UK Teacher Immigration Ticklist

Well, life certainly has taken over and I’ve done what I feared from the start- forsaken my blog. But, as we have now entered the final third of the school year, I think it is about time I finish this post about all things necessary to come to the UK to teach (specifically from the US), especially since I have friends who are about to embark on the same journey that I did last year. So, without further ado-

Passports

Obviously, you’ll need a valid one (they’re good for 10 years). It seems to take about 6 weeks from when you send off the application to get it back, so this probably should have been taken care of already (you’ll need to send off your passport with your work visa application). If you do not have a passport yet, I highly suggest expediting it and paying for overnight shipping to speed up the process. The US government website for passports can be found here.

Visas

There are many aspects to a work visa. For starters, you’ll need to have a job offer from a school in the UK that can sponsor you (they should know what that means- if they don’t, they likely cannot sponsor you). This is a certificate that the school applies for allowing them to “vouch” for foreign employees. Essentially, this certificate of sponsorship verifies that you do have a job and will be making a sufficient salary so as not to become a drain on the economy (your work visa will not allow you to draw from government funds). You do not need to do anything to get this certificate of sponsorship. It will be provided by the school that is employing you before you can apply for your work visa.

To begin your work visa application, you can go to this website. You will be applying for a Tier 2 Work Visa (either general or shortage occupation) and will need to know if your job is on the shortage occupation list (unofficial list found here). If it IS, your visa will be discounted. This is because the country is in need of certain job types more than others. The types of teachers found on the list are typically secondary teachers of maths and pure sciences (chemistry and physics), as well as special needs teachers for all ages.

You will want to start this application as soon as you have your certificate of sponsorship and can send off your application no EARLIER than 3 months before you intend on departing for your new home. Do not plan on leaving too far in advance of the beginning of your job, though. Your visa will only be approved to start NO EARLIER than 2 weeks before your official employment start date (found on the certificate of sponsorship).

When I was hired, it was for a one year contract (new to the school, new to the country, the school didn’t want to lock themselves into this crazy American that they had hired just in case…). This limited my options when applying for my work visa. For starters, if you are immigrating, you will only be allowed to be sponsored for a maximum of 5 years. After this, you will need to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (more on this later). Now, thinking about those five years, though, you will need sponsorship and a valid work visa for each of them. If you only have a one year contract, there are no decisions to make. You must apply for the shorter time limit visa (up to 3 years). However, if you somehow managed to get a contract longer than 3 years or a permanent position straight away, you are able to apply for the longer visa (more than 3 years). You will need to consider your plans for the future before deciding on either, though. Once you pay for a visa (and the healthcare surchage), your money is gone and you cannot get it back if you do not stay for the entire duration of your visa. If you change jobs (even within the same field), you must apply for a new work visa. Likewise with the previous situation, the money spent on the current visa will be forfeited even if the visa has not expired when you apply for the new one with your new employer. You will want to be very certain that you plan on staying for the duration if you are able to and chose to apply for the longer length visa.

Visa costs can be found here, but I’ll try to summarise:

Up to 3 years- £564 (general) or £428 (shortage occupation)

More than 3 years- £1,128 (general) or £856 (shortage occupation)

These fees are the same for dependents. You will need to complete and pay for a visa application for each person of your family coming over with you. Spouses will apply for Tier 2 Partner visas and children will apply for Tier 2 Dependent visas. While each individual must have their own application, families may send their applications for work visas together since they may need to utilise the same supporting documents (and it will save on shipping).

On top of your visa costs, there is now a new healthcare surcharge. This is a fee that has been implemented to help recover some of the NHS funds spent on immigrants. It seems that you must only complete this is you are coming from outside the EEA (European Economic Area). Certain countries have mutual agreements and are exempt (New Zealand and Australia), though they must still complete the form. Unfortunately, there is no such agreement with the United States, so applicants must pay the full fee which is £200 per person, per year, ALL DUE UP FRONT. For example, a family of four applying for a 3 year visa will have to pay their visa fees plus an additional £2,400 at the time of application (£200 per person, so £800, times the 3 years being applied for). This page gives an overview of the surcharge and also has a calculator to find what your fee will be.

