As Kiwi teacher Emma Gillies approaches the end of her two years living and working in London, she looks back at her time in the UK and her experience with Smart Teachers. 

To say my experience with Smart Teachers was great would be an understatement. In Auckland, mid 2013, I decided to come to the UK to teach and travel. The lovely Rosie at the Epsom office helped me to start the process, filling out the paperwork, organising visas etc, she made sure everything was done at my end so I could get to London with no issues.

A few months later when I arrived in England, I was completely overwhelmed by the rush of the big city, but when I lugged my giant suitcase into the London Smart offices in Covent Garden bewildered by it all, I was greeted by a warm, smiling, supportive team. I had only talked to Paula once or twice on the phone before, when she secured me my first job teaching one of my speciality subjects in a beautiful town in Suffolk. But when we met I instantly felt at ease – Paula and some other Smarties helped me to set up my National Insurance Number, bank account, umbrella company and loads of other confusing important things you have to do when you come to work here.

Tower Bridge with one of my best friends when I first arrived in London
Tower Bridge with one of my best friends when I first arrived in London

During my first placement, Paula would often call me to make sure I was well, that I was getting used to the system here in the UK and to make sure I didn’t need anything – it was so nice to talk to someone who could understand the struggles of moving to a new country and would have practical solutions to anything that arose.

After my first placement went really well, I was already looking for another job. I was looking for a role after the first term which can be hard to find, but of course, Smart found me another job this time nearer to London in a lovely girls’ grammar school. Paula was again, really helpful – by email and phone she organised my interview, negotiated pay and helped to plan my induction days there. That placement went really well and before I knew it I had secured my next job before I had even left my current one!

Harry Potter World :)
Harry Potter World 🙂

The security I had of having a job to go to after the end of term break was wonderful – and although Smart Teachers cannot always guarantee this, they had such a lot of jobs coming in whilst I was with them which allowed me to get great jobs when I needed them. And to make it even better, they were always in my speciality subjects (which are Media/Drama – they can be hard to find!).

This final placement was a different situation in terms of getting the role – I had heard from a colleague that a job was going at a top Performing Arts school in central London. As I had had great service with Smart, I applied with a note on my CV for the school to call them directly if they liked the look of me which they did. Dan helped me on this occasion and he was just as lovely and professional as Paula – organising my pay, contract, etc. As with my last placement, Paula would call every so often to check in, and similarly was happy to receive calls from me – she really helped out with an issue with a week where my pay was late – it was resolved in less than 24 hours!

In Budapest on one of my many European adventures
In Budapest on one of my many European adventures

I am now finishing up this last placement in what has been an incredible journey of teaching here in the UK. I already loved teaching in New Zealand, but my three placements here in the UK have made me love it even more.

This is by far, the BEST professional and personal development you could ever hope for. It can be very challenging and overwhelming, but I can honestly say that it is so much easier when you have a company like Smart Teachers to help you. Smart Teachers look after you every step of the way; from as soon as you arrive in London to when you are sadly about to leave, almost two years later.


Thanks to the team that have helped me – Dan, Gabby, Sandy, Ben (and there are others I’m sure!). And thank you especially Paula, for making this insane journey so much better by being an incredible support and a great friend.

Emma Gillies