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Teaching in Summer Schools: an overview, the pros and the cons

If, like me, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is how you earn a living, then the chances are that at some point, either in the past, present or future, you have worked, are working or will work in one of the countless English Language summer schools that sweep western Europe. If that’s not the case, then you’ll have almost certainly considered it.

Given the fact that TEFL contracts tend not to last longer than nine months (usually late September through to late June), the summer – particularly its latter stages – is a penny-pinching time of year for EFL teachers. Throw in a summer holiday and a festival or two and there’s even more cause to worry about your finances.

So, unless you’ve another skill set that provides alternative means of work (good for you) or you’re just loaded/really good at saving/able to claim Spanish dole/content to live rent-free with your parents, signing up for one of these summer schools is pretty much unavoidable.



Summer schools come in different shapes and sizes. Most are owned by large companies who run full-time academies during the rest of the year. In the UK, EF, St. Giles International, Embassy and EnglishUK are some of the best-known, with centres set up across the nation and an intake of thousands of students every year. Each course typically lasts around six to eight weeks and teachers are usually employed for anywhere between four and eight weeks.

The job involves preparing and teaching lessons in the morning five days a week, supervising students during afternoon and evening activities/day-long excursions and occasional meal/bed time duty. All in all, teachers generally work around 40-45 hours per week and receive full-board accommodation.

University funded schools are generally the most expensive for students and most profitable for teachers. I currently work for Hertford College at Oxford University, where I am paid enviably for the job and actual working hours I do, though jobs at the very best academies require adequate experience.


Anywhere. London, Oxford, Cambridge, Kent, Brighton and Edinburgh are popular breeding grounds for obvious reasons but there are schools in various cities throughout the UK.

Spain, France and Portugal also have a broad range of schools available, usually at more affordable prices given the absence of full language immersion. TECS are a Spanish company based in El Puerto de Santa María, Cadiz, who offer full-time summer courses for kids and teens in the surrounding areas.


As in who is right for the job. Just because you’re an EFL teacher doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll breeze through summer school. The demand is high, both professionally and physically. In the large companies mentioned above, teachers are hired to teach and be students’ friends, and most importantly, are expected to work well within a team, no matter what school it is.

summer school camp teaching english
Working as a team by singing YMCA very badly


Personal Development

The obvious selling point of TEFL is having the opportunity to experience and adapt to other cultures. A year of this, be it in Spain or a monastery on a mountain in Tibet, opens your eyes to what it’s really like to interact with natives in another language. So when the shoe is on the other foot, and you’re the native, you have a good idea of what is going through your students’ minds. Through your own learned experiences, you are better equipped to help students adapt to their new environment, and this does wonders for your interpersonal skills and cross-cultural awareness.

Better still, summer schools in the UK offer a whole other dynamic to teaching English because of the multilingual nature of the classrooms. Kids come from all over the world, often alone, so it is often the case that they have no choice but to speak English with their peers. Thus, English is taken beyond the classroom, where the teacher’s role is facilitator, rather than teacher.

summer school camp teaching english
Class of 2011

Professional Development

EFL teachers can easily become stuck in their ways; they are satisfied with the way they teach, their bosses are satisfied with the way things are run and the students are satisfied with the way they learn. Removing yourself from that comfort zone and starting afresh in a different teaching environment, with different input from all angles, really helps improve your teaching skills. People bounce ideas off each other, and everybody is generally very happy to share their efficacious lesson plans. By the end of a course, it’s not uncommon to leave with around 20GB or so worth of material, which will be great to take back with you to your regular job come September.