As for the timing of visa application, do it as soon as possible. You do not want to find yourself in the same position we were last year- less than a week before we were flying out and frantically calling the embassy only to find out that we needed to pay even more to expedite our applications to get them in time.

Getting a Job

Now, if we back up a moment, you’ll need a job before applying for a work visa if you’re coming from outside the EU. You COULD spend hours sending off CVs to loads of different schools, but you’ll get loads of responses back saying that they cannot sponsor you (believe me, I did this). Your best bet is using a teacher recruitment agency. I used TimePlan Education. They have the resources to get your information to schools that have the license to sponsor you and save you loads of time. Another agency that I have worked with is Reed Recruitement Agency (not specific to education, but great to work with). You should NEVER have to pay a fee to a recruitement agency. Any legitimate agency legally cannot ask you for money, so if that happens, run the other way.

Budgeting

Speaking of money, let’s talk about some of the costs you’ll have once you arrive. You’ll want to have a hotel or bed & breakfast booked, and I suggest for quite some time (a week or two) as you try to find a place to live, whether that be a house, flat, or flatshare. Letting a property in the UK is significantly more difficult than in the States (at least compared to what I was used to). You will most likely need to go through an agency. If you’d like to search on your own, you can use sites like Prime Locations, Zoopla, or Right Move, but eventually you will need to contact the agencies responsible for letting the properties you are interested. They can help to find more properties in your area to fit your requirements if you give them that information. This can help sometimes because they may contact you about listings before they are put online.

Once you’ve found a place you like, you’ll have to pay the agency a referencing fee. This can be quite costly (up to £200 per adult over 18 desiring to live in the property) and is something you should budget for. This process is to check for poor UK credit and evictions. If you are new to the country, there will most likely be nothing to find. This can pose a probelm due to lack of credit. One thing that can help is having a letter from your employer stating your annual salary. This cost is used to determine how high of a rent you will be allowed. If you divide your annual salary by 30, this will tell you the max amount of rent you can be approved for. There are ways to get around this (six months rent in advance or showing excess money in savings), but were not an option for us. Once you find a suitable place, you’ll need a deposit, which is usually a month and a half rent to secure the property. You’ll then also need a full month to pay when you move in.

Just so you know, we tried to settle our living arrangements ahead of time, but NO agency would let us sign a contract without having viewed the property. I was happy to sign a waiver stating that I’d let the flat no matter what (we really just needed somewhere to live!), but the only compromise they would make was to let a proxy view it for us. Unfortunately, we did not know anyone in the country yet, so we had no one to ask to view it for us and send pics/their opinion. Another option is to travel over for a week or so BEFORE you come for good. You could contact agencies and set loads of viewings for the time you’re here and plan on picking one before you go back. This would be a significant added cost, though. SIDE NOTE- I’m happy to help a friend out and view a flat ahead of time if any of my friends are attempting this international move- just shoot me a message!

Before you settle into a new place, you’ll want to have any idea of your monthly bills. There are the usual- electricity, mobile, internet, gas, etc. One cost that is not familiar to Americans is Council Tax. This pays for services provided by the city (fire and rescue, police, etc.). It is based on the area you live in and the average property value. Our council allows us to pay monthly. Other options may be annually, quarterly, etc.

