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Relocating abroad as a lone parent: am I mad to consider it?!(15 Posts)
I studied languages at uni and would really like dd (7 - school year 2) to have some experience of a different culture and language. She doesn't speak anything other than English. I was thinking of 3-4 years abroad then probably moving back to UK.
My main foreign language is French so I've been looking at France & Switzerland. She'd have to go to a state school as there's no way I could afford an international school. Conversely, an international school might be my best bet for employment: I'm a qualified teacher though I've been out of teaching for 10 years. There's a miniscule chance that I could do the job I currently do in the UK in France or Switzerland, but it's very niche so highly unlikely (it also involves a lot of weekend and evening hours, which wouldn't work if I were abroad with no family support).
I'm really ready for a change and I feel that if I'm going to shift dd to a foreign school system, the younger the better. But there's a lot of negatives and I don't know if I'm just chasing unrealistic dreams. Should I keep checking the vacancies at international schools or is it completely unmanageable? Any advice?
My initial thoughts are that perhaps you should get back into teaching in the UK for at least a year or two before relocating overseas.
What about the other parent? Is he/she amenable to you taking your child overseas to live? If the answer is 'no' then your dream is a non-starter.
I've had a few overseas postings, but my children only went to International schools in SE Asia; these schools pretty much 'pick and choose' which teachers to employ as so many teachers want to work overseas for a few years; they especially like 'trailing spouses' where the other partner is on an expat posting and the company is paying the rent.....so the school doesn't have to.
Otherwise international schools also like to employ husband and wife couples who are both teaching at the school....they only need to pay one housing allowance for the couple, rather than on an individual basis. In general, teachers at international schools have free (or greatly reduced) school fees at the school where they are employed for their children.
However - if you are an outstanding candidate then they may consider interviewing you. AFAIK many of the international schools advertise in the TES, sometimes directly but more usually through an agency.
My spouse's company have a lot of expat employees' children at an international school in central Switzerland; the teachers are mainly from the UK, Canada and some from the US. SA and Down Under....but they all teach in the English language and local Swiss people teach in German.
I lived in Singapore where it has a German school, a French school and a Swiss school in addition to all the other international schools. I would imagine though that they prefer to employ teachers who have recent experience teaching in those countries?
Switzerland is very expensive to live in and it will cost a fortune for childcare; I am unsure of the regulations for a foreigner to employ an au-pair who is supposedly learning the local language, but you would need an extra bedroom which will cost a lot more in rent. France will be cheaper.
I do have to say that it's popular for expats to be in countries where household help (eg. An amah/live in maid who helps with childcare and housekeeping) is not so expensive as in Europe eg. SE Asia, the Middle East and perhaps Cyprus which attracts domestic workers from the Philippines.
I think if you can get a job it would be an amazing opportunity for you both. She's a perfect age to go to a regular French school and learn by immersion.
If want something culturally different and a Francophile environment you could consider Morocco or Lebanon. Lots of private English medium schools/bi-tri lingual.
Not sure which ones offer discounts for tuition.
Live in help, warm, safe, affordable, slow pace....very similar to many south East Asian postings.
Your best bet would be an international school as a French teacher, I'm not sure how UK qualifications are seen/accepted in France etc but here in Italy there are years and years of waiting lists for state school jobs for Italian qualified teachers so a foreigner would never get a look-in.
Your daughter is the perfect age to be chucked into full immersion, and I would definitely go for it once your groundwork and research have been done. (as others have said, if the other parent is around, you'd need their permission too)
The difficulty is Switzerland is that the two systems are so different. Term dates, curriculum and even hours will not correspond. Your dd could well have a few hours of lessons then a few hours break and lunch before more lessons with a half day on Wednesdays. So you'd need to consider how to bridge those gaps and probably pay for a midday childminder at least. She would be expected to walk to and fro alone and communication can be tricky. Extra curricular activities will be scheduled around state school hours, often while you would still be working. You would need to secure a job first, then an address. International school teachers tend to be more limited financially than their pupils' families and are employed on local terms, so have fewer of the typical expat perks like housing or relocation allowances unless senior or with sought after subjects.
Thanks for the input so far, lots of useful information to consider.
My ex-h does have contact with her. He wouldn't oppose a move abroad. We've discussed it in the past. I would broach it with him again once I had a firmer plan.
Unfortunately, my main subject isn't on the IB syllabus so that makes it extremely limiting (and I started out as a French teacher, which also isn't very useful in France). I'm exploring other non-teaching options.
Aside from your job concerns I wanted to give you a bit of a positive story. We live in Brittany and have a gite next to our house, 2 years ago we rented it out for the winter to an English couple and their then 5 year old son who went to the village school. They both did part time (quite boring) online work, but it paid for them to be here and gave them some free time. They were both lucky to get a years sabbatical from their UK jobs & managed to rent out their house too. They were here from September to June and during that time he became totally fluent and integrated in every way. Trying to show you if you can get the practical side sorted it can be very beneficial.
It would be quite easy to do that where I live in Brussels, though I'd never recommend doing it before having a firm job offer. There are over 50 international schools in the country, the big 3 offer free school places to those staff on a relocation contract but not to locally employed staff. Otherwise local French and Dutch schools are not too hard a transition, unless of the very nervous disposition. More local schools are also looking for English teachers now and teachers of other subjects - history, geography, Science - as immersion English becomes more popular in local secondary schools.
Child care is easy and cheap in Belgium, Belgium is not expensive unless you deliberately make it so.
I have taight in Asia and ME as a language teacher. Most good British schools teach French as a MFL subject. i have had single parent colleagues with children. As a pp poster mentioned if you decide on teaching overseas I would maybe try and do a year of teaching for a couple of years as good British schools follow the same curriculum as the UK and expect you to be up to date.
As others have said, you'll only be able to teach French in an international school. So, if you are prepared to live in Paris or another city in France, which is where the international schools are, then you might be able to find a job in one of them teaching French. Apply before you come though.
Teaching English is always an option, and the route many expats take in France. There are lots of options available, not just teaching in schools.
It is untrue you can only teach French in an international school. You said you now teach another subject anyway. You are allowed by EU treaty to get equivalences of your qualifications for teaching in France or Belgium, this might be very time consuming but possible. All the local schools in Belgium where they do immersion will be much more positive towards you obtaining equivalences whilst starting to teach there.
If you want to teach in France (other than supply, = vacataire status, possibly leading to contractuel status) you have to do the CAPES which is a 2 stage competitive exam (first round written, 2nd round oral) competitive in that eg if they have 100 places, they take the top 100 candidates and bin the rest. In order to apply for the CAPES you must have a BA AND a Master's degree. You will be a civil servant if you get through the exams and the year of training and then they can send you anywhere in the country, you can't refuse without losing your job. So be careful.
Sorry, I didn't explain, vacataire status is v precarious and badly paid, contractuel status is slightly less precarious and badly paid, they are both 'remplacement' ie supply jobs.
Thanks everyone for the continuing info. Belgium certainly looks interesting!
I did look into CAPES & agrég years ago (before PGCE) but decided they would be nearly impossible for a foreigner to pass. I am not by nature a pessimist but even the CAPES (the easier of the two) seems unachievable.
My other subject, unfortunately, is not on the curriculum in France or other francophone European countries, even in international schools.
On the bright side, my work colleague has an opportunity which he thinks might interest me. He's in Switzerland at the moment so I'll have to await his return to see how viable it is.