Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Shared housing a major stumbling block for prospective UAE teachers, say experts

Recruiters claim schools offering less generous accommodation packages receive fewer applications

A Taaleem staff residence in Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National
A Taaleem staff residence in Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National

UAE schools which offer shared accommodation to prospective teachers are struggling to attract good staff, international recruiters have said.

Experts claimed providing the right housing package often meant the difference between employees accepting a role or turning it down.

Many schools across the Emirates continue to offer subsidised or even free accommodation.

But others have altered their housing packages over recent years, cutting back on allowances and offering only shared properties.

“We find that schools offering shared accommodation receive fewer than half the applications compared to those providing single accommodation,” said Diane Jacoutot, managing director at Edvectus, an international school recruitment agency.

“Many teachers flatly refuse to consider shared accommodation at all, regardless of other benefits.”

Well-paid teaching salaries continue to lure many international staff to the UAE.

But increasing competition from markets in Asia and elsewhere has led to a wider variety of options for employees, allowing them to be more discerning when it comes to accepting contracts.

According to the Ministry of Education there are currently nearly 51,000 international teaching staff working in private schools in the country.

Ms Jacoutot said some of those schools were now offering shared housing in place of previously offered single accommodation.

She said the change was proving to be a deal-breaker for many, with teachers thinking twice about job offers as a result.

“We have had a couple of housing related issues where a school was vague in their offer letter, saying housing would be provided, but no other details,” she said.

“Many teachers arrived to find that it was on a shared basis. Ironically, the school had more applications because it was thought to be offering single housing, but it faced expensive and damaging dropouts because it was not.

“We have advised future candidates to get the housing clarified in writing before signing any contract.”

Two teachers who spoke to The National, and who asked not to be named, said they faced a similar issue in the summer.

Roddy Hammond (left) said the UAE was still one of the most popular destinations for teaching
Roddy Hammond (left) said the UAE was still one of the most popular destinations for teaching

After accepting a job offer from an independent school in Abu Dhabi, the duo moved to the UAE from Ireland in late August.

Both their contracts stated they would each receive a monthly salary of Dh7,000 and either an additional Dh1,500 a month housing allowance or provided accommodation.

Being new to the country they opted for the latter, but later discovered the apartment was a shared studio, with an all-in-one living, sleeping and kitchen space.

“The room was extremely dirty and we had no privacy,” one of the teachers said.

“We knew it was on a sharing basis but we assumed we would have a bedroom each.”

After failing to reach an agreement with the school about providing more suitable housing, both teachers flew home days before the new academic term.

The sudden dropout left the school short-staffed and out of pocket due to the money spent processing visa and licensing fees.

Roddy Hammond, founder of UK firm World Teachers Recruitment, also emphasised how important offering the right accommodation to potential staff was.

Recruiters said schools which give staff either a healthy allowance to spend on private rent or the option of single-occupancy apartments were more likely to attract teachers. Reem Mohammed / The National
Recruiters said schools which give staff either a healthy allowance to spend on private rent or the option of single-occupancy apartments were more likely to attract teachers. Reem Mohammed / The National

“The UAE is arguably still one of the most popular destinations for teaching,” he said.

“There is no shortage of candidates wanting to go but global competition in Asia is rising.

“Most [teachers] consider a free apartment [to be] like a holiday rental so expect things to be fairly new or refurbished, very clean [and] with a lot of facilities.

“Teachers can get very upset if the apartment is not as expected. Some larger schools or groups own apartment blocks for teachers, which is a good investment in terms of recruiting and retaining good teachers.”

Taaleem, one of the country’s top education providers, said it currently manages more than 350 apartments, offering single or family housing options for its 928 teachers across 10 schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Rental units inside its purpose-built residential complex in Dubai Studio City range from Dh60,000 to Dh115,000 a year.

Gavin Walford-Wright, chief HR officer at Taaleem, said about “50 per cent” of its teachers opted to use the accommodation offered by the group.

He said those who opted for an allowance to organise their own housing were paid an additional Dh5,000 to Dh9,500 a month on top of their salary.

Updated: November 26, 2019 05:38 PM

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