Imagine a job where you can enjoy year-round mild temperatures and beaches of fine sands in your spare time. To find out more about the life, and about teaching opportunities, we caught up with Daniel Canino Ramos, director of Queen’s – a brand new British school in Playa Blanca on the island of Lanzarote. Read more.
Could you start by giving us an introduction to your school?
The school was founded in 2009 with a small nursery/reception department. Over the last two years it’s developed gradually, and in September we’ll have a total of 40 pupils, with three classes ranging from Nursery to Year One. We strive to offer quality education and therefore prefer to develop the school gradually to ensure standards are maintained. Each year there is a steady influx of children from the original nursery, which is still attached to the school, and we hope to add a class each year up to the end of primary education.
My family has always worked in education; in 1997 Elvira Ramos Ferre (my mother) opened a small private nursery. Our aim was not only to create a high quality care centre for children from 0-5, but also to offer an early stimulation centre based on the Glenn Doman method. There were three nursery centres throughout the island, and with so much success the directors of the centres decided to enhance the education for their students: in 2004 they opened an international trilingual school in Puerto Del Carmen, which at present has over 200 pupils.
Over recent years Playa Blanca has been growing into a vast tourist area with international residents settling here. This has created a need for other educational options. Given the social and cultural importance of the English language in the area it was decided to create the Queen’s School, offering a British school in the south of the island.
Queen’s has a feeling of a small village school – a friendly and family orientated school – where children can integrate easily into school life.
Most of the children started coming to the original nursery at a very young age so there is a strong trusting relationship between parents and staff. This also means for most pupils there’s an easy transition from nursery to infant school. In the nursery we also provide TEFL English classes from a very young age to increase the children’s English ability.
Could you introduce us to the island of Lanzarote – and the Canary Islands generally?
There are seven large Canary Islands with a few smaller ones dotted around. All islands enjoy the wonderful mild temperature throughout the year and splendid beaches of fine sand. However, each island’s landscape is radically different.
Lanzarote is a volcanic island, and although small, it is known as the island of many contrasts. The south of the island has dramatic views of the volcanic craters sloping down to the beautiful white beaches of Papagayo. In the north the island is much greener, home to the valley of a thousand palm trees and warm beaches. Relaxing days can be spent discovering all the hidden treasures of this much-loved island.
Although tourism has grown quickly on the island, due to a famous architect demanding that no building is over two stories high and can only be painted white, the island has never lost its original charm.
Could you tell us a little about the area where the school itself is situated, and the facilities?
Playa Blanca, in the south, was originally a small fishing village and has grown into an upmarket tourist area. The original village is the centre of the resort and the school is a short walk from the village. The area boasts a picturesque coastline with a promenade stretching across the whole resort from the yachting marina to the village and on towards to the lighthouse. Although the main industrial areas are half an hour away in Puerto Del Carmen, there are plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and leisure facilities.
What’s the background of your students?
The school was first opened mainly for locals to offer a different option for their children´s education. Although most children are Spanish the cohort is very international. The majority of parents work in local tourism and know how important it is to be able to speak another language. You will find that the children and their parents are so proud to be learning English and appreciate the school’s high standards.
Over the last few months more and more expats have been settling in Playa Blanca and approaching the school, and so the percentage of British pupils is growing – the latter are normally British families who have decided to move over to their favourite holiday destination to make a new life.
Tell us about the syllabus you follow.
We follow the British Curriculum. Children from the age of 3 -5 are taught the Early Years Foundation stage, (although teachers need to be innovative and flexible taking into account the level of the children’s English.) Children from the age of five upwards then follow the British Curriculum KS1, KS2 etc.
Extra-curricular activities are part of the school life: children and staff are encouraged to take part in the special events in the school to celebrate both British and local traditions. It is also a school tradition to produce a Christmas and end of year show, so anyone who has any hidden talents in fields such as music or drama would be an asset.
What opportunities exist for UK teachers to work at your school?
The school prides itself on ensuring all teachers are British-trained. As the school grows adding a class each year, it will need at least one new recruit annually. New teachers will definitely grow in self-confidence both as a teacher and an individual. As most of the children start our school with very little English, teachers will gain experience in teaching a class of children with different levels of understanding and abilities, which always looks good on a future CV.
What would the major appeal be for someone coming from the UK?
I would have to say firstly the weather being so mild, and being able to enjoy your free time outside, dining al fresco, etc. The whole lifestyle is different to the UK – much more relaxed and worry free. There is no hustle bustle of daily travelling or traffic, and leisure time is a major part of the local culture. You will find that the locals and the school staff are very friendly and supportive.
And what are some of the drawbacks, compared with living and working in the UK?
There is probably not as much choice in the shops as in the UK, and living away from family and friends can be hard at times. As a new school the resources are limited and although each year equipment is added, teachers will need to be organised and creative within their classroom.
What kind of candidates are you looking for, and how would the interview process take place?
We are looking for highly motivated teachers who are warm, caring, full of enthusiasm and who make our children’s learning enjoyable and fun. They should be dedicated to teaching and have high personal standards of achievement – a perfect role model for our children.
We really need to ensure that the applicant is correct for our school, so we prefer wherever possible face to face interviews.
A current CV with accompanying letter should be sent directly to the school email. These will then be read thoroughly to make a list for interviews. We would interview teachers first by telephone, preferably by Skype. A second interview will then be held in the school where the teachers will be able to visit, and may be asked to take a class. The school will cover the cost of travel.
What support do you offer new teachers?
The school is still very small, and apart from the structured staff meetings there is an open door policy where you can chat to the manager at any time. All staff are very friendly and treat you as part of the family, making you feel at home straight away.
Is it important to learn Spanish?
Most locals like the opportunity to try out their English, so it’s not a necessity to learn the Spanish. Both our Spanish and English staff mix well and some English staff have very quickly picked up the language.
Are there any particular cultural and social aspects that Brits might want to know about before applying?
There are no major cultural and social differences. In fact, being a tourist island Lanzarote can feel like home from home in a very short time.
What else would you like to say to anyone contemplating teaching in Lanzarote?
Although living in a holiday resort, the standard of work asked for at Queen’s makes the working day busy and tiring. We are looking for a responsible individual committed to developing their career. Your spare time can be used for total relaxation, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t a holiday.
To find out more about Queen’s School, Lanzarote, to view current jobs and to sign up to the school’s Talent Pool click here.