Ever wanted to get paid to complain about the weather… in French?
Perhaps it’s time to pack your umbrella and head over to the sunny United Kingdom to use your language skills to teach French to the Brits—in between cups of tea, of course!
Teaching French in the UK offers you so many opportunities to develop in your career.
It’s also a great chance to meet new people and learn more about British culture.
Then read on to find out exactly what you need to do to get your dream French-teaching job in the UK.
Pick Your Route
First, think about what type of teaching you want to do, as well as the style of teaching that would suit you best. There are several routes you can take to becoming a French teacher, all with different working conditions and entry requirements.
There’s the formal route into being a school teacher or a university lecturer, or you could work in an independent language school where you teach French to language learners from various walks of life. You can even work as a French tutor in your spare time—either for a company or as a freelancer.
Your experience and skills might dictate what level you can teach.
- Are you a native speaker or have you gone through a traditional languages degree?
- Do you have a Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE)? If not, do you want to study for a year at university to get one?
- What ages of students would you be most comfortable teaching and to what level
These are all things to consider, as they can help you determine the type of teacher you aim to be.
Think about the environment you’d like to work in and for how long.
Crossing the Channel: How to Teach French in the UK
Some of you might not be UK residents and might look into teaching French temporarily whilst on a year abroad. Others might be keen to start a long career in the school system.
Even if you haven’t already decided your route, this article will give you some ins and outs of what you need to do to reach your goal.
Teaching in Schools
If you have the right to live and work in the UK permanently, this could be the path for you. There’s great job security in teaching, one of the best pension schemes on offer in the UK and you get paid a full-time wage during the school holidays! You also get the satisfaction of inspiring and educating the young minds of the future, but it can be challenging if you’re unsure of yourself in front of large groups of teenagers.
What Are the Essential Qualifications?
For this route, you’ll need a languages degree from a university, even if you’re a native speaker, and you will normally need a PGCE. There are some schools in the private sector where you can teach without a PGCE, but this is up to the individual school, and it is helpful to have this qualification as it can set you above the competition when applying for a job. It also helps your own development because you get to do months of practice with the support of working teachers who help you develop your craft.
You’ll need to study for five years at a university to achieve your “qualified teaching status.” This includes a four-year language degree with one of those years spent abroad, in addition to a year afterwards doing the PGCE itself.
You can choose a language degree with an emphasis on translating or interpreting, or you can concentrate on a more traditional degree with lots of French literature and history. It’s really down to your preferences and style of learning. And spending a year in France just before your final year can really boost your skills, knowledge and confidence. It’s also a life experience you’ll never forget!
During the PGCE year, you can expect lots of classes about the theory of education followed by a couple of placements in local schools. There, you will get to teach real classes alongside an experienced teacher who will act as your mentor.
How Much Is This All Going to Cost?
A university education is a must if you want to teach French in schools in the UK, and it will be an investment for your future. But just how much is it likely to cost? Brace yourself.
It is no longer free, and it isn’t cheap. Nowadays a degree can cost you up to £9,250 per year depending on which part of the UK you are from.
Those of you who are lucky enough to live in Scotland, however, can go to a Scottish university to study undergraduate courses for free. And Northern Irish universities will only charge their local students a maximum of £4,030 per year. Students from Wales can also apply for funding support.
To learn more details about university fees in your region look at this article on the Times Higher Education website.
You can find lists of available courses online at Which? University through their French language and PGCE information pages.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit of a postcode lottery, with students from England having to fork out a maximum of £46,250 for those five years of education. Still, it can be an investment worth making if you are passionate about a career teaching French in public schools.
What are the pros and cons of taking this path? Well, the holidays are an incredible bonus and you get the chance to have a long career in a rewarding profession. The salary of a teacher is also good, and there’s a great pension scheme available.
With that said, teaching teenagers can be challenging. But for the right person, it can be incredibly rewarding.
Can I Teach Primary School French?
What about those of you who might be interested in teaching younger children?
