Are you currently working as a teacher and have itchy feet or need a change of scenery? This was me 5 years ago working in the North East of England, freezing my arse off teaching outside most of the time. So, I decided it was time to make a change and try teaching abroad, preferably somewhere warm, which is how I decided on Dubai.
There are other obvious draws to Dubai as well, of course. There is the tax-free salary, accommodation paid for, flight allowance and medical insurance, etc.
If this is resonating with you are you feel like Dubai may be for you, I’ll let you know all you need to know about requirements, application process and what to expect, with a focus on PE teaching for the British Curriculum. If you're looking for more information about teaching in general in Dubai, not PE specific, check out this article!
Now before I make a list about these requirements I want to let you know that there are so many schools in Dubai. They are constantly opening up new ones- seriously I actually don't know where they are going to get the students from, but hey! It’s good news for you right? As there are so many schools, I'll write down the requirements that the ‘better’ schools would be interested in. When I say better, I mean that they will offer more comprehensive packages and a higher salary.
-A degree in the subject you teach in, must have QTS and have done either a Bachelors of Education or a PGCE or equivalent
-To have completed your NQT year if you were coming from England
-To have 2/3 year’s experience teaching in your own country
-To have a specialism in at least 1 or 2 sports and show a willingness to take sports teams (this is super important in the UAE)
-Have a clean police report/ no criminal record
-To be able to speak English fluently
Before moving on I do want to point out that some people do get jobs here straight from college/university, however these are often in the local schools. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the local schools, PE is not regarded as an important subject by many nationalities (by students and parents) with many students deciding to forgo it and do not do much extracurricular sport.
Which means your day becomes very much about trying to get students to participate in PE and behaviour management. This does mean that you have less hours for extracurricular and taking teams, which you may find enticing, if you don’t want long working hours. In the better schools, you will be required to spend a lot of time after and probably before school taking teams, I have netball practises that start at 6.45am!
So if this still sounds like something for you, what do you do next?
There are loads of teaching recruitment sites and it totally depends on the curriculum you wish to teach. Here are a few below:
If you are teaching the British curriculum, I would say look no further than the TES. There is an educational group called GEMS education, who have around 50 schools in Dubai alone, you can apply on their website too. They offer a range of different curriculums: British, IB, Indian, American.
What you will need to sendoff applications?
-An updated CV, with a small photo of yourself on it
-Include any coaching qualifications you have or experience coaching teams
-Something that will make you stand out- you will be up against potentially 100's of other applicants, it is super competitive
-Experience you have had in sport, e.g. if you compete nationally in trampolining, write it! Schools here would love to boast having a national level athlete in their staff!
Send off many applications! Believe me the more the better. I sent off about 35 and only heard back from 2! Do not be disheartened if you do not hear back but also BE PATIENT, the rate at which anything is done in the UAE is super slow. I was invited to interview 2 months after I had applied for the job!
What is the interview process like?
Depending on where you are based you will either have a Skype interview (this is what I did) or you may have a face to face interview. Many companies, including my school have job fairs in London, where they will interview people face to face.
In my experience my interview was around 45 minutes and despite never having done a Skype interview for a job before I quite enjoyed it. Unless you are already in Dubai you would not be required to teach a demo class like you normally would for a teaching interview.
In international schools they focus a lot on their students as global citizens and look at a more holistic approach compared to what I was used to in the UK, so I would be sure to try and get in something about global citizenship in your interview.
Again, like with the applications, it may take a while to hear from the school about whether you got the job or not. Unlike the applications, I would fully expect to hear back either way after an interview, but this could take a week or two, so again don’t get disheartened while you are waiting.
What do I do once I’ve got the job?
First of all, you will receive an offer. Make sure you read through this and see if you are happy with the package and your salary.
**An important thing to note here is your basic salary. In the UAE you will be given gratuity when you leave, which is a % of your basic salary. You get 1 month per every year you have worked in the UAE. Some companies have a low basic salary and make up the rest by adding on various allowances (so they don’t have to pay out much at the end), it is better if your salary without allowances is almost all your wage, which means you will be given more money at the end.**
If you are happy then sign your contract, scan it and send it back to the company. Please note that it is not unusual to try and negotiate. Some schools have strict pay scales, however there is no harm in asking. The school should pay your flight out to Dubai and some may even give you a settling in allowance. I did not get this, however I did get a 2000 dirham advance when I first arrived to help me settle in.
Before coming to the UAE you will need to get certificates attested. This can take a while and is a bit costly. If you are married or have children you will need to get marriage and birth certificates attested too.
Most schools will either give you accommodation or an accommodation allowance. If you are single and moving over to the UAE you will most likely be given accommodation, which will most likely be a one bedroom flat.
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Living in an Muslim country
I think before coming to Dubai I thought it would be super strict and I had heard a lot of stories and misconceptions about the place.
*You cannot drink alcohol- This is not true, you can drink alcohol, (you just cannot buy it from many places without a license to keep in your home) but from bars and restaurants believe me it is very available!
*You cannot live together if you are not married- This is the law, it’s true you cannot live together if you are not married. However, I know many couples that do. I guess it’s up to you if you want to take the risk.
*You have to cover up- This comes down to common sense. At the beach you are fine in swimwear and if you are going to the gym, wear whatever you would usually wear. In the mall I would always take a shirt or cardigan with me, to be respectful but also because they are SOOOOO cold from the air conditioning. Seriously, I pack socks and a scarf in my bag when I go to the cinema!
*You have to learn Arabic- Not true whatsoever. Of course it’s always nice to learn a new language but it is my no means necessary to live in the UAE.
*No PDAs- this is true, if you kiss in a night club you will most likely be told to stop by a bouncer or asked to leave.
My experience in Dubai has been an unforgettable one. I have at times loved working here and honestly, I have at times hated it. I think I came to the UAE with the illusion that I would be working less hours than at home, but this has not been the case at all.
As a PE teacher, I have discovered that extracurricular sports to schools and parents is almost more important than PE in the curriculum. This has meant that my day often begins with early morning training at 6.45am and finishes coming back from a sport match at 6.30pm.
I have been working super long hours, however it has been really rewarding and I have had opportunities that I would never have had working at a state school in the UK. For example, my school flew me to New York for some PD at Julliard (I teach dance also) which was one of the best professional weeks of my life! I have also been to Sri Lanka on school trips with the students which again offered some unforgettable experiences.
As the schools here are private the class sizes are pretty small. In my school the cap is 20, which means behaviour management is not that much of an issue. In my first week in Dubai I actually had a student thank me for the lesson which left me dumbfounded. That definitely was not a regular occurrence in the UK!
By living in Dubai I have also been able to travel to so many places in Asia and have taken advantage of the holidays to do so! As my salary here was considerably higher than it was in the UK it allowed me pursue other interests such as getting my personal training certification, which is something that I have been doing a little of on the side of teaching and online. You'd also have some time to take courses, learn new skills and even build your own online brand if you wanted to!
My time in Dubai is now coming to an end. I have been here for 4 years and will be really sad to leave my friends and my family. My brother lives here with his wife and my 2 nephews. In addition to this my cousin (who is also like my best friend) moved here 2 years ago and we live together so it really has been an amazing experience.
As this chapter in my life is soon closing, I would strongly recommend Dubai to anyone who is a PE teacher and is considering working abroad.
Last thing I would say is bring a few extra shirts to school- it can get a little warm and sweaty outside!