Settling Into the Job

For teachers, there are some applications to complete before you are recognised as a fully qualified teacher in the UK. You will need to submit all the necessary paperwork to apply for QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). If you chose to complete this online, you will need digital files of all the following:

  • Passport
  • University transcripts showing completed degree
  • Teaching License (screen shot of valid registration is sufficient)
  • Evidence of name change (if you have a different name on any of the documents)
  • Letter from recognised authority verifying that you have sucessfully passed all qualifications and are a fully qualified teacher in the USA, that you have professional experience comparable to an induction period, and that you have no restrictions on your teaching license (I was able to contact the Illinois State Board of Education to get an email verifying all this)

Completing this application will result in QTS, which allows you to be recognised as a fully qualified teacher in the UK. For me, it also verified that I had enough prior in-classroom experience to bypass the Induction Year required for UK trained teachers. This also meant that I should have started on a higher pay scale due to that experience (an issue being resolved this year when I renew my contract). Once approved, you will also be issued a DfE number (Department for Education) which will serve as a Teacher Reference Number within the system. This will be needed for paperwork at the school to get payroll processed.

Once you have arrived, you will also need to apply for a National Insurance (NI) number. This is used by the school for payroll also (plus it gets you started in NHS). You will need to call 0345 600 0643 between the hours of 8am – 6pm Monday through Friday to begin the application process.

Now, after all that, you just need to adjust to life in a new country, settle into your faculty and school, and enjoy! Please remember that I am no expert, having had to find my way through the process on my own. I am happy to correct any inaccuracies that may be found and also to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to comment away!

Missing Hobbies

No, my hobbies aren’t lost. I just miss them. Over the past few years I had very little extra time between university, student teaching, and working multiple part-time jobs. To be honest, when I look back, I have no idea how we managed for so long on that ridiculously tight schedule, but we did. And now we don’t have to anymore.

That’s where the yearning comes in. I actually have free time now, which is practically a foreign feeling to me. But as I am rediscovering the joys and relaxation of not having a schedule with every possible time slot filled, I am realizing that I wish I had my tools here to do the things that I enjoy.

Now, of course, there’s reading. I have been a book lover as long as I can remember and I will say that I am getting to enjoy reading for pleasure again. For many years the only books I touched were textbooks (and I do love those as well), but those just aren’t as relaxing as the likes of-

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I also bake. For those of you who don’t know, I ran a bakery from home called Pi Are Squared Bakery usually only taking orders around the holidays and special occasions. These are some of the lovely things I had the pleasure of making.

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I also spent some time as the pastry chef at the restaurant I worked at. Every Monday evening I would spend around 8 hours making dozens of cookies and desserts for the week. It was lovely time to crank up the music and bake whatever I wanted.

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I have started baking again, but my ingredients are different, I am having to adjust temperatures, and I have none of my baking equipment, so it all feels a bit amateur. I have ideas of things I want to make, but am hindered by my lack of tools.

I also am a glass artist. I helped run a glass retail store with my mother several years back and fell in love with glass work. Aside from working at the store (it was just the two of us), I did many custom stained glass jobs.

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I miss warm glass as well. I really got into glass fusing and sold glass jewelry at one point online under the business name SiO2 Glass Art. I still have unfinished ideas that I never got to try to create.

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Another long forgotten hobby is playing piano. I could spend hours in front of the keys. Not having time over the years, though, has left me profoundly out of practise. I know school has pianos I could use, I just need to make time for it now and either ship over my music or find some new stuff to play.

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I guess what I miss most is having a creative outlet. Reading is lovely, but I need a way of expression. I guess I need to start exploring new hobbies.

Reflections on This First Half Term

*sigh* I made it. I finished my degree, secured a job, moved to a different country with my family, got settled, started my first full-time teaching job, and survived to make it to this half term break. Phew!

As silly as it sounds, I have to say that I don’t ‘do’ change well. I avoid making decisions and starting new things like the plague. I have trouble with endings and I turn into a blotchy-faced, blubbering, mess when I have to say goodbye. That being said, I love new experiences and am so very pleased with where I am at right now (and so thankful to my husband who helped drag me through it kicking and screaming because we both knew it was what we all really wanted/needed in the end).

