Number 16 / Unique English: Bad Employer warning in Zaragoza!
Number 16, operated by an outfit called Unique English, is a chain of schools currently operating in Zaragoza and Madrid. They are a real company and they pay your salary. I'm not claiming this is a "scam" in the strict sense of the word but they are very bad employers.
I joined after being offered a "25 hour work week" and "assistance with finding accomodation". Both of these promises were swiftly broken, not only to myself but to many other new recruits. The teacher turnover here is unbelievable. They are continuously hiring because so many teachers leave in disgust after a couple of months. I saw over 20 new teachers arrive in the 4 month period that I worked with them.
Upon arrival with around ten other new teachers we were hosted for 5 days in the Hostel Catalunya on Calle Coso in Zaragoza, near the Calle San Miguel school where we had our training. We were informed that we had to find our own accomodation. "You're all adults" they told us despite clearly stating in their e-mail correspondence and in-person interviews that assistance was provided. We were expected to begin teaching full-time after one week of un-paid training. Hence many of us ended up living out of hostels while being made to teach for outrageous working hours. A 12 hour day is common-place here and you often have to work Saturdays. I was working so much I hadn't time to get a bank account or view appartments, meanwhile I was draining money in a hostel each night.
In the first month a staff meeting was held where the Directors promised change. They admitted that mass resignations had taken place due to long-working hours and claimed that they had taken on more students than they had teachers to cover, in light of a surging demand for lessons, and as a result the teachers were being over-worked and over-loaded. I was impressed by this meeting and it convinced me to stay, as they promised that they were bringing in new teachers and would soon reduce our working hours. Another promise broken.
After two months nothing had changed. Several teachers had resigned by this point, including more experienced teachers who had been there for 6 months or more. It wasn't long before I realised that virtually nobody stays here more than a year. In my previous TEFL job there were teachers who had settled down locally and remained at the same place for years. It struck me as highly suspicious that everyone on the books at Number 16 had only joined a few months previously, with few exceptions. I started asking around, talking to former employees and more experienced staff and the picture became clearer and clearer. Number 16 may be a legitimate business, but it's as close to a scam as you can get while remaining legitimate. They have no interest in job satisfaction or the conditions their teachers are exposed to. The firm is a merry-go-round where teachers are replaced as quickly as they quit. The school hires all year-round and brings in a continuous stram of new teachers with their online job ads offering a "25 hour" work-week and "unique method". The reality is you get a 60 hour work-week while being paid for half that. You get squeezed to the bone. They have apparantly been doing this for years. I approached other schools in Zaragoza and found out that Number 16 has a very bad reputation within the industry here. It is well-known that they manipulate their employees mercilessly.
From a teachers perspective you can find yourself trapped. Having paid a deposit on my apartment, got a Spanish SIM and bank account, and with the TEFL hiring season months away what was I to do but grit my teeth and get on with it? I endured it for 4 months, saved what I could while working like a slave, and then left in January having been made an offer elsewhere. I wasted 4 months of my life at Number 16. I am writing this to encourage others not to make the same mistake. This may be a place to get a "foot in the door" with TEFL, for somebody without any relevant experience struggling to land a job, this is a place where you will get work and training, but at the cost of blood, sweat and tears. Be careful. I recommend that anyone thinking about joining this school insist on being put in contact with former and current teachers before accepting an offer or booking a flight. Know what you're signing up for and don't be lured in by promises of an easy life in sunny Spain! You'll be too exhausted to enjoy it.
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