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Margarita Ruszkowska teaching in Vietnam

Over the past two years we have noticed an enormous increase in people working for schools who either need or want to be trained in TEFL

Teachers are increasingly taking courses in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) – to cope with the growing number of non-English speaking migrant children.

The classroom crisis is so serious that all teachers may need to learn TEFL, according to a leading provider, The TEFL Academy.

Rhyan O'Sullivan, Director of the Sussex-based international company, said: "It is a huge problem in schools. Over the past two years we have noticed an enormous increase in people working for schools who either need or want to be trained in TEFL.

"It is because they have such a high number of migrants whose English needs to be brought up to the standard of the rest of the class.

"Clearly, teachers have experience of teaching but they don’t know how to teach English as a foreign language. Taking the TEFL course solves the problem. Sending all teachers on TEFL courses is definitely something which needs to be considered, especially when they do their initial teacher training."

Seb Jones, 32, who teaches at Linhope Pupil Referral Unit, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, told his head teacher he needed to be trained in TEFL.

He said: "We get a lot of Czech and Slovak students – more and more people from those countries are coming to the west of Newcastle. Some of them may speak English but not read or write it.

"I wanted to do the TEFL course because I didn't know where to start. I have never learned a foreign language and couldn't visualise how to teach English or even how to break down a sentence."

Seb, who teaches maths and English literature, said that one in 10 of his students "struggle with English as a first language".

"They're able to communicate but not write in English," he said. "They have a lot of trouble with reading and writing."

He said that taking the TEFL course enabled him to "relearn English".

"It really breaks down how language works," he said. "I have had to learn English again which was a headache to begin with but has been really useful in my general teaching as well as for teaching English as an Additional Language (EAL) students."

Seb, who has been a teacher for 10 years, said it made him realise the teaching of English language in many schools is "dumbed down" with learning the full range of tenses treated as a "waste of time".

Taking the course definitely helped him, he said. "It has kept me on my toes from a personal point of view," he said. "And it will help me learn other languages.

"I enjoyed doing it and my students are making more progress as a result. A lot of their parents – Czechs, Slovaks and some Bangladeshis – can't speak a word of English. I want to help them, too, doing some volunteer work, teaching adults who can’t speak English."

City of Leeds School – now an academy in the Woodhouse Cliff district of Leeds – had its entire teaching staff trained in TEFL last year because three-quarters of the 300 pupils did not have English as a first language.

The then-head teacher, Georgiana Sales, saw it as a pragmatic solution to having students emanating from 55 countries. "Lots of schools do it," she commented.

And state-run boarding school Burford School, Oxfordshire, has had 17 of its staff trained in TEFL.

One of them, Sophie Hearle, said: "Our trainer was inspiring and engaging, and encouraged us to reflect on our own practice and teaching of all our students."

She said the TEFL course made her far more aware of the importance of identifying the needs of EAL students and gave her a "bigger armoury of strategies to use" in teaching them.

"Our teacher challenged us with tasks which were out of our comfort zone. We gained a better understanding of how our students learn a language and how isolating it can be in a class of native English speakers," said Sophie.

She added that because of improvements in their standard of English she was "seeing significant progress with students" with some "exceeding their target grades in English".

Stuart Bassett, the school's Assistant Head, said: "We currently have 94 boarders. They are from all areas of the world with EU or UK passports including Hong Kong, Spain and France. And we have day school students from Bangladesh, Poland and Romania.

"We decided that to give them the best chance in terms of English language, we would have to provide additional support to allow them to make adequate progress in their GCSEs. We thought a very positive idea would be to get our staff trained in TEFL so we could support our students in lessons and prep after school."

Stuart, who is responsible for supporting the academic progress of students, said: "We thought that this would have a positive impact – and it has had. There has been an improvement in supporting the students in lessons."

A TEFL Academy tutor came in to train the 17 members of staff last October in a "two-day, intensive, practical course".

Around 75 of Burford's 1,200 students have English as an additional language and this has enabled much of the cost of the training to come from government funds.

“We have a number of EAL day students who are able to receive additional funds,” said Stuart. “So we used that money as well as some of our school funds to pay for the staff to be trained in TEFL.”

He said it would be difficult for schools to have all their staff trained in TEFL.

"The format we used was to have a core group of staff trained in TEFL and then have them share good practice with the rest of the staff through training sessions we ran ourselves," he said.

But Stuart is in no doubt about the importance of the work. "TEFL gives you a clear understanding of how to teach languages. Education is changing and we need to adapt to those changes to future-proof ourselves," he added.

"We saw other Oxfordshire schools which have an even greater need for TEFL and we thought that if we can do this, it would help us if the number of students with English as an additional language increases. It's had a positive impact on the future of the school."


University graduates are turning to Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) as a career - because they can't find good jobs at home.

Moving abroad to teach English is the only viable option for many graduates, said The TEFL Academy, an international business that trains more than 6,000 TEFL students a year, two-thirds of them graduates.

Director Rhyan O'Sullivan said: "We have seen a 30 percent rise in applications from graduates over the past 12 months.