Eight weeks ago I packed most of what was left of our belongings into our van and headed to the airport to start anew. We had no idea what to expect and were often met with challenges and surprises along the way. When we first arrived, we had no where to live. No worries! I had plenty of viewings that first week, it wasn’t going to be a problem. Until it WAS a problem and we were still living out of suitcases and hotel-hopping when I started work. Of course, we found a place (not anywhere near the location we wanted, but a bit cheaper than we were planning) and got through referencing at lightning speed. Now we are (mostly) settled in our flat quite happily. It is quite bare, but that’s what happens where you start from scratch. You can’t buy everything at once and the process has helped me, Mark, and the kids really take notice of what things we do or do not need or can wait to get. We value time spent together- because, honestly, we had so little of it while I was at university, student teaching, and waiting tables on nights and weekends. Now we get to eat dinner together as a family nearly every night and singing to the kids at bedtime is now the rule rather than the exception like it used to be.

I started work at school very excited, but also very apprehensively. I was a bit quiet, a bit shy, a bit reserved, but thankfully my faculty, which I am around the most, is full of kind, lively personalities. I got comfortable and was able to let my loud, sarcastic self out (which, those of you who know me, will know I can’t keep that quiet for too long). I’ve made new friends here who are genuinely concerned and care about not only my well-being, but how the whole family is. Unfortunately, things are not yet fully sorted- the kids have not started school yet. I cannot wait for that to happen so that they can start developing friendships and feel more ‘at home’ here in a new country. I almost feel guilty everyday because I get to go out and interact with other people and do what I came here to do while Mark and the kids are just stuck waiting. There has been so much waiting…

Speaking of waiting, I have another blog that I’ve started, but I am going to wait to post it. It is going to be a checklist of things to know/do/apply for/etc. when trying to move to the UK specifically to be a teacher. The main reason I started this blog was to help guide others through the insanely complicated process since I feel I had to forge my own way. I’ve given tips thus far as we have pushed past certain barricades, but I want this checklist to be comprehensive, so I am going to wait until I feel that life is settled and I have everything sorted at school. Just this past week, eight weeks into the term, I had bits of information that weren’t filed yet and numbers that I still had to apply for.

While all the bits at school still may not be quite sorted, I am feeling more settled there. I know I posted about feeling insecure in my teaching a while ago, but my confidence is now coming back. I still don’t know if I am quite following procedures properly when it comes to marking or if I am assessing the students in the right format, but I am teaching. After a couple helpful training sessions, I am able to move forward with the mindset of “I know I can teach. I am a damn good teacher. The other bits will come, just as they would at any new school I started working at.”

That being said, I think I am starting to understand much more what is expected when it comes to written feedback with students and my organization is getting to the point where I feel that I will soon have a useful dialogue with students about their progress. I also have resources now to help me understand the curriculum levels and assess student mastery of topics. Honestly, after talking with other staff and being observed as part of my NQT program, if there were any uncertainties about my ability in the classroom they would have been raised by now. I am told that there are good things being said about me as a teacher (from both staff and students) and that they think I am settling in nicely, but more importantly I feel like I am settling in nicely. It’s comfortable here and now I can just do what I do.

It’s All Falling In To Place

We’re now in mid-October. Half term break is in a week. I’m feeling much more settled with the structure and curriculum at school. I intend on using that week to plan (roughly) the next half-term and brainstorm policies, routines, and techniques to implement into the classroom to make things run smoother and be more organized after break. I’ve just finished a day and a half training for school and have lots of ideas to try out.

Our flat is still coming together, but we are comfortable and life is becoming more stable. The kids will finally be starting at school. It is just down the street, so they can walk to school (a real novelty to them). They’re very excited, as am I. I’m glad they’ll finally start feeling a sense of home and social acceptance. They’ll have friends nearby to meet at the playground or run down the street to.

Mark is getting settled also. There’s a band in York that he’s doing independent work for as well as being in communication with some engineers in London. Mum and Gran are in Ireland right now and it’s nice to be in the same time zone so we can talk a bit more regularly, though, it is disappointing not to be able to go SEE them.

