From teacher to manager: UK vs. Oz… same same or different?


Teaching ESOL in England and ELICOS in Australia – it’s not just warm vs. cold beer!

George Bernard Shaw famously described the UK and the US as “two nations divided by a common language” but what about England and Australia? Both countries (allegedly) speak English and teach English. We dream of Olympic Golds, play cricket and enjoy a good BBQ. I thought, erroneously it now appears, that having been brought up on a heady diet of Neighbours, Home and Away and Prisoner: Cell Block H, that I was more than ready for the move to Australia and would encounter nary a blip of culture shock. For isn’t Australia simply the UK with better weather, taller people (in fact, peopled entirely with Kylie and Jasons) and a strangely lifting intonation at the end of sentences?!
This post will be of interest especially to anyone considering taking a leap down under and hoping to successfully avoid the pitfalls I so readily fell into. I will focus on the private teaching sector in Australia as this is where I have been recently based.


In the UK we teach ESL in private colleges and universities and ESOL in government colleges. In Australia the acronyms are different (just to unnecessarily complicate matters!): AMEP and ELICOS.  In the UK, ESOL is taught predominantly to refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants and the odd smattering of international students. In Australia, new migrants do an Adult Migrant Education Program at TAFE colleges. This new jargon takes a bit of getting used to – especially when you also have to learn to say eggplant not aubergine, and zucchini not courgette. Phew!

However, despite the acrimony of learning different acronyms, the language remains the same. We are still teaching English! Research shows that the majority of students spend most of their time talking to non-native speakers, and may move from one country to another, all with differing variations of English. It is therefore our obligation to provide our learners with the tools to survive in different countries – which means all Englishes: for example American, Australian, Scottish, Spanglish (spoken predominantly in South America I believe) and Hinglish, which is rife in India.


In Australia, currently, to teach within the private education industry, in colleges accredited by NEAS (National ELT Accrediting Scheme), you are required to have a specific TESOL qualification, for example Cambridge’s CELTA or Oxford’s CertTESOL, although other ones are also accepted. Each course must have a minimum number of hours input, and a practical teaching component. More information can be found here . An online course is not considered to fufil the basic requirements for an acceptable teaching qualification. You also need a Bachelor degree (any discipline).

Academic Managers or Directors of Studies need:

1. a recognised degree or equivalent
2. five years experience in managing and/or teaching on ELT programs
3. a TESOL qualification at postgraduate diploma level or above (i.e. DELTA)


In Australia, ELICOS teachers are usually paid based on a national scheme taking into account both qualifications and experience. Unfortunately, the majority of overseas experience, with the exception of the British Council and some other highly respected schools, is not counted, so you may well find yourself starting at the bottom. Most teachers are employed on a casual basis, and can expect to work approximately 20 hours a week, which is considered a full-time load. Of course, some colleges pay more or less than the average and offer more or fewer hours.

Example approximate salaries from lowest to highest: level 1:  $42.00 per hour, to level 12: $55.00 per hour.


Most schools will require their teachers to be in possession of a valid visa with permission to work in Australia. All staff will therefore be required to have the right to live and work in Australia, which means obtaining a visa and attending interview prior to any employment offer. There are a lot of teachers looking for work in Australia and so it is rare for teachers to be actively recruited from overseas.  There are rare exceptions here of course; I got my first Australian job while still in the UK based on having two modules of the illustrious DELTA. If you are young (under 30) you will be able to get a working holiday visa (minimum one year, but restricting you to only 6 months work in any one company), but if you are an ancient old thing and over 30 you will have more problems.

Positions vacant

You can search large, current databases of jobs all over Australia: 


If you are looking for teaching work in the bigger cities you may want to consider dropping your CV (a résumé in Australia) off in person to the language schools and then following up with an email addressed to the DoS or AM. It’s very common in Australian for people not to get back to you. The thinking seems to be if you’re looking for a job, do the hard work by chasing up your application.

In closing, it’s a bit different yes, but that’s what makes this move fantastic. If you enjoy exotic scents, sounds and vistas, Australia is for you. It’s familiar enough but so wonderfully different too. Stunning tumbling jacaranda trees carpeting the ground with their purple blossoms, the weird and wicked cackling laugh of the early morning alarm call; the kookaburra, bikinis, and barbeques for Christmas Day. I’m from Leeds originally, but now ‘I come from a land Down Under’. 


AMAcademic Manager
AMEPAdult Migrant Education Program
DELTADiploma in English Language Teaching to Adults
DoSDirector of Studies
EFLEnglish as a Foreign Language
ELICOSEnglish Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students
ELTEnglish Language Teaching
ESLEnglish as a Second Language
ESOLEnglish for Speakers of Other Languages
TAFETechnical And Further Education

Further reading

Griffith, S. (2007) Teaching English Abroad (8th Edition), Vacation Work Publications
Veltman, L. (2007) Living and Working in Australia:  All You Need to Know for Starting a New Life Down Under, How To Books Ltd





If you would like to read more in the ‘From teacher to manager…’ series, please follow the links below:


Installing a creativity app in teachers

CPD. What the…?


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