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Finding English teachers for France’s language schools ‘practically impossible’ since Brexit

For a long time, France's proximity to the UK meant there was a steady stream of English speakers looking to teach in France. Now, language schools are feeling the combined effects of Brexit and Covid-related travel restrictions.

Finding English teachers for France's language schools 'practically impossible' since Brexit
Photo: Loic VENANCE / AFP.

Since the British government decided to end freedom of movement within the EU for its citizens, most Brits now require a visa or work permit if they wish to move to France.

This was already the case for Americans, Canadians and Australians, leaving the Irish or people with dual nationality as the only native English speakers who can move to France under EU freedom of movement without needing complicated paperwork.

Many business such as ski resorts now advertise for EU passport holders only, filling the gaps left by vanishing Brits is proving more complicated for private language schools, which often promise clients they will be taught by native English speakers.

‘There’s nobody’

And companies outside of Paris have found it particularly difficult. Isabelle Huart, manager of the Berlitz language centre in Lille, told The Local it had become “practically impossible” to recruit native English speakers.

“I would like to recruit Brits, but it’s complicated, there’s nobody,” she said.

With demand for adult classes returning to normal in September following months of Covid disruption, Huart said she hoped to recruit three or four native speakers for face-to-face classes, but applications have come to a halt. “If I have two more tomorrow, I’ll hire them on the spot,” she said.

Berlitz recruits English speakers from all over the globe, but was used to hiring Brits who, along with Irish citizens, were able to live in France without a visa.

“Before, I didn’t differentiate between England, Ireland, Scotland… To me, it was a single unit, and now I find myself saying, ‘No, I’d like an Irish person’.”

Luisa Miller set up the Enjoy English language school in Montpellier with her husband in 2010. She said many of her employees decided to return to the UK, first because of Brexit, and then due to the Covid pandemic, and there has been no new wave of Brits coming to replace them.

The gaps are mainly for English speakers to accompany children on extracurricular activities on Wednesdays, Saturdays and during school holidays, roles usually performed by young graduates or students looking to learn French and discover the country.

“That has completely dried up. I’ve had pretty much no CVs from Britain for at least a year and a half.”

READ ALSO What are the post-Brexit rules for Brits wanting to work in France?

With the usual word-of-mouth method no longer working, the business has taken to advertising on recruitment sites for the first time.

“Now, instead of receiving so many CVs I don’t always reply unless I have an opening, any CV I do get sent is very carefully filed away and I try to interview people as soon as possible.

“One of the promises we make to parents is that the teachers are native anglophones,” Miller added.

Brexit or Covid?

In 2018, Enjoy English took the major step of opening a bilingual primary school in Montpellier, but the combination of Brexit and Covid has also had an effect on student numbers.

“Montpellier is a big research, scientific and medical centre,” Miller said. “We have families from London, etc., but all of that has stopped. I’m hoping it will start again, but for the moment there are no applications from families moving from the UK.”

And it’s not just people who no longer enjoy freedom of movement.

Miller was accustomed to using “British suppliers for food, some types of biscuits for the children to have that immersive feeling, as well as a lot of textbooks and story books”, but these have all been disrupted by Brexit, frustrations which will be familiar to many Brits living in France.

“I’m reduced to having to use just Amazon because of customs charges and delays.”

READ ALSO From TikTok to K-pop: How French students are learning English online

Residency

For those Brits who were already in France before December 31st 2020, things are more straightforward, since the Withdrawal Agreement means they are entitled to a carte de séjour residency permit.

Therefore companies that have a lower staff turnover have encountered fewer issues. Like English Room 101 in Paris, whose teachers have all received their residency cards.

“People who are here teaching have already been set up as an autoentrepreneur [self-employed], a status they’ve had for a while, and Brexit hasn’t changed that,” said president and co-founder Lee Mitchell.

“We’re not a huge school so haven’t had many problems,” he added. “As the company expands and we need to look for more teachers I might encounter issues.”

