Whatawhata School New Zealand

Teaching in New Zealand Versus the UK – Where’s Best?

As a secondary school teacher in the UK sometimes you feel like there are nothing but targets; “you must do more of this and include less of that in your lessons”. Any UK teacher will tell you how a visit from the school inspectors is one of the most stressful things you can be put through, even if they don’t end up actually viewing one­­­­­­ of your lessons!

I have taught in a secondary school in East London for the last four years and it has had its good points, like working with some amazing colleagues and teaching some incredibly kind students who didn’t want me to leave. However, one of the reasons we wanted to travel is to see how people do things in other countries and ultimately see if they do them better, so I’m keen to know what it would be like to teach in other corners of the world.

Whatawhata School New Zealand

Matt’s school in Whatawhata – what an entrance!

So what’s Teaching in New Zealand Really Like?

For the last few days we have been staying with Matt and Jane, friends of the family in Raglan who have been kind enough to let us stay in the beautiful flat attached to their home, which they also rent out to tourists. Matt is the principal of a small country primary school outside Hamilton, which has only around 150 pupils; we were lucky enough to have a guided tour of the school and it was certainly a big change from the outer-London secondary school I’ve been used to – here’s why:

Whatawhata School playground, New Zealand

The kids spend much more time outdoors in New Zealand

  • In England the government like to spring surprise inspections on us every now and then – sometimes we only get told the day before the inspectors are due to arrive and then there’s a ridiculous amount of paperwork to fill in, red tape to adhere to and boxes to tick. In New Zealand, the schools are more responsible for themselves, inspections only happen every three years with two terms’ notice. Rather than judging you against a set list of criteria, the inspectors in New Zealand ask each school what areas they are trying to develop and would like inspected.
  • There’s much more emphasis on sport in New Zealand schools compared to British ones; for example almost every school has a swimming pool; at Matt’s school the kids get to swim every day as well as take part in many other outdoor sports – of course the weather helps with this!
  • The students are taught to be more resilient than kids in British schools; partly because there isn’t so much of a blame culture, if you fall over you learn from it, you don’t sue someone. At Matt’s school the children are encouraged to build dens in the trees and play on the tyre-swings, if they fall off, they learn to hold on tighter – unlike in UK schools where there are so many health and safety rules and teachers are often held accountable for accidents. It helps that in New Zealand the parents grew up this way too so they are not likely to worry about their “precious” children quite so much either.
  • At Matt’s school a typical school trip for the children is to go to Raglan beach, jump off the bridge, get muddy and camp in the principal’s paddock, ready to go to school the following day!
  • Around New Zealand the children bring their farm pet to school for a day to show how they have looked after it and reared it, for example Matt and Jane’s children reared a lamb and a goat!
  • They don’t have half-term in New Zealand, they have four ten-week terms, so that means they get one week less holiday than UK schools.
  • The weather in New Zealand is obviously so much better than in the UK, need I say more?

We can definitely see why Matt chose to teach in New Zealand rather than the UK. In general, the whole way of life seems to be more relaxed, with less red tape and less stress. If I had to choose now between teaching jobs in New Zealand or the UK, I know which one I’d pick – what do you think?

  • Patti
    Posted at 23:44h, 17 March Reply

    As a retired public school teacher I can appreciate this post. Thanks for sharing another view of teaching.

    • Andrew
      Posted at 07:00h, 18 March Reply

      Thanks Patti, how do the UK and NZ compare to the USA?

  • carl
    Posted at 11:19h, 26 March Reply

    The blame culture sounds like an interesting social difference. Good post, how are their ict skills?

    • Andrew
      Posted at 19:44h, 26 March Reply

      It was really refreshing to see that school. Their ICT skills are pretty good, and they get a few grants to improve the school for the kids (not allowed to spend on staff room etc). They had a couple of ICT rooms and seemed just like in the UK.

  • Anjali
    Posted at 23:57h, 06 February Reply

    Hi Andrew,

    As you were qualified in England, how difficult did you find it to get a job in NZ? Also, what subject do you teach? Thanks 🙂

    • Andrew
      Posted at 03:00h, 07 February Reply

      Hi Anjali, I didn’t get a job in New Zealand, we simply took a look around a school there. For certain subjects I think it’s easier to get a job there though. 🙂

  • Jennifer Emslie
    Posted at 14:06h, 31 March Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this. I’m amid deciding whether to teach in NZ and I’m researching lots of aspects- I’m yet to find a concern to be Honest!
    If you have any further info is really love to hear it. I’ve been teaching 4 years and am trained secondary PE.

    • Amy
      Posted at 18:21h, 31 March Reply

      Hi Jennifer, thanks for reading. I can definitely see why you’d want to move to NZ to teach. We don’t have any further info about that, we have been teaching English in Asia though if you want to check out our posts about that. Good luck! our posts about that

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