Students are the same. School is not.

So, as promised, here is a blog specifically about school. You wouldn’t think it could be that different from school in the States, but you’d be wrong. I feel like I’m going through a crash course in British style teaching and curriculum to desperately keep on top of things.

For starters, there’s uniforms. And I love it. My students look like they’re in Gryffindor because of our colours and if I try hard enough, I can feel almost like I’m teaching at Hogwarts (minus the amazing castle and, you know… the magic, and stuff). It’s great. Honestly, I understand now what the research tells us- that uniforms decrease the “need to impress” and remove some of the social anxieties that come along with having to choose what to wear every day. If it’s already dictated, there’s less stress on students in general.

Next, the schedule- and it’s something I’m still trying to get used to. In secondary school in the states (for the most part), you would have the same schedule every day and typically teach multiple sections of the same subject. For example, I taught all 9th graders last year (year 10s) and my schedule consisted of five sections of Algebra 1. Now this highlights several differences in the systems- daily schedules, naming grades, mathematics curriculum, and lesson planning.

Here, my daily schedule is different for two full school weeks- 10 straight days of different classes at different times. Every day is filled with frequent checks to my timetable to make sure I am where I am supposed to be and me asking myself, “now, what am I doing next?” It can be rather nice having different schedules and seeing different students each day. It breaks things up a bit and gives me something to look forward to if I have a rough day (“Phew! Tomorrow I only have to teach two lessons!” or “Thank goodness I don’t have to see them again for three days!”), but also prevents me from settling into any sort of routine because each day I have different things to plan for.

Now, as you may have noticed, separating students by age is slightly different per country. In the US, we have grades starting with kindergarten and going up to 12th- and all are mandatory. In the UK, they start counting years at age 5, so kindergarten and year 1 are the same. The US typically has a three-tier system consisting of elementary school, middle school (or junior high), and high school. Here, typically there are only two tiers- primary and secondary. Secondary school is made up of students in year 7 through year 11 and sometimes, like Marlborough, includes the sixth form (year 12 & 13). School is only mandatory through year 11 (age 16) and the sixth form is optional (and must be tested in to) only for those students planning on continuing their education at university.

Another big difference is that no one is held back. If a student fails to progress in the US, they do not pass on to the next grade and must repeat classes to earn the proper credits. Here, all students are separated into sets based on ability in the subject and attend class with like-ability students. Those in the higher sets tend to be highly skilled and motivated students who enjoy being challenged. They learn higher level material and get through more of it. Those in the lower sets are students who either do not understand or do not care to understand the subject material. Each set is challenged at their level which means that the lower sets usually are not even presented with the full breadth of a topic and their outcome expectations are reduced to match the limited material presented. In the UK, students who fail to meet the standards are just moved into a lower set. Eventually, all students will be held accountable for a certain amount of basic information in each subject.

I’m not sure which system I prefer. On one hand, I like the accountability in the US system, but on the other hand, I think it is also unreasonable to expect such high-level material to be conquered by ALL students. The UK system understands that not everyone is university bound and allows for difference in interests and abilities while still maintaining a lower bound of education necessary for adult life.

I will say one thing- separating students into ability sets can make for one hell of a class. In the US, most classes wind up being the same size (large- usually around 30), but the disruptive, intentional non-learners are typically split between all the classes, so you only wind up with a few behaviour issues per class. Having a bottom set of year 10s means I have a smaller class (only 12), but the entire class is made up of students who can’t focus, have no interest in maths, or who may struggle due to other issues. It’s difficult to say the least and much of my time is spent on classroom management rather than curriculum. At least this is balanced by my top set year 8s where I have yet to have any significant behaviour issues and am delighted with the insightful questions and friendly challenges in class.

