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Education for the Nation

Tuesday 11 May in Community

The Isle of Man is an Island of opportunity for teachers looking for a progressive career, combined with a great work-life balance.

Incentives include lower-tax rates, relocation expenses and a housing allowance, payable for two years.

It’s an exciting time to join the teaching profession with a curriculum review about to be launched, focusing on developing young people who are resourceful, adaptable, self-confident and innovative.

We spoke to husband and wife team David and Sian Karran who explained why they chose to relocate to the Island.

Our relocation story – David and Sian Karran

As young students who met at university through their love of music and promptly fell in love, it wasn’t too long before the Isle of Man cropped up in conversation.

After all, as a Manxman, David Karran had always thought he may opt to return to the place he calls ‘home’ one day. However, it’s fair to say the ‘three legs’ in the middle of the Irish Sea had probably not even been on the radar of Sian, who hails from Pontypool in South Wales.

Fast forward 15 years and the couple, who met at the University of Huddersfield, have not only made the Island their home but are even working together at the Island’s largest school!

‘From the moment Sian and I got together, I always said I would like to move back here at some point but that was very much a long-term aim rather than coming back for the sake of it. ‘Yes, it was always at the back of my mind but after university we had settled in Bradford, so it had to be good for both of us if and when the right opportunity came about,’ explained David.

So, what was the overriding factor for these two talented brass musicians?

‘Well, there wasn’t just one’, added Sian, although the job offer she received early last year was the start of it all in earnest.

‘I was appointed (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) at Ballakermeen High School) in January 2020 with a view to start at Easter but I negotiated a later start date with my new head as I wanted to ensure there was a proper handover period before I left my previous role. Then other factors came into play such as the commute!

‘It used to take Dave an hour to get into work – and that was on a good day – and it took me half an hour. Last year, Dave was traveling more than 10 hours a week which equated to about 50 miles a day and there’s little enjoyment in that after a while. You can lose so many braincells just sat behind a steering wheel. It is great to now be able to go to work and come home without all the traffic hassles and it makes such a different to the work life balance.

‘As we live in Onchan, my new commute takes just eight minutes by car! Of course, family and travel are factors too but overall, the offer had to be right and it was!’

Education and opportunities in the Isle of Man

An advert for a position at Ballakermeen initially arose when David and Sian were enjoying a holiday and it caught their eye.

Sian added: ‘We really were in a fortunate position when the job cropped up as neither of us were unhappy nor desperate to leave so always felt if it was meant to be, it would fall into place. We talked about it while on holiday and I applied as the advert said all the right things.’

From there, Sian – along with the other shortlisted applicants from the UK - was invited to an open evening at Ballakermeen and very quickly got a feel for the school.

‘In truth, it took me about half an hour to make up my mind that I wanted the job,’ she continued.

‘Everyone was so welcoming and friendly, and I quickly fell in love with the school. Since being appointed the community spirit amongst both the students and teaching staff has been constant throughout and is very much part of the ethos of Ballakermeen. Even when you bump into students outside of the school environment – and you are bound to in an Island this size - it has always been a positive experience.’

No sooner had Sian been appointed a SENCO, David switched from his position as Director of the Arts for Outwood Academy Ripon to accept a role at Ballakermeen as a teacher of music, something which plays a key role in their lives away from the profession.

As well as being appointed musical director of his boyhood brass band, Onchan Silver Band – the organisation where he first learned to play under the late Gordon Astill – David and Sian have helped establish the Isle of Man Brass Academy, designed to nurture Manx talent and unearth the next generation of musical stars.

Tutors who love making music and playing gigs, both are keen to share their passion for music with the wider community with David attributing ‘Manxies’ as generally musical people and young Island students as very perceptive and enjoyable to work with.

As for working together? ’Well it’s not that unusual’, explains David ‘It wasn’t planned this way but has worked out well and if we need to see each other in a school context during the day, there is time to catch up.’

Exploring the Island

‘It may sound cheesy but this is a really beautiful Island,’ admits Sian. ‘You can walk up the hills, go to the seaside, explore plantations, basically see whatever part of the Island you wish to, all in a short period of time. Everything is so close, you never have to go too far.

‘Obviously I’d been here on trips before with David but at times it still feels as if you’re on holiday as you can see the sea every day and, on a sunny day, feel as though you could literally be anywhere. We’ve both found that people are generally very helpful in the Isle of Man. We walk up South Barrule with the dog, virtually everyone says hello. We don’t know who they are but it’s just that spirit and general friendliness wherever you go.’

How would you describe it to someone who has never been?

Well for a start, I can honestly say moving to the Isle of Man is simple, straightforward and rewarding. Yes, having David’s family here is an advantage, but I can genuinely say we have settled pretty quickly and built up a network of friends. It also feels very safe. I certainly never worry about going out on my own at night to meet friends.

‘Going back to that community spirit, something I’ve noticed that I quite like is the fact there is focus on supporting local produce and small businesses here. That approach is refreshing.’

So is the fact that, for the first time in years, David can find time for sport alongside his music.

‘Most of our free time is taken up by music, of course, but I’ve found time to join a cricket team, I play a bit of football for Douglas Athletic and enjoy some table tennis. I’m just reliving my childhood really!’


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