Opportunities to teach primary languages are more scarce, and the best way to get your foot in the door is to teach in a high school and then offer your services to the local primaries.
Most primary schools don’t have the funding or the capacity to employ a full-time foreign language teacher, but you might be able to circulate around several primary schools in your area, doing a few hours at each one. It may not ever amount to a full-time job, however, and you would probably be working for yourself unless you could persuade the local education authority to take you on as a primary languages teacher.
You could probably get into this type of work as a self-employed French tutor but more on that route later.
Getting a Job
Once you’ve gained your qualifications, what’s the best way to apply for teaching jobs in the UK? Your PGCE tutors and course leaders will give you lots of insight into how to apply for teaching jobs.
By far, the best place to look for secondary school teaching positions in the UK is the Times Educational Supplement. They produce a hard copy which you’ll often find in the staff room of most schools, but they also have a great online version. What’s more, you can have specific searches sent to your email inbox every week. This is great if you’re looking for a particular job in a particular area. You can even find teaching jobs in other countries outside the UK.
In addition to the TES, you can look out for job bulletins published by your local education authority. This can be particularly useful if you’re looking for jobs in Northern Ireland, where schools don’t always advertise in the TES.
What Can You Expect During the Interview?
Teaching interviews in state schools differ greatly from interviews with private schools.
In a state school, you’ll spend the whole day at the interview, from the morning until the afternoon. You’ll tour the school and meet the staff, along with the other candidates for the post, and you’ll likely have to teach a lesson and sit at a panel interview. Some schools even require you to do a mini-interview in French with someone in the department.
As you can imagine, it can be a busy day culminating in a nervous wait with the other candidates to see who gets the job. Make sure that you give yourself a good breakfast and a good night’s sleep before any teaching interview, because it can really tire you out!
Many private schools interview you in a similar format to businesses: you’ll attend the interview on your own and won’t see or interact with any other candidates. You may not even have to teach a lesson. With that said, some private schools do follow a similar format to state schools. So make sure to review the details sent to you in the information packet beforehand.
For more tips on what types of questions to expect in your interview, check out this post on French interviews.
How to Teach at a University
If becoming a lecturer is your dream, then more academic study is the name of the game.
Most universities will expect you to have done research and possess a PhD in French. The pay is similar to that of a classroom teacher, but of course, the level you teach will be much more advanced.
There is also a very different atmosphere, with less required in the way of discipline techniques or crowd control. Best of all, the students will be more independent and self-motivated. You may have to give lectures to large groups of students, as well as teaching in smaller classes, so you’ll spend more time marking papers and holding assessments than you would in other teaching positions.
A great place to look for jobs at universities is at FE Jobs, but you may also see posts advertised at your university in your final year of studying for a PhD.
Teaching at a Language School
A language school differs from a high school in that language schools are businesses that sell language courses and classes to the public. There are language schools across the UK that are franchises, and there are also those which are standalone businesses.
Teaching in a language school is very different to teaching at a state or independent school. You’ll have students of different ages who have paid to come and learn a language in weekly classes. And you might be expected to teach in a more intensive immersion situation for a short period.
At a language school, you may not even need a degree in French. Some language schools are happy to take you on as an employee if you can show proficiency in the language and good communication skills. You might also get the opportunity to teach slightly more vocational courses like Business French or Legal French.
Interesting, right? But what about other qualifications?
Do I Still Need That PGCE for a Language School?
Short answer: No. It’s unnecessary to have a PGCE to work in a language school.
Some schools will have their own specific methods of teaching. If this is the case, you’ll be trained in their particular format.
There are a lot more opportunities to teach a foreign language in most language schools in the UK. While many students coming from abroad to the UK to learn English, some are keen on studying French and other languages as well.
You may also find some opportunities to teach French in language schools like Alliance Française and the Institut Français.