As for the curriculum, I am dismally unprepared. Being trained in the US system with each year of math separated into distinct branches- algebra, trigonometry, calculus- has me grasping at straws here in the UK. Here, they support a fully integrated maths curriculum (US folks, think Common Core with general math instead of subject specific). Each year should cover all branches of maths. My problem is that I am used to the Illinois State Standards. They spell out what should be covered in each subject each year and usually have delightful examples and sample problems to help guide the difficulty level. Here, I am faced with different curriculum expected to be covered by different sets (so not all year 9s will be learning the same thing) and the extent of certain topics and the depth to which I should teach them varies by set. I just feel horribly lost and concerned that the material I am presenting is either too hard or not hard enough. I have no idea what they learned in previous years, so even if I feel confident that I’ve prepared a proper lesson, I may begin it and find that the students don’t have the background to complete the tasks I ask of them.

So, to wrap up, school is good for the most part. It’s got ups and downs. There’s wonderful students I wish I could have in every lesson and students who make me want to load up on Xanax. I just wish someone could magically take my years of education training and hit a translate button so I understood what exactly was going on here. I’m a bit tired of turning to my neighbors in the maths office and asking, “What does this mean?” or “What do I do with this?” I miss feeling confident in my teaching.

Settling In

All is coming together nicely. There’s been a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ going on with things like internet, the kid’s schooling, paychecks, etc. but we are settling in nicely.

We have a flat now. It’s a cute two bedroom place in Luton. Unfortunately, we’re a bit far away from school, so I have an hour-long commute one way. The reason we are so far away is because letting agencies are the devil. We had so much difficulty getting through referencing because Mark was self-employed in hone states. The referencing agencies didn’t like that. WE were sure that we could afford certain flats in St. Albans, but because of the cost of rent and the agencies counting Mark’s income as £0, we weren’t allowed to let them. It was so aggravating. Seriously, I’ve moved across an ocean with my family to a country where we don’t know anyone and have it explicitly stated on our visas that we are not allowed to receive government funds. Do they really think I’d do ANYTHING to jeopardize my situation, especially something as stupid as default on my rent and wind up homeless here?! At least it’s all settled now. We still need some furniture pieces that will have to wait until the money starts flowing again, but it’s a place of our own where we can keep our belongings and cookout own meals.

While it is home, we still don’t have all the amenities, yet. We have yet to get our internet up and running at the flat. The company we have chosen doesn’t have wiring run to our flat yet, so we are waiting to see if that is even possible. If it is, we will then still have to wait for it to be connected. I’m lucky to have access at school and on the bus that I take for my commute (yes, the bus has power and wi-fi), but Mark and the kids feel pretty disconnected at the moment only getting snippets of time online when they walk up to the Costa for coffee.

The kids aren’t in school yet, either, which is a big bummer. They are stuck at home with iPods, workout books, and the occasional errand. Thankfully, there is a playground a block down from our flat, but it’s rather deserted during the day when other children are in school. We are trying to get the kids in to schools near my work. The tricky part is that it is in a different county, so there’s a few extra hoops to jump through. With our intention on staying here in the country, and our hope to move closer to my school (and London) to make commutes for me (and Mark) shorter, we’ve opted to enroll them in schools near Marlborough. This will facilitate transportation (since we are not buying a vehicle), let me be close on hand in case of emergency, and hopefully prevent the kids from having to change schools again if and when we DO move into the county.

School for me, though, has been great. It’s a very nice school, large campus, and wonderful department. They’re all very helpful as I go through my crash course in British Maths curriculum. It’s all so different- grouping of students by abilities, scheduling, integrated curriculum, etc., but I’ll save that for another post (hopefully later this week). Mark has initiated contact with one of the studios in London that he would like to work at after being introduced (via email) by his mentor. In the meantime, he’s with the kids and been setting up our flat to feel like home.

So, as I said, all is coming together nicely and it will only get better as we are able to establish our routines (and money starts coming in again). Getting paid on the last working day of each month makes for a bit of a wait, but I have confirmed that I AM on payroll and will get paid on time (which I wasn’t sure about since I had to wait until we had an address to open a bank account).