Touching Base

Life as an EFL teacher for many is fun and adventurous, and this is the picture we paint of it on Facebook for friends back home. We post the good stuff, the awesome days at the beach or a jungle trekking safari etc. For them, this is what we do, with the odd day of work thrown in from time to time.

summer school camp teaching english

We do do that, but there’s a lot more to it than just that isn’t there? I find that sometimes there’s a sense of incomprehension when I go home and meet friends for a drink. Sure, they’re interested and eager to hear your stories, but the idea of what it’s like to live within another culture with a different language is something only truly understood by someone else who has also done it. Summer schools are the perfect places to share this common knowledge, and touch base with people who’re doing what you’re doing, in some other part of the world.

summer school camp teaching english
Teachers ‘touching base’ in the pub

It’s a Chance to Save Money

With almost every residential teaching contract comes either heavily subsidised or full-board accommodation, so you rarely have to pay for your own meals. In fact, you rarely have to pay for anything at all. And if you manage not to go out on the piss with other teachers every night of the week then you might even save a few hundred quid. Just bear in mind that you will be taxed on all that you earn and Student Loans will of course have their share if you ticked the relevant box on the p46 form. I know, bastards!

Free Stuff

Unless you are employed on a teaching only contract, you will most likely be equally as responsible for supervising students on regular field trips. In the UK, this inevitably involves visits to London, Oxford, Cambridge, Windsor, Stratford-upon-Avon and other places of cultural interest. Personally, I’d never visited any of the above except London before I took my first job in summer school. It’s surprisingly refreshing to travel around your own country, and see places that you might not have ever bothered going to if you had to pay to get there.

summer school camp teaching english oxford
Catte Street, Oxford


Some Students

Emphasis on ‘some’. Most students are lovely, polite and very keen to learn as much English as possible and make the most of their trip. Others are not, and they are easy to spot. It’s generally kids who’re clearly more accustomed to having servants do everything for them. I’ll never forget Alla, who I had been sent to greet at the arrivals lounge at Heathrow. Dressed top to toe in the latest designer garb and joke-sized Gucci sunglasses, she rolled her Chanel suitcase toward me. ‘Welcome to England!’ I exclaimed. She let her suitcase fall flat to the ground, looked at me and then pointed to it. ‘Carry’ she replied.

To be fair, arrogant as she was, I actually found her to be highly amusing, just out of sheer incredulity. There are, however, other students who become the bane of your life, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The Food

By listing this as a con I feel rather like one of the students myself; this is, by far, the most complained about thing at summer school. It’s actually much better than the school dinners of our time, and very balanced as long as you don’t go overboard – but 4-6 weeks subsisting almost entirely on the stuff does take its toll. Spots appear, your belly swells and you fart more. Simple as.

The Hours

The hours are exhausting in the majority of schools. Teaching hours generally take place between 9am and 1-2pm, and then teachers either work for the afternoon or have a break before clocking back in to work in the evening. Fair enough, a lot of this ‘work’ comprises sports, trivia quizzes, ‘crazy games’, movie nights and karaoke, and there is one full day off per week, but there comes a point, usually when you are dressed as a gay zebra at an ‘African animal disco’ (but that’s another story) when you just think ‘I’m not a gay zebra. I’m tired. And I want to go to bed’. But you can’t go to bed because you’re on bedtime duty for the night, and you know that all the Saudi kids are going to keep you up until 2am.

summer school camp teaching english

The Pay

Generally, it is low, but then if you consider the free accommodation and food, it could be worse. In my experience, about £320 per week is average – anything lower than that isn’t worth working for – not if you’re working more than forty hours a week. There are some schools who will pay incredibly well – even up to £450 per week, but the level of expectation here is exceptionally high, and only teachers with a few years’ experience tend to get hired for these positions.