"There is a whole generation of people coming out of university with no career path. For a lot of them, doing a TEFL course is their only hope of getting a decent job. It is sad that graduates struggle to get jobs in the UK, but taking the TEFL course gives them hope and makes them instantly employable."

Mr O'Sullivan added: "There is an incredible amount of work in TEFL. More than one-and-a-half billion people worldwide want to learn English, according to the British Council.

"That’s one in seven people on the planet. In China alone, there are 400 million people learning English right now and many millions more in south-east Asia and South America. If you learn TEFL, you’re guaranteed a job!"

Liam Riley, 26, graduated from university with first class honours in English and Creative Writing.

He said: "I found it very hard to get work. I was looking for anything in the media but ended up working as a freelance journalist for a magazine in Liverpool. I also worked part-time in a bar to make ends meet. It was tough. I was on minimum wage and living hand to mouth."

Liam decided to take a TEFL course because it was his "best chance of getting work".

He said: "I thought that if I did TEFL abroad for a year, I would be more employable when I came back. I took a weekend course followed by 100 hours of online tuition. The course was comprehensive and prepared me very well for work as a TEFL teacher."

He quickly landed a job as a TEFL teacher in Suzhov, near Shanghai, China.

"I wasn’t able save up any money back home, so I thought I'd come out to China where I could secure a job and save money," said Liam. "You can save here because the price difference compared with the UK is astronomical. In China, I get paid between £1,000 and £1,100 a month and can live off around £500."

Moreover, he finds his job more fulfilling than his UK work was. "I really enjoy the work here. It's brilliant!" he said. "It is so different from back home. I have been promoted already. I was a basic teacher at Jenny's Palace English Teaching Centre. Now I am Assistant to the Head teacher.

"It's fantastic. It takes some time to get used to! I am fortunate where I live. You have the comfort of a large ex-pat community and can explore the old-style China. I'm very lucky!"

Craig Crowther, 25, who graduated in 2013 with upper-second class honours in media and politics, said: "I got it into my head that I wanted to do TEFL. Employment circumstances in Britain were not great.

"They are not good now but they were even worse back then. I did not want to have no job after I graduated."

He says the TEFL course he took gave him the "basic tools and techniques to fall back on until I could build my own portfolio of skills and abilities".

"It gives you the confidence to feel you can do it," said Craig. "I went off to Shanghai in China for six months. I also went to Bangkok for a year. I was teaching three-year-olds to 14-year-olds. We played a lot of games!"

Craig said: "You get a split of people in TEFL - one demographic who are doing it for the travel and experience, and one demographic who can make a career out of it. China was interesting from a cultural perspective but wasn't a place I wanted to stay forever.

"I have friends who are teaching at universities as a result of doing TEFL – one at the University of Munich and another at the University of Istanbul. Often people end up with a successful academic career out of it."

Craig is now working in a new media job in Berlin. He found it through contacts he made while teaching English in Bangkok.

He added: "Even if you do not want to teach forever, it provides connections and opportunities."

Margarita Ruszkowska – currently teaching in Vietnam – found she could only get dead-end jobs when she lived in Brighton, East Sussex.

She said: "I became bored because you can’t progress or learn if the company does not want to invest in you.

"I decided to quit my job and realised that I wanted to travel more. I signed up for a TEFL course in January 2015."

Margarita's dream came true remarkably quickly. She took a weekend TEFL course and decided to complete the online part of the course while travelling in south-east Asia.

She said: "It was a good course, covering the basic methods of teaching. I loved it! For me it was the solution. You have a year to complete the course online but I really cracked on with it. I completed my online assignments by the end of May while still travelling – and got a distinction!"

"I was in Vietnam when I finished the course," added Margarita. "I met people who were teaching there and they helped me get in contact with the schools. I went back to the UK to pack up my things and returned to Vietnam to work.

"There are plenty of jobs – they are desperate for English teachers. I have ended up working in four or five schools, including a couple of secondary schools, a kindergarten and a Korean school where I teach English to mothers.

"You get paid from 15 to 25 dollars an hour, although I spend quite a lot of time riding between jobs on my scooter. It is very different from the UK where it is hard to get good jobs.

"It’s tough to get decent jobs in the south of England. Brighton is challenging for jobs, especially decent ones in which you can progress in your career."

She said her current life is a huge improvement on being jobless for five months in Brighton in 2011, working on minimum wage in a call centre and taking other dead-end jobs.

Margarita added that TEFL is a great way into work but she stressed that candidates needed to be genuinely interested in teaching English as a foreign language.

"I hope they take the job seriously," she said. "It is interesting work and you gain life experience. I love working with children. I could probably teach TEFL anywhere now."


For further information and images, contact Ollie Wilson, MatchFit Media, UK 07974 951181 or


1. The TEFL Academy offers the most in-depth and effective intensive TEFL courses available in the UK. Its courses are fully accredited by the World TEFL Accrediting Commission (WTEFLAC). In addition, it is accredited by Training Qualifications UK (TQUK), an Ofqual-regulated awarding body.

2. The TEFL Academy can be contacted by phoning UK 01273 806380 or emailing

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