Keep your eyes peeled for more updates and don’t hesitate to leave comments!

Cheers!

We’re Here.

Well, I’m now sitting in a cafe having a hot coffee in St. Albans. This is now the third day I’ve been up here (with nightly travel back to London where I’ve left my husband and children to do some sight-seeing). I’ve been visiting school, flat viewing, bank account opening, and town exploring.

I came up straight away on Tuesday. My relocation agent had set up some viewings for me. There were five and unfortunately, nothing worked out. The first one was too expensive. I opted out of the second one (which was also too expensive) because I had been double booked. The third one (which I chose from the double booking since it was in our price range) was nice. I liked it. I would live there, BUT it’s not available until October. I can’t wait that long. The fourth I showed up to and called the agency only to find out that they weren’t able to show it until Saturday because they didn’t have the keys and no one told me. The fifth was later and called to reschedule to Wednesday. So, it was a bust on the first day.

Wednesday had three viewings scheduled, but not until after I got to go to my school. I arrived in St. Albans and headed straight to my school. A funny sort of situation arose on my way. I saw a woman get on the same bus as me and I had a feeling she may not be from around here just from watching her interaction with the bus driver as she paid for her ticket. We both wound up getting off at the same stop, then I followed her down the street. When we both eventually turned into the entrance way for Marlborough Science Academy, I knew we HAD to be going to the same place, so I spoke up. Turns out, she is a new teacher of science from Australia and we were both to have our first meetings at the school together.

Once we arrived, we met the woman we had been in contact with, Helen, head or HR. We each had our turn privately with her filling out paperwork and the like. I also was introduced to the head of my department, Maths (yes, with an ‘s’), Nitesh. Getting to sit down with him was anxiety relieving. He made me feel very welcome and taken care of. He explained a bit more how my schedule will work, how the department works, and assured me that I will have plenty of resources from my super-helpful co-workers in planning a curriculum I am unfamiliar with (all of which I will save for a later post). I got a short tour of some of the grounds (full tour on Monday) and my picture taken for my ID. I’ll head back there on Monday for my first inset day and meet the full staff.

After school, it was off to my viewings for the day. I headed down the street from school about a mile and a half to the next town first. This was a flat we had seen pictures of and tried to let before moving. It didn’t quite hold up to our expectations from the pictures (agents are very good at taking pictures that make places look very good), but it was still very nice and would fit us nicely. I then headed back to St. Albans to view another one. I liked that one. It was newly renovated. Very nice and just off a major-ish road (bus stops close by). The last one was in a slightly hard to get to area and was a bit more run down. Not my favorite. I’m now in contact with agents for the two I liked trying to see which one can get us in sooner and with fewer difficulties.

FYI, letting a flat in the UK is not simple. At least not for us. To let a flat, you must first view it, then start an application. To start the application, you must pay high (at least to us) agent fees (non-refundable) for referencing (like £150-£200 per adult living there) and place a refundable deposit down. Referencing can take 3 working days up to a week or more. So, not only does it take a while, but we’re not even sure we’ll be approved! My husband has been a self-employed audio engineer for over a decade. The referencing agencies don’t like that. We’re hoping my verification of employment and our tax records will be enough for them to go on. I don’t know what we’ll do if we are denied. I can’t afford to be throwing away £300 or more just on TRYING to let a flat.

So, we’re at least trying to get a move on having a place to live. And now, here it is, Friday, I’m back up in St. Albans. I started a bank account, contacted letting agents, and had lunch with my first new friend in St. Albans, Nicole. It’s nice here. I just can’t wait until we are fully settled and stop hemorrhaging money on travel, eating out, and extra fees. Then I’ll better be able to enjoy it. I also can’t wait to show the family St. Albans. So far, I’ve been the only one who’s gotten to see it. We may possibly all come up tomorrow if the landlord for one of the flats wishes to meet us before letting it to us. Keep your fingers crossed for us!