Frequently Asked Questions


Here are our twenty most frequently asked questions.

Will I face many challenges as an overseas trained teacher in the United Kingdom?

How are the schools divided according to ages?

What are the different types of schools in the United Kingdom?

What is the school-year like?

How long is the school day?

What is QTS? Can I teach in the UK without it?

I hear that TimePlan places teachers in Scotland. What do I need to know if I’m thinking of living and teaching in Scotland?

I’ve never dealt with a recruitment agency before. What should I know?

What will be my biggest expense?

How much luggage can I bring?

What other expenses will I need to be aware of?

How much will I spend a week?

When will I get paid?

How do I open a bank account?

How much tax will I pay?

Will I need medical insurance?

I’m coming on my own. Will I find it difficult to meet people?

What can I do if I am finding things difficult?

How can I send money home?

Will I need to get a car?

Will I face many challenges as an overseas trained teacher in the United Kingdom?

The UK is a very multi-cultural society. Students are accustomed to having teachers from a variety of backgrounds teaching them. At first, you might find things more demanding – some overseas teachers find the UK lesson planning system quite onerous initially. However, the majority of teachers trained outside of the UK appreciate how straightforward the UK curriculum is and find they are able to implement unit plans effectively.

If you wish, you may want to familiarise yourself with the National Curriculum in your specific subject area and age group before you arrive in the UK . All in all, remember that you are in a different environment and it is likely that it will take time to adapt to it. top

How are the schools divided according to ages?

Schools in the UK are divided into Key Stages: Foundation Stage (pre-school; non-compulsory), Key Stage 1 (4 to 7 years old), Key Stage 2 (7 to 11 years old), Key Stage 3 (11 to 14 years old) and Key Stage 4 (14 to 16 years old). After Key Stage 4 students may choose to enter Post-16 / Key Stage 5 (16 to 18 years old), and possibly go on to Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). top

What are the different types of schools in the United Kingdom?

There is a variety of different types of schools in the UK. State schools are funded by the UK government and follow the UK Curriculum. At the secondary level, state schools may be mixed (co-educational) or single-sex. Grammar schools are also run by the state, but students need to score highly on entrance exams to be accepted. Additionally, there are also schools affiliated with certain religions, such as Church of England and Catholic schools. These schools are also open to the public. Students attending independent and private schools in the UK pay tuition fees in order to attend. These schools are not required to follow the UK curriculum, although many do. top

What is the school-year like?

There are three terms to the UK academic year: Autumn Term (September – December); Spring Term (December – April) and Summer Term (April – July). Each term is divided into two, with a week-long half-term break in the middle. Christmas holidays are generally around two weeks long, and run from a few days before Christmas into the New Year. Easter holidays usually last about two weeks. There are several Bank Holidays (statutory holidays) throughout the year, as well. top

How long is the school day?

Most schools start at 9.00 and end at 15.30. There are normally two breaks, 10.30-10.45 and then lunch from 12.30 to 1.30.

Whether you are at the school on a supply basis or a full time employee, it is likely that you will be asked to help out occasionally with supervision of pupils at break time. Every school is different in terms of the times they expect their staff to be around for prep time, staff meetings, parent evenings, etc. Your working hours should be clarified with your Headteacher before you begin your post. top

What is QTS?

QTS stands for Qualified Teacher Status. It is the accreditation awarded to teachers in England once they have completed a period of initial teacher training and passed a variety of skills tests. Teachers trained overseas who do not have QTS are eligible to teach in the UK for up to four years before they must achieve QTS. For those teachers who do not intend on teaching in the UK for longer than four years and for those who have never taught in the UK before, QTS shouldn’t be a concern for you. If you are uncertain about whether or not you need to have QTS to teach in the UK, please speak with your TimePlan Coordinator, or read about the policy online the Training and Development Agency for Schools. top

I hear that TimePlan places teachers in Scotland. What do I need to know if I’m thinking of living and teaching in Scotland?

TimePlan is very proud of the relationship we have with the Local Authorities in Scotland. Since 2001, TimePlan Teachers have enjoyed the unique opportunity to live and work in areas ranging from the Scottish Highlands to the Islands.

The academic year in Scotland is slightly different from that of England, in that it usually begins in the second or third week in August and runs through to the end of June. Apart from a number of single-day holidays, schools break for a week or two in October, Christmas, February and Easter.

In terms of the curriculum, it is non-statutory in Scotland and so is not dictated by the Government. Local authorities and schools decide what is to be taught, taking into account national guidelines and advice. If you are interested in learning more about the national guidelines for Scottish schools, have a look at the Curriculum for Excellence online.

