Open Letter to ISR
“I am highly alarmed by the stance and view you seem to hold regarding recruiting agencies”.
Simon Dweck, Recruiter
Whilst I admire your site and often refer teachers who have come to me over the years to check comments out on the schools I have suggested would be a good school for them, I am highly alarmed by the stance and view you seem to hold regarding recruiting agencies.
On a number of occasions you have clearly stated that none of the agencies have signed up to you Bill of Rights and you infer this as a sign that they are unprofessional or that they do not have teachers’ best interests at heart.
Having worked for a number of the major UK based agencies sending teachers abroad, and having been director of recruitment at one of them ( in doing so sending 100s of teachers to work in schools abroad) I could not disagree with your assumptions any more loudly than I am.
I hasten to add that I am speaking for the agencies that I have worked with and through. For a start, within the UK any agency that is registered with REC ( a recruitment body) has a legal obligation to duty of care towards their teachers. What this means is that a recruitment agent cannot send a teacher to a school or an area where they know that the teacher will be subjected to harm. If they do then there is a path of legal recourse available to the teacher and the first point of contact would be the REC, where further information on the required duties of an agency can be found and information on what a teacher can do.
Since Search Associates , Gabbitas , Teachanywhere.com and most of the UK based supply agencies that claim to work with schools abroad are members of REC, this means that any teacher has automatically the right to go to REC should any of the Bill of Rights content be broken . I cannot speak on behalf of every agency following these guidelines nor can I speak on behalf of agencies outside of the UK. But I do know what happened when I was working for them.
When I worked in this industry I went that step further by ensuring that every single school that used our agency had been guaranteed by a British Embassy recommended lawyer in the country the school was in.
Additionally a number of the agencies despite what some contributors feel , do keep highly accurate records of the schools they work for. They know how many teachers have been and gone in a year, the reasons for their departure etc etc, and it is in the interest of the agency to ensure that the teachers they send will be happy in their posts and be reliably informed of all aspects of their job and the countries that they will work in before making a decision.
If the teacher leaves a school then the agency does not get paid. If teachers supplied by a particular agency leave on a regular basis then the school does not use the agency and does not get paid. If there is a history of bad behavior on the part of a school then a professional agency should not offer their services to that school.
However there will always be times when despite the fact that all steps to ensure good recruitment practice has been followed to the letter by a school directly , by an agency or even by a teacher , the end result i.e the successful completion of a contract by a teacher may not occur. We are after all human beings and are prone to making mistakes.
In my opinion this is where ISR is sometimes prone to being negligent as sometimes the comments made on this web site can affect the future career of staff reviewed and reputations of genuinely good schools who have gone through a bad recruitment process either for staff or for a Head teacher/ Principal .
To merely have a paragraph denying culpability for any comments on this site rather than having some kind of screening or censorship of comments when it is very clear that the poster has an agenda or a bad personal experience when compared with other posters is negligent and seems to shirk the very responsibilities that the site initially intended to serve, namely a correct an incisive review of the international schools around the world.
12/20/08 — Dear Mr. Dweck,
You have highlighted some important and interesting points – I really appreciate your perspective. I agree wholeheartedly that negativity is far too rife on this site.
However, if as you state: “it is very clear that the writer has an agenda or a bad personal experience” then surely the ability to draw this conclusion applies to all who access the site? We too can view such postings critically and with the same skepticism as you do. There is no need for screening or censorship.
The censorship you describes worries me. How do you determine which postings are untruths? This practice is highly subjective. If censorship is a practice you support, do you also condone the screening and editing of teachers’ references supplied by school administrators? Do these agencies screen or omit comments that they deem to be exaggerated or untruths? If so, through what process do they cross-check the validity of references?
The majority of teachers who access ISR are intelligent, critical thinkers. It is my belief ISR has no moral right to delete or edit postings (with the exception of foul language etc listed in the terms of agreement. Until we have governing bodies and teachers’ unions in the international school sector supporting both schools and teachers, ISR is the only voice international school teachers have.
Following this posting, I will browse the agencies’ web sites for the sections informing teachers about the work of the REC. I would certainly appreciate further information about legal proceedings teachers can take if they feel they have been mistreated. Would you care to share them here please or direct us to a web site or contact?
I look forward to your reply
12/20/08 — Apparently Mr. Dweck thinks teachers are stupid. I am not stupid and am able to see when a poster has an agenda. Sometimes the things posters complain about are things that I think are good.
I am also smart enough to realize that things can change for the better and for the worse with a director/headmaster. I have also experienced things going bad at two schools when the top person changed. One of them had bad reviews on ISR from his previous school – and they were spot on. I don’t consider a school until I have checked with ISR. The reviews are the only tool I have for seeking a place to work that I will be able to do my best.
12/20/08 — I still find it alarming that none of the recruiting agencies have endorsed the Bill of Rights. That tells me that they do not have my best interest in mind. After all, it’s the schools that pay for the service, not the teachers. Next time around, I will use the one agency that has endorsed the Bill of Rights – if I use one at all.
These recruiting agencies run a racket whereby teachers must pay for flights and hotel rooms plus registration fees – all the while missing school! And then the schools are set up so that it is difficult to stay for more than two years, so the recruiting agencies get recurring business. It’s nuts!
12/20/08 — I agree with Simon’s comments. ISR is a great site and a valuable resources for teachers in International education which I will use and recommend but when a site makes you pay $30 to use it I would hope that they would give you more than the unedited bloging of the disaffected and defense by the damaged. In short I think ISR you owe us more than you give.
