Cypriot teacher at Spalding Grammar School

Cypriot teaching assistant Valentina Fori is working at Spalding Grammar School for eight months. Photo: SG220113-222TW
Cypriot teaching assistant Valentina Fori is working at Spalding Grammar School for eight months. Photo: SG220113-222TW
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Valentina Fori may feel vexed that she is little more than a number in the system used by her country to appoint teachers.

However, in Spalding, where the 28-year-old Cypriot is spending eight months as a teaching assistant, she is far more than that.

Valentina has already been working at Spalding Grammar School for five months and so has just a few months left of her placement.

However, she is hoping the experience gained will be sufficient to overcome the difficulties of finding a job in the tiny island where competition for jobs is fierce.