For teachers looking to work in Scotland, the only significant difference in your application to TimePlan will be your registration with the General Teaching Council of Scotland. In order to secure a position in Scotland teachers must be registered with this governing body. While the process involves additional forms to complete and documents to submit, it is an entirely achievable task and TimePlan has helped many teachers through the process. TimePlan is also able to assist with the fees affiliated with the GTCS application.

Our dedicated Scotland Office is always available to help with further queries about the unique teaching experiences available in Scotland. top

I’ve never dealt with a recruitment agency before. What should I know?

In the UK, schools rely on teacher recruitment agencies to find them suitable teachers for day-to-day (supply, substitute, relief, etc.), short-term and long term positions. TimePlan was the first recruitment agency to specialise in placements in the education sector back in 1989. Over the years we have established a very solid relationship with a vast range of schools in England and Scotland.

Registering with an agency is similar to registering with a local school board or school district. Here at TimePlan, we pride ourselves on providing schools with quality teachers. As such, our standards are very high. You will need to supply supporting documents, have a successful interview with us and show evidence of good subject and curriculum knowledge before being considered for the vacancies we have.

Recently in the UK, there has been an explosion of new teacher recruitment agencies cropping up. As the first agency to professionally recruit teachers for the UK we have a long standing history of good practice. We are aware that teachers have a choice in agencies and we are concerned that teachers take care to ensure they are registering with a reputable company. In the UK, it is illegal for recruitment agencies to charge the candidate (that’s you – the teacher!) any fee for their services. Please beware if you are asked for money at any stage of your registration with an agency. top

What will be my biggest expense?

The airfare will probably be the single most costly expense you will need to budget for. It is worthwhile going to budget travel agents like STA or Travel Cuts; they deal specifically with travelers under the age of 30.

Another good option is using a flight consolidator, such as Flight Centre, Opodo, Expedia or e-Bookers. Shop around as you can get some very good deals. The better the deal, the less flexible the ticket will be.

It is worth looking into budget airlines as well, although you should bear in mind that tighter baggage restrictions often apply and may not be suited to a move overseas. top

How much luggage can I bring?

Remember that in most cases you only have about 20-25 kg of baggage allowance. It is very expensive to pay an additional luggage allowance. It will work out cheaper to bring the absolute essentials and then to buy some belongings when you get to the UK. Don’t pack the sweater that you haven’t worn in five years!

Be sure to check with your flight operator for details on your luggage allowance before you fly. top

What other expenses will I need to be aware of?

You will need some money in savings to help with accommodation. Most landlords will want a month/month-and-a-half rent as a deposit. Your rent, and subsequently, the size of your deposit are obviously dependent on where you live. Our experience tells us that approximately £450-550 is the norm for a monthly rent. So your first month’s rent (with returnable deposit) will be around £900 -1100. top

You will need in the region of £1500 to £1750 as a sum of money to tide you over until you get paid for the first time.

It is important to remember that once you arrive in the UK, it could be a few weeks before your first pay date. This is due to the time it takes to set up a bank account and also depends on when you arrive in our pay calendar. Only you know your spending habits, but be sure to have in the vicinity of £1500 – 2000 to tide you over until your first pay day. top

How much will I spend a week?

This is always a difficult question to answer because it is really a matter of your personal spending and budgeting habits, as well as your reasons for making the move to the UK in the first place. It is entirely possible to live comfortably, save money and/or travel around Europe on a teacher’s salary.

You should be able to cover all your expenses for between £180 and £250 a week. Bear in mind this is an estimate and may vary depending on where you live, how many people you live with and how far you have to travel to work. Below is a rough guide:

How much will I spend a week?

Rent – Between £85 and £130 a week

Food and other groceries – Between £50 and £80 a week (everyone varies). Most houseshares have a “kitty” system where everyone contributes a nominal amount to cover the essentials such as butter, milk, cleaning products, etc.

Transport – A single journey on the London tube costs about £4.00, however owning what’s called an ‘Oyster Card’ brings this cost down to £2.00. A monthly travel card on your Oyster Card covering most of the areas we deal with in London costs about £35 per week and includes all buses and trains all week long. Costs outside of London tend to be slightly cheaper.

Social costs – It depends on whether you are a frequent “pub” visitor, theatregoer or like to eat in expensive restaurants!

Utilities – Water, electricity and gas will come in at about £10 a week.

Telephone – Dependent on how much time you spend on the phone. We suggest that you join one of the many companies that offer cheap overseas calls, or buy phone cards. You will also pay line rental.

Television – There is actually a TV License that needs to be purchased in order to use airwaves in the UK! This is typically in the region of £140 per year and is split with the rest of your household, so the cost per week is minimal if you’re sharing.

Council Tax – This is a tax that is paid to the local government. Amount payable varies from area to area and is dependent upon house size; it may be around £15 per week.

