Friday, September 21, 2012

One Down, Three to Go

Woohoo, I have my Albanian police check! One down, three to go. My former director (of the school I taught in) took my scanned passport & parents full names (that's all he needed...??) along to the scruffy little office, paid over the money & a week later they have it. And it cost about a tenth of what the international police checks website over here was going to charge. Yay!

I must say I rather enjoyed the moment when a former Albanian colleague sent me an email saying her husband had 'contacts' in the government if I wanted him to 'fix it' for me.....Ah, I felt briefly nostalgic for that Albanian way of life which relies not only, negatively, on corruption & bribes, but also is fundamentally built on relationships, networks & who you know who can sort something for you.  It made me smile.

Speaking of Albania, we have an Albanian friend staying with us for three weeks, while she finishes her PhD.  She is pregnant & is trying desperately to finish by the end of October. As a result of her arrival I have been neurotically cleaning the house. Albanians are obsessed with cleaning their homes. The day she arrived she offered to help  me with cleaning. She looked around & said "It's fine, but if you would like me to help you do a really good clean, we could put our trainers on & spend Saturday doing that'. Not my idea of a fun weekend, but clearly my idea of cleaning is not hers either.... You can take a girl out of Albania, but you can't take Albania out of the girl obviously........ I had cleaned the house from top to bottom the day she arrived. I felt a bit deflated.All that effort to waste! I clean it once a week, not everyday. I remembered how I used to move the mop round the flat to make it look like I had cleaned in between my Albanian cleaners 2 weekly THREE hour visits.

Today she came home & saw some rubber gloves on the stairs & wagged her finger at me & said "Have you been cleaning the house without me?" I confessed I had been.

Tomorrow is Saturday. I'm hoping for a lie in, but maybe I'll offer to polish the door handles, to appease her. Or maybe it's just that she's pregnant & it's the Albanian form of nesting kicking in.  In which case I should let her embrace it & get on with it. After all I'm not pregnant....or Albanian.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Fine Upstanding Citizen in Search of Work

Just how hard can it be to work in this country? Clearly the answer is quite hard, if you work with children & need a CRB check.

First of all I discovered you can't apply for one as an individual. You can't 'submit yourself' to investigation & police checks, to prove what a fine upstanding citizen you are. . Oh no, Heaven forbid. An organisation has to do it for you. So I can't work as a freelance supply teacher without a CRB, but to get a CRB I need to have a job or work for an agency.

So I decide to apply to work for a supply agency. I fill in an application & cough up £50. I am slightly concerned that 2 of my last 3 addresses from the last 5 years are foreign ones & wonder how they will check those out.

Imagine my surprise when my CRB comes back within 2 weeks. wow, that was a bit easy I muse. Furtehrmore the Supply Agency tell me it has 'full portability' which besides meaning it's a flimsy bit of paper which tucks neatly into any handbag, it more importantly means I can use it to work in other places.Yay!

Today I spoke to the personnel manager (yes in a school - how times have changed...) of a large secondary school which needed an English supply teacher & where I had heard on my social grapevine that there was  a part time job coming up soon.

Turns out that they won't accept my agency CRB (as most schools wouldn't she said) so I need to pay out another £50 for another CRB to be done (my CRB certificate has only been in my grasp for two days & it's already out of date/invalid) & furthermore I would need police checks done for Sri Lanka & Albania too. Hmm, that could prove tricky. Then she dropped her final bombshell. "Actually, just looking at your CV, I see you worked in France & South Africa too. You actually need a police check done in every country you have worked in since you were 18"........

Long silence.

"You mean when I worked in South Africa 24 yrs ago & when I worke din Paris 23 years ago, I need a police check done?"

Yes, we wouldn't even consider you until the police checks were in place"

"But I worked for Oxfordshire for 15 years, after living in South Africa & France, &was 'CRB-ed' no problem. How come it was ok then but isn't now?"

She said, rather prissily;

"I'm not saying this is you, but look at what Gary Glitter got up to in those countries he visited years ago."

Another long silence. What can I say to that? Guilty until proven innocent.....

So even though I worked for Oxfordshire L.E.A for 15 yrs before moving abroad, complete with a CRB check, to work in Oxfordshire again now I have to have police checks for when I was abroad before I ever worked for Oxfordshire. Seems a tad illogical to me. I guess I never had an international police check done.

 I did a bit of research online & discovered that for the princely sum of £115 I can get a police check done in Albania, & for another £115 one in Sri Lanka & for another £115 South Africa. France is a 'bargain' £94.

So £439 to get 4 international police checks. And that's just to get through the preliminary application process.  To be even looked at by a school. Never mind be offered the job. Woe betide me if I got a job & then changed school, I would need another check done as they are 'in theory' only valid on the day they are issued. So the supply agency told me. Presumably I wouldn't have to do the foreign ones again would I? Though when my husband needed one done for some reason in Albania, they asked for a UK one to be done even though he hadn't lived there for 5 yrs.

I am so frustrated.  there must be a better system? 

I despair. The personnel manager did say their school was particularly stringent, but I fear until I have international police checks done for the 4 countries I worked in overseas, this will be a constant bugbear, not to say obstacle to getting employment.

Maybe I should just give up trying to teach again. Maybe I should open a teashop. I would call it Jammy Dodgers, in honour of my status as a CRB Dodger....

The thing that really upsets me about this is that we,or at least I, am paying the price for having gone abroad to do something we felt was good and worthwhile. I gave up a very good part time English post in a good secondary school, where the deputy would ask me each year whether I wanted to increase or decrease my hours, even which days I preferred to teach. I was known, respected, had good relationships & a successful job. Now I am back; my friends who were all SAHMs when I lived here & worked, are now in jobs, new careers or doing further study & I am once more out of sync, scrabbling around trying to find my place, trying to get work and trying not to wonder what on earth I am doing. Once a trailing spouse, always a trailing spouse it seems.

I don't regret going abroad. I don't regret the meaningful experiences that season of our lives enriched us with. I don't regret how it changed me, how we grew through it and most of all how it helped poor and vulnerable people through what we did.  It's just that now we are back I am counting the cost, not of moving abroad & leaving friends, family, home, job & security, but the cost of coming home & trying to make a life here. Somehow I thought this would be the easy bit.....