Online teaching

But another mitigating factor is the way a lot of language teaching has moved online during the pandemic, a method English Room 101 will continue to make the most of for the foreseeable future.

According to Mitchell, 95 percent of classes booked through the compte personnel de formation – the state allowance every employee in France is given to spend on professional training – now take place via video, which he says has changed things for the better.

“It means teachers can be employed from anywhere in the world. It’s often difficult to find teachers after 6-7pm at night when people finish work, but we can find teachers from other countries, and it could be morning for them.”

Lucy Allardyce, director of studies at Araxi Formations, agreed that this was one positive outcome of the pandemic. “Even if some trainers have left because of Brexit, we’ve been able to compensate by drawing on people from all over France,” she told The Local. Although the company continues to recruit only France-based teachers, online lessons mean they do not necessarily need to live in Paris, where most of Araxi’s clients are based.

“More and more face-to-face lessons are coming back, so potentially we will have a problem with recruitment,” she said, adding that video classes will nonetheless continue to be far more prevalent than they were before 2020.

In fact, according to Allardyce, the biggest challenge in terms of recruitment has nothing to do with Brexit or Covid.

“We’ve had quite a few trainers retire in the last few years and we’re not seeing young trainers coming in. That could be Brexit related but I think it’s more related to the cost of living in Paris,” she said. “Word is getting round that Paris is unaffordable for teachers.”

While most applicants are already based in France, Allardyce said she even raises the issues of the cost of living and the difficulty of finding an apartment in the capital when people do apply from abroad. “I try very hard to dissuade them. Unless they’re joining family or marrying a French person, it’d be a nightmare for them.”

Member comments

  1. If you go to the Berlitz website and look for Current Employment Opportunities in France it says, “We don’t have any open position at the moment.” Seems odd if things are really as dire as this article makes them out to be.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

How and when to send Christmas presents from France

If you want to send Christmas presents to friends and family overseas you need to know the deadline dates and how to avoid being hit with extra charges - here's what you need to know.

How and when to send Christmas presents from France

Deadlines

First things first, you need to make sure your parcel arrives in time for Christmas, which means sending it before the deadline.

The French postal service La Poste has the following deadlines;

In Europe

If you’re sending a parcel within France, the deadline to have it delivered by Christmas is December 23rd. 

If you’re sending to the UK or Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spanish islands (eg Tenerife), Croatia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Malta, Norway, Portuguese islands (eg Madeira) or Romania you have until December 16th.

If you’re sending to Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden or Switzerland you have until December 17th.

If you’re sending to Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Portugal you have until December 19th.

Outside Europe

If you’re sending to the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand or Hong Kong you have until December 10th. Likewise if you’re sending to most French overseas territories, the deadline is December 10th.

For most other countries the deadline is December 3rd, but you can find the full list here

Private couriers like Fed-Ex and DPD have their own deadlines, although they are broadly in line with La Poste, and if you’re buying online each company has its own deadline on when it can guarantee a Christmas delivery.

Fees and customs declarations

If you’re sending parcels to another EU country then it’s pretty straightforward – just pay the delivery cost (you can check how much it will be to send via La Poste here) and make sure you send it before the deadline.

If, however, you are sending to a country outside the EU (which of course now includes the UK) then you will need to fill out a customs declaration form explaining what is in your parcel and whether it is a gift or not.

In addition to standard postal charges, you may also need to pay customs duties, depending on the value or your parcel and whether it is a gift or not. 

Find full details on customs duty rules HERE.

Banned items

And there are some items that are banned from the post – if you’re sending parcels to the US be aware that you cannot send alcohol through the mail as a private individual, so don’t try a ship some nice French wine or a bottle of your local liqueur. 

Most countries ban firearms and fireworks, not unreasonably, although be aware that this includes items like sparklers.

Sending food and plants is also often restricted with countries including Canada and Australia having strict rules and most other countries imposing restrictions on what you can send.

This also applies the other way and France bans any foodstuffs containing animal products (eg chocolate) sent from outside the EU. 

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