The secret is not to convert back to your own currency, otherwise you will be shocked by the conversion! The pound varies against most other currencies, so to constantly convert may be disheartening. After your first few pay cheques, you should be comfortable with the pound and have adjusted to the cost of living in the UK. top

When will I get paid?

TimePlan pays every two weeks directly into your bank account. You should send your completed and signed timesheets to us weekly or, for day-to-day work, daily. Please note the dates you work carefully on the timesheet and get them to your TimePlan office on time. If you are asked by a school to stay longer than the original assignment, make sure that you tell us straight away. It helps us to get your pay right the first time. A list of pay dates will be available at your UK induction. top

How do I open a bank account?

We recommend that you check with your bank in your own country to see if they have an affiliated bank in the UK. If they do, you can apply to open an account through them before you leave for the UK. Occasionally this will involve transferring a sum of money in British pounds into the account. It may also involve a fee for setting up an account from overseas.

Another option is using a global bank such as CitiBank or HSBC. These banks have branches throughout the world and frequently offer relocation packages that allow you to set up an account prior to leaving home. HSBC’s Passport account is an example of such a service. Expect to pay a fee of around £50 or more in administration charges. You should also be prepared to sign a fixed term agreement of 12 months or more and to open the account with a sum of money in British pounds.

The easiest and most cost efficient way of setting up a bank account is to wait until you arrive in the UK. TimePlan will be happy to assist you in opening an account with Lloyds TSB, one of the UK’s most popular high street banks. We will provide a letter of introduction and advise you on which branch to visit to open an account. We suggest bringing a utility bill with your home address, previous bank statements and if possible a letter of reference from your bank at home. At your appointment with the bank you will also need to provide your passport. top

How much tax will I pay?

UK tax and National Insurance will be deducted directly from your fortnightly pay (i.e. every two weeks). This is termed PAYE (Pay As You Earn). The current basic rate of tax is 20%. Most employees will be entitled to a Personal Tax Allowance of £6,475 per tax year (current rates). This allowance is not given all at once, but spread over the 52 weeks of the tax year. After the taxable allowance, any remainder is taxed at 20%. National Insurance contributions will also be deducted from your salary. Altogether, you will pay approximately 30% of your salary in tax and National Insurance contributions.

For those teachers who are not on a work permit, TimePlan can advise on methods of minimising tax liability. This will increase net pay and also allow teachers to offset teaching-related expenses against their earnings. top

Will I need medical insurance?

A percentage of the money you earn is paid into the National Health Service (National Insurance). This is paid in addition to Income Tax. This entitles you to free medical treatment in the United Kingdom. It is important that when you arrive and have found accommodation that you register with your nearest doctor. A list of local doctors can be obtained from the local library or yellow pages. It might be worthwhile to take out a year’s travel policy for Europe, this will work out cheaper for any travel you do in Europe and for any major emergency. top

I’m coming on my own. Will I find it difficult to meet people?

Not at all! For starters, you are going to be working in a school environment where school staff are generally very friendly and welcoming to new colleagues.

In addition, as a TimePlan Teacher you will be invited to our Social Events, held frequently all over the UK. This is a great way to meet fellow TimePlan Teachers as well as local Coordinators on the TimePlan Team. You will soon see familiar faces at every event. It’s always interesting to hear who has been away with a group of TimePlan Teachers since our last event or who booked tickets to a West End musical together. TimePlan Social Events are a great way to meet new friends.

Also, pay attention to the grapevine. You’d be surprised at how often there is a cousin’s best friend’s university mate (etc!) who recently moved to the UK. Friends and family will always offer to introduce you to people they know in the UK, so don’t be shy! Give that friend of a friend a ring and meet for a coffee or a pint! top

What can I do if I am finding things difficult?

Only part of our job is to place you in a school. Another part is to make sure that you are OK and that you feel supported. If there are any problems in your school, the first port of call is your line manager, however if you do not feel that you can go to them then please do not hesitate to contact us and we will do whatever we can to assist you. top

How can I send money home?

Companies such as PayPal, Western Union and MoneyGram are some of the fastest, safest and most reliable ways of sending UK pounds to overseas bank accounts or to family members / loved ones. Although their rates might seem a little expensive, security of your funds is paramount. Deals which seem too good to be true often are so please be wary! top

Will I need to get a car?

Travel links (tubes, trains and buses) are generally very good in cities across the UK. The vast majority of overseas teachers do not purchase a car in this country. However, if you are planning to stay for a year or two and would like to be able to take the opportunity to maximise your travel at weekends then it is a good option, if you can afford it. Teachers living in more rural areas may find a car provides a bit more flexibility and freedom in their travel plans, but this will be an individual choice.

(It should be noted, however, that many of our teachers have been shocked at the price of insurance for overseas drivers.) top