12/20/08 — Once again, the pot calls the kettle black. Who are these people? Dare it be admitted, they could not do what some of the teacher’s they are suppose to be responsible for, do? This is: Go and work for the least experienced educators, who call themselves heads of schools, or those heads who should not even have any means at their disposal to blacklist a teacher on whim! Heads of schools should be reviewed just as regularly as the teachers whom they “evaluate” on a form that is neither standard, nor objective. These forms are questionably called, “faculty evaluation” and have nothing to do with the ability nor the inability to teach. It is a beauty contest, and who can be the biggest kiss-up to the “evaluator” finds the reward. This may sound harsh, however, within my years (over twenty) in the overseas circuit, it has more or less become a circus for the clowns-heads of schools. If new teachers feel insecure, they will find themselves a place quickly with the types of school heads I just described. They will be welcomed and told, “this is the way things are run” around the circuit. Amazing, they may now be true. To the qualified teacher, they may find heads who really don’t care, and outwardly state, they don’t care for qualifications. Good luck. Mr. Dweck is a former recruiter. I wish him all the best. Nothing personal. But, if these very words were found on a teacher’s evaluation, that teacher may face blacklist status for their career.
12/22/08 — From my experience as a teacher in international schools over the last few years, until there is more regulation of the international school industry, the need for such sites as ISR is essential. Here is a breakdown of some of my experiences in the three international schools I have worked in:
1. The principal in the first school was a bully, wrote false references about people to scare teachers into staying, openly talked about his time with local prostitutes in the staff room and promoted someone who had been caught downloading pornography on school premises.
2. I left my second school at Christmas of the first year of my contract soon after finding out that the school had broken its own constitution in its contractual negotiations.
3. I left my third school due to the following reason among many … women were sacked for being pregnant (actually, some were threatened with the sack when they got married as this would soon lead to pregnancy).
On the positive side, I would like to say that in all three schools I worked with some fantastic colleagues, parents and students; and in the school number 3, a great management/leadership team.
Unfortunately, within the context of Mr Dweck’s letter, Gabbitas and Search are involved in recruitment at two of these schools. In school number 2, two colleagues who found themselves in a similar situation as me, informed Search of the situation as they had been hired at a Search fair, but the school has been invited back to subsequent fairs.
I would love to work in situations in which these sort of situations did not occur, but they are not even rare. They are more common than anyone who has not worked in international schools would be surprised to hear.
I would be curious to know how many schools and teachers (it is not always the fault of schools) have been removed from Mr Dweck’s agency over the years and what policies the agency has in place to deal with the not uncommon situations that have been laid out elsewhere here.
12/23/08 — Dear Simon,
Please wake up. Many of your colleagues in positions of power are abusing teachers AND students AND parents–we often forget about them, don’t we–and it is getting worse. What you are seeing in governments, businesses–I make particular mention of banks here–you are seeing reflected in school management: greed, over-inflated self image, nepotism, dictatorship, cruelty, misuse of power, blatant theft and, my personal peeve: incompetence.
How did things go so wrong? Because you and I let them, because schools are often so criminal in their behavior that they won’t even endorse a simple bill of rights. ISR is all the teachers AND students AND parents have. It is the only force advocating basic human rights within schools.The greater the opposition to this force, the greater the problem within schools. None of the accrediting agencies, none of the recruiting agencies and none of the examining bodies are doing anything to fight the abuse in schools because they are all too busy making a buck. So, you would begrudge schools ISR with its Bill of Rights? I’m afraid you are just a part of the problem although you may not be aware of it. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
12-31-2008 — I agree with Simon Dweck’s last paragraph. I work in a school that has a good reputation and overwhelmingly good reviews on ISR. However – one reviewer who obviously had a personal grudge against the PYP coordinator and mentioned her by name in a review without having the guts to sign his/her own name to the review really made me think about the fairness of allowing this to happen. In this case the coordinator mentioned in the review was highly respected by the majority of staff. I believe ISR should insist that if you are going to name a person in a review then the name of the reviewer should also be published. This is fair. It is perfectly fine to review a school anonymously in a general way without mentioning individuals by name. In speaking with the director at my school – it seems that ISR loses a lot of respect with educators and recruiters because of its lax policy. I have been a faithful member of ISR for several years but I think the quality of the web site has gone down as there are too many personal attacks on individuals being published. This is not professional or ethical in my opinion.
Note: Posters comments submitted anonymously.
01-25-09 Mr. Dweck: These schools always have the option to train nationals of the country and forego having foreign teachers. Why don’t the teachers and administrators who are HAPPY develop a web site of their own or write in more often. I guess many are just frightened, bear their burdens and move on.
The world is indeed dangerous and there are people who use agencies in countries to traffic teachers and administrators. They are not accustomed to treating people well, nor respecting them.
You cannot continue to jeopardize people’s lives and livelihoods by greedy, unethical people. This is becoming increasingly common and dangerous. Many are truly exploited and intimidated.
Perhaps it’s time for an International Teachers Union, controlled by the rule of international law.
Slavery has ended in much of the free world. Schools and agencies should do a better job at recruiting and many of these problems would not exist. But most want their fees and throw warm bodies and unprepared people into situations that will increasingly prove disastrous.
Do something before dastardly people start killing teachers. Why do these people want foreign teachers teaching their kids anyway? Don’t they have able-bodied members of their own societies?
Most teachers are females, and this warrants a new set of security measures in today’s world. Wake up and be smart. Most of these grievances are real. Stop taking issue with people who have no other outlet for what has happened to them and fix this DAMN pathetic system.