Ras Al Kaimah is one of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As part of our ongoing quest to tell you as much as we can about the realities of overseas teaching. We spoke to Westley Hughes, headteacher of the Ras Al Khaimah English Speaking School to find out what life’s really like for a teacher living and working in this part of the world.
The Middle East is obviously a diverse region: in general what is the attraction for UK teachers looking to work overseas?
We currently have 50+ teachers from the UK working at RAKESS:BC. They have initially been attracted by the warm sunshine and rich culture of the Middle East. It is often not until you have settled in to life here that you realise there is a different pace to life. We work incredibly hard at our school in order to provide the best education for our pupils who are very respectful and have the most supportive parents who value education. But we also have a good work-life balance and there is plenty of time to explore the area and enjoy what RAK and Dubai have to offer. The attraction would be to work within an alternative type of community but to have the security of very professional organisation. The cost of living is better than the UK when you take into account a tax-free salary and the benefits of the school package, which includes free accommodation.
What are the major plus points about living and working in the United Arab Emirates, and the Ras Al Khaimah specifically?
RAK has its advantages over other places like Qatar, Kuwait and even Dubai. The lifestyle is quieter, the place is more picturesque, and being smaller it is easier to find your way around. There are places that appear to offer better salaries on the face of it, but in real terms we offer an excellent package. When you need a break, we have the benefit of having the shopping capital of the world only an hour away.
And the negatives?
I think it would be fair to say that couples and those with small children seem to appreciate what RAK has to offer more. It is not for the person who wants the fast pace of Dubai. However, we have many single people on our staff who enjoy the professional challenge our school offers and the easy pace of RAK.
Could you tell us a little bit about your school and the nearby area?
Our school was opened in 2007; we have grown since then from 500 pupils to almost 900 this year. We offer the ’British Curriculum’ based on the NC of England & Wales. 70 – 80% of our pupils are local children and have English as a second language. We have a very good reputation in the community and plan to be the best provider of private education in the area. Our facilities are excellent and include swimming pool, theatre and spacious air-conditioned classrooms. www.rakpedia.com is a good source for local information.
What would your advice be for someone contemplating teaching in the Middle East?
Do your homework before committing to any school! Explore the nature of the area and the full package the school offers, and don’t be tempted to choose based on what you think is the best basic salary.
And in the Ras Al Kaimah specifically?
If you come to work in RAKESS:BC be prepared for plenty of hard work and a professional challenge. It’s not a holiday – you come to work. On the other hand, where else can you finish work at a reasonable time and head to the beach or pool to end your day? Where else do you have time to plan a short break to Egypt, Jordan or even a long summer break to the Far East?
What do you look for in your ‘ideal candidate’?
I look for a minimum of two years’ experience teaching in a UK or equivalent school. People with energy and enthusiasm who have lots to offer our growing and dynamic school are best suited. You need to be flexible and resourceful and have a respect for the culture and traditions of your host country.