Why American schools are so different to Welsh ones

By: Abbie Wightwick

Schools in Wales have many positives but also some areas where they are lacking compared to those in the US.

When she came from the USA to Wales qualified teacher Katie Davies had to take a job as an unqualified teacher at £10,000 less than she should have been earning.

Apart from Wales not recognising her American teacher qualifications Katie, 35, also noticed that extra curricular activities and sport here are not as good as they are in her home country.

That’s something she believes is because teachers get paid more to run activities for pupils after school in the USA.

Back in the USA if a pupil misbehaved Katie, who teaches humanities, would also hand on the work dealing with that to a Dean of Discipline. Here it’s a matter for the teachers.

On the other hand, Katie loves Eastern High in Cardiff , where she works, likes compulsory school uniform and the better communication with parents.

She also likes the year-round supply of classroom materials like whiteboard pens, paper and pens for pupils she gets in Wales. These are things she sometimes had to buy out of her own pocket in the USA.

And working in a new build school in Cardiff she said the technology is better than in the small rural schools worked in back in Illinois.

Katie Davies said she loves Wales and working in Eastern High. Picture: Richard Swingler

“I don’t think one system is better than the other, they are just different. In terms of the way you work with children there’s no difference.

“American schools have so much more inter-school sports and choirs that are better established.

“They have better after school activities and student councils are more established and active. There are also more academic competitions. There are marching bands and cheerleaders.

“There are after school clubs here but they are not at the same level. Staff in the USA are very well compensated for running them and it comes at a cost.”

Katie found the way schools approach bad behaviour also varies between the two countries.

“The discipline system is so different. I feel here there is a lot more restorative practice.

“In the USA if I had a problem I would ring the dean of discipline and they would deal with that and make all the phone calls to parents.

“Discipline here is more teacher led which is good in some ways and in some ways not. It means I talk to students’ parents more, which is good, but it means more work.”

Compulsory uniform for pupils here makes life easier, she believes. In the USA children and teenagers can choose what to wear but must follow a dress code, which can be difficult to interpret and enforce.

“In the US there is no uniform but really strict dress codes so in America I spent a lot of time saying “that’s not appropriate”. Here I say “where’s your tie?.

“I like school uniform better because the rules on dress in American school are so cultural and harsher on girls than boys.

“I do think wearing school uniform is a leveller and it’s easier. I tell my pupils that all the time.”

Katie is starting a new job teaching humanities at Cantonian High next term

US-born Katie qualified as a teacher at Eastern Illinois University in the Mid-West and taught in schools in her home country for four years until she met her future husband Hywel Davies from Pontypridd when they both worked on a summer camp in the USA.

In 2012 they relocated back to his home town but when Katie began looking for a job she was shocked to find her teaching qualification was recognised in England, but not in Wales.

For years she commuted to teach at a school in Bristol.

“I worked hard to qualify as a teacher in the United States and was proud of what I had achieved. I wanted to continue to my career, so I began commuting every day to secure teaching work”.

In 2019 Katie got a job at Eastern High in Cardiff but because her qualification was not recognised here, this was as an unqualified teacher.

But there was light at the end of the tunnel. On January 1 the Welsh Government introduced new legislation meaning that any qualified teacher from across the world can now apply to have their teaching qualification recognised in Wales and in turn be awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). The assessment is carried out by teaching regulator the Education Workforce Council (EWC).

Aware that change was afoot Katie submitted her application as soon as the new legislation came in. Within a couple of weeks her application had been approved and she is now a fully-fledged teacher in Wales with a salary to match.

“I’m delighted as I love teaching and have made Wales my home,” said Katie, who lives in Pontypridd with Hywel, who works as a civil servant, and their children Aled, five, and Nia, two.

This term is her last at Eastern High as she starts a new job at Cantonian High next term, teaching geography, history, RE, leisure and tourism.

The EWC said since Katie applied in January it has had 10 more applications from qualified teachers in countries ranging from Ireland to Hong Kong to Australia.

EWC Chief Executive, Hayden Llewellyn said: “We welcome this change by the Welsh Government, it was eagerly anticipated and brings parity with the recognition arrangements in other countries.

“All applications we receive are assessed against rigorous criteria, meaning that we are able to welcome experienced teachers from outside of the UK who bring not only the necessary qualifications but also wide and varied cultural backgrounds.”

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “As part of the process of leaving the EU, changes were made to make sure Welsh laws continued to function in relation to Qualified Teacher Status and allowing teachers from the EU to register to practise.

“To ensure we avoided issues of discrimination, the regulations were amended to allow teachers from outside the EEA to have their professional teaching qualifications recognised, as long as the qualifications are judged as not being substantially different from those in Wales – the same applies to EEA qualifications.

“This allows qualified teachers to apply to EWC to have their qualifications assessed, and – if successful – apply for registration to practise in Wales.”

Source: https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education/american-schools-different-welsh-ones-20736334

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Why American schools are so different to Welsh ones – Sarraute Educación María Magdalena

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