There are also several universities and colleges in the UK that run language schools alongside their normal classes in the evening. These classes target people living in the UK who want to learn a language as a hobby starting from scratch. These schools often hold lessons in the evening, as they target people who work during the day and study French in their spare time.
Where to Find Language School Jobs
Jobs in these types of language schools might not be as easy to find in publications or online. It’s worthwhile looking in your area to see what language schools offer French lessons. Then, you can get in touch with nearby schools to ask if there are any vacancies.
Take a look online at the language courses offered at Queen’s University, Belfast and UCL in London for examples of the types of language courses available. A quick search online in your local area should give you plenty of information about where you can find French evening classes near you. There are also organizations that provide French classes across several different locations in the UK.
One of the more popular organizations with multiple branches across the country is Cactus Language School.
How Is It Different From a Normal School?
Teaching in a language school will put you in front of slightly different types of students.
They are generally more motivated, as they have paid for their courses and decided to attend during their free time. It’s also likely that there will be a really nice mix of people from all different sorts of backgrounds.
Some teachers might prefer teaching in this environment as it can be less stressful than managing large groups of teenagers.
Possible drawbacks include:
- Working in the evening.
- Lower pay than a schoolteacher.
- Being scheduled for part-time hours.
With that said, the better qualified you are, the higher a salary you can earn.
Teaching as a Temporary Foreign Language Assistant
If you are a French national between the ages of 20 and 35 studying at a French university, you can apply to work in the UK for a year as a foreign language assistant. There, you will be helping students learn French in UK schools.
This is a great way of gaining some experience working with students while teaching more about your language and culture. You will also be paid £848 per month for about 12 hours of work per week. If this applies to you and you’re interested in finding out more, check out the information at the Institut Français website or at this page on the British Council site.
You don’t have to teach in a formal institution to be a teacher. And you don’t have to be an employee to help others learn French. Another possible route into teaching French is to set up your own business as a French tutor. Nowadays, with the wonders of the Internet, you can even teach students who aren’t located in the UK themselves.
You can either go it alone and be completely self-employed or you could work for a company that employs French tutors.
Once again, the amount you earn will depend on your qualifications. If you have teaching qualifications and a degree, you’ll be able to charge more for your services, especially if you have knowledge of GCSE and A-level examinations. Often, you will teach students who are studying for a French exam to help them improve outside of school. You might also teach adults who want to visit or live in France in the future.
To Go It Alone, or Not?
What are the pros and cons of going it alone?
Being your own boss allows you to control your hours and your rates, but you’ll have to deal with all of your finances and taxes. You also might find that initially, you don’t have enough students to cover all your bills.
A successful French tutor, however, can make a decent living by offering solo tutoring alongside group lessons. And if you’re able to find your own students, this could be a good way forward for you. You don’t need to have any formal qualifications to set up as a French tutor, but being a native speaker can be an advantage as clients often wish to work on conversational skills with a French national.
If the idea of being self-employed puts you off, don’t despair just yet. There are now agencies online who will manage the administrative side and employ you as a French tutor. This can be a real relief for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the stresses of marketing themselves and finding new clients, but it is likely that you will be paid less as a result.
The Pros and Cons of Tutoring
Tutoring has its own pros and cons to weigh up beforehand.
Some clients will need you to travel to their home, so having a reliable vehicle is very important. You might have a lot of students wanting to work towards an exam, which can limit the freedom of what you teach. Also, you’ll often be teaching in a one-to-one situation, so it’s imperative to build rapport and trust with your individual students.
Keep in mind, you’ll rely quite heavily on reviews from past students to secure more work, and this can work in your favor, or against you.
There Will Be a Path to Suit You
With a passion for the French language, you will find a way to teach that suits you.
The best way to figure out which job is right for you is to visit some schools, talk to teachers and do some research into what’s involved in each type of job. Think about your skills and talents and the kind of working environment that you prefer.
The most important thing about becoming a French teacher is that you’re passionate about French, and that you want to pass your passion onto others. So take some time to think about your preferred path and then dive right in!
Good luck with your career.