the staffroom in school can be tough for a casual or a new full time teacher. This is the reason why Aussie themed-bars (helloooo Walkabout) have been so popular; it gives you a hit of being back home and helps defeat the homesickness.

Of course it’s not all doom & gloom; London is one of the most amazing cities in the world and, if you’re proactive, you’ll always find something to keep you going and ratify your decision to make the move!


At Protocol we make sure recently arrived teachers have a strong support network; we host free teacher drinks on the first Friday of each month near our head office.  In addition we’re always hosting other events like Christmas dinners, travel evenings (with Contiki, Topdeck and others), ice skating (in winter), teacher prizes and generally making sure you’re settling in to your new life.



2) The schools can be tough

Luckily many teachers understand the stereotype of London schools; this at least prepares them for the ‘tough’ ones. London can be seen as a much larger version of Sydney; there are plenty of ‘average’ schools, some amazing schools and some really tough ones too. Given that London has over twice as many people as Sydney, it goes without saying that it will, by numbers, have more tough schools, more average schools and more amazing schools too.

The biggest difference teachers face in London schools compared to back home isn’t necessarily behaviour, it is diversity. London is incredibly culturally diverse, therefore you can have a class of 26 kids and 25 come from non-English speaking backgrounds. With some Australian teachers having little to no experience working in such diverse classes, they fail to actively differentiate their teaching to target these different levels of English attainment. This produces work that is too hard; consequently the kids go off task and BANG – poor behaviour.


Protocol Education is the UK’s largest education agency; we work with nearly 1000 schools in London alone. We work with government (maintained) schools, faith-based schools, academies and private & independent schools too, so when you choose to work with us you’re choosing the agency with the largest presence in the UK.



3) You won’t travel to Europe as much as you thought

In theory you can book your ticket and jump on the 50min flight from London to Paris whenever you want. Working casually? Great – book Friday out of the diary with your consultant and have a long weekend in Amsterdam!

The reality is that most teachers want to work during the term as much as they can to save money; this allows them to have amazing breaks during the school holidays.  This quickly becomes a similar work dynamic to back home; work Mon-Fri, relax/go out weekends and then travel school holidays. Of course you can travel as much as you like, however with London rent being even more expensive than Sydney you’d want to ensure you work when you can so you can afford to travel when you want!


At Protocol we offer guaranteed casual work with a 60min travel limit (meaning you don’t have to accept work over an hour away). This allows you the security of work during the term with the ability to travel during the holidays!



4) We get paid when you teach

There is a big teacher shortage in the UK at the moment and Aussie teachers are in high demand. As an agency we get paid by the school when you complete a work placement. This relationship works well as everybody is happy – the school, the agency and, more importantly, you!

Due to the teacher shortage we have more work than we have teachers; during much of the year we have daily casual work that we simply can’t fill as we’ve used up all of our teachers. The same goes for full time work; we simply can’t get enough teachers.


Most agencies don’t want to discuss this relationship, however we want to make it transparent how it works. You work, we charge the school, you get paid. Simple.



5) Registering with umbrella companies allows agencies to pass their fees on to you to pay

When your agency suggests you register with an umbrella company, they are doing this for one simple reason: it saves them paying a UK-style Medicare levy. For a teacher on £140 per day this means that their agency effectively passes on this levy of £73 per week to that teacher. You now pay this additional £73 fee (known as an Employer National Insurance Contribution) instead of your agency. This means that your pay will be about £70 lower per week (assuming you're working 5 days.)

Agencies won’t tell you this – and why would they when they save over £70 a week! If you’ve ever wondered why agencies are so keen to have you register with an umbrella company, then this is the reason.

Now that you can’t claim relocation expenses (flights etc) to the UK there is no financial incentive for you to register with an umbrella company. You’re very likely to be significantly worse off - often to the tune of £70 (over $120) a week – when you choose to be paid with one when compared to an agency paying you directly (known as PAYE.)


At Protocol Education we do not advocate the use of umbrella companies as a method of teacher pay. Our default payroll method is PAYE (similar to PAYG here in Australia) which increases your take home pay significantly. 

Tags: Teaching in London, Teaching Agencies for Australians in the UK, Teaching Agencies for Australians in England, Teaching Agencies for Australians in London

Category: Australian Teachers

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