Missed Travelling Opportunities

The summer is a time to travel! And if, like me, you’re a travel fanatic – and let’s face it, who in TEFL isn’t? – you’ll never be able to shake the feeling of knowing you could be somewhere else in the world having yourself an unforgettable adventure. I, for one, am shit at saving money, so I can never afford to travel all summer, but if you are sensible enough with your money then I suppose it’s possible. Either way, the majority of summer schools do tend to close with at least a few weeks to go before term starts again, so there’s always a chance to hit the road in this window. Yay!

summer school camp teaching english

Have you ever worked at an English Language Summer School? Was this article helpful to you? Please leave your comments below :)

Getting started with TEFL

grammar tefl teaching english spain

by Ruth Kennedy

Doing some travelling around the world is becoming a rite of passage for more and more young people in the UK and North America; usually just before or after heading to university and ultimately settling into a career of some kind. The pre-university travelling – the gap year trip – is often about romping from place to place, taking in the sights and seeing the world as a footloose nomad for a few months. Although many people take on some volunteering while they are on a gap year, the focus is generally on getting out there and seeing the world before getting your nose to the grindstone.

Those who choose to go abroad after their studies are often looking for a unique experience but one that will also contribute to building a future and maybe even a career. Getting valuable experience, qualifications and holding down a job become the focus and a new way to experience travelling the world.

In this short guide we provide advice on some of the key considerations including studying for a TEFL qualification, how to find a work placement, how to arrange accommodation and how to prepare for going away.

TEFL Courses

A popular and really solid approach to moving abroad for some time is to study for a TEFL qualification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), which will open up teaching jobs across the globe. TEFL courses are hard work and a really strong qualification to have under your belt. This is particularly the case if you are interested in teaching as a long term career, but even if you plan on heading down a different career path teaching English abroad can help you develop skills that will be really useful no matter what you end up doing.

There are a few different TEFL courses available, of varying lengths and intensity. To open up lots of opportunities it’s a good idea to take one of the month long intensive courses. At the end of this you will be qualified for English teaching jobs all over the world and your course provider may also provide you with a list of current opportunities to help you find your first job. Asia is a top choice as well as the warmer areas of Europe, for example, Spain.

studying spanish english tefl spain

Finding a Job

As mentioned above, it’s often the case that upon completing a TEFL course you’ll be given access to a list of potential job opportunities in different countries. If you want to look beyond this list there are some other websites that can be really helpful. Sites such as Go Overseas and Footprints Recruiting list jobs and offer lots of helpful information so you can quickly find your feet with a job in the country you want to live.

Arranging Accommodation

Some work placements abroad include a place to stay – accommodation can be part of the payment for your services, whereas other placements have their own accommodation which you must pay to rent. This allows you to formulate a reliable plan for where you’ll live, and it can be particularly good for meeting people when you arrive and creating a network of friends who are doing a similar job to you while you’re abroad.

If you aren’t getting accommodation through your placement you can either arrange a place to stay before you head out or you could organise temporary accommodation at a hostel for the beginning of your stay. This gives you a chance to visit places once you arrive to find a place where you’ll be happy and secure while you’re there. Host families, private apartments and hostel accommodation are all options, and it really just depends on the kind of lifestyle you want to have and how much cash you’ll have to spend on living costs.

tefl spain wordle teaching english

Other Considerations

Beyond the obvious things like finding a job and somewhere to stay, there are a few other bits that you’ll need to sort out as part of your move. One is international health insurance, which may need to be specific to place where you go. Aetna International (more info) offers information about moving abroad and will help you find the most suitable policy to cover you for your stay.

You may also need to open a bank account in the country you are heading to, and you should also let your current bank know that you are leaving the country for the time being. You may even be able to set up an international current account with your home bank rather than open an account separately abroad – although being able to go into a branch when you need to could be a real advantage while you’re away.

The best thing you can do is speak to other people who have taken a similar trip and find out what worked for them. Once you get the logistics sorted you can head out on the adventure of a lifetime and come back with a range of skills and aptitudes that will stand you in great stead as you enter the world of work back home.

Gaudi, Barcelona, tefl, teach, spain
You could live here

Teach English In Spain

teaching english, tefl, spainLast July marked the fourth year to pass me by since my graduation in 2008, meaning that I have now been a graduate for longer than I was a student. Yet I am still to take my first leap into the cut-throat world of Britain’s job market. Instead, I have since been occupied by the unwavering and ever-flourishing obsession for exploring and learning about other cultures, and over the last two years, this preferable lifestyle has been better facilitated by my current line of work, TEFL.

For those of you (a distinct minority I assume) unfamiliar with this acronym, that stands for ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’.  The job brought me to Spain in September 2010 and consequently Granada a year later. Since my arrival, I have met and inevitably had to explain the nature of my abode to rather a large number of people (mainly students), due to my constant meeting with them, and frankly the ensuing response has always been something along the lines of “God. That sounds amazing”. And to tell you the truth, it is.


Okay, perhaps its not the most lucrative of job opportunities out there, but whether you’re in it for the long run or just for a brief spell, there is, in my eyes, simply no better way to immerse yourself in an alien culture while sustaining a steady income.

I teach 20 hours of English to a variety of levels and ages per week, I don’t start work until the afternoon and I am paid a respectable sum for my efforts at the end of each month. I have what I consider to be a fantastic social life, spent with friends both in and out of work- allowing me the opportunity to converse in ideal amounts of both English and Spanish, and I am even able to nip up to the Sierra Nevada to feed my snowboarding addiction at least two or three times a month, without worrying too much about the cost!

Alhambra Palace Granada Spain
The Alhambra Palace, Granada
Sierra Nevada Ski Granada Spain
The Sierra Nevada Ski Resort, Granada

Don’t get me wrong- by no means does the job come without its responsibilities: consistent high-quality planning, frank assessments of students’ work, and technical expertise, are but a few standard requirements. It does, however, allow for a stress-free and leisurely lifestyle that when laid bare in words, never fails to provoke wild outbursts of jealousy from whoever’s asking.

Take two friends of mine for instance, both Erasmus students, both American, and now (sadly) both returned to the US. The pair of them were so impressed when I revealed to them the nature of my livelihood that they have since decided to do a TEFL course following their graduation, with the intention of coming back to look for work in Granada. It was this spot of inadvertent preaching which led me to write this post, in the hope of convincing more to do the same.

So, these courses then. They usually last for about four weeks (intensive) or six months (part-time), and can be done just about anywhere on the planet for a fee within the region of £1100. This price tag may seem excessive but keep in mind that a higher fee generally reflects a higher standard of quality training. The most prevalent and globally recognised courses are the Cambridge CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults) and the Trinity TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), both of which are held in equal regard, though the CELTA is probably favoured by employers due to the ‘Cambridge’ affiliation.

If these options weigh too heavily on your purse then there are always plenty of other cheaper/shorter or ‘online’ courses to choose from. But be warned- though there are many Language Schools out there who will take on teachers with these sorts of qualifications, the majority of them do not, as it is often the case that these courses neglect to provide trainees with actual observed teaching practice.


There are several centres in Granada that offer the practical courses via the intensive format, and a great deal more throughout Andalucía. However, due to the fierce competition for TEFL jobs in Spain, schools are usually swamped with applications- hence the need for a more personal touch and a healthy dose of lateral thinking.

As for availability of work, there are masses of language schools to choose from in Andalucía; here in Granada there are several highly reputable academies, though to my knowledge most only hire teachers who hold either a CELTA or TESOL certificate. Most of the work in Andalucía can be found in Seville, where some schools even offer the possibility of employment following the obtainment of a CELTA in their own teacher-training academies.

Whether you’re a student who is desperately looking for a way to ‘extend’ (as my Erasmus friends put it) their time here in Spain, or just a regular somebody looking for something completely different, know that TEFL can provide you with boundless opportunities and take you just about anywhere you want to go in the world. Have yourself a browse for current job postings on tefl.com to see where you could start your adventure.As for me, life here in Granada has just about everything I need: great job, great friends, blue skies, sun-kissed beaches, snow-capped mountains and then of course there’s all this free food I keep getting. You do the math.

seville, plaza de españa, spain, tefl, teach
Plaza de España, Seville
Gaudi, Barcelona, tefl, teach, spain
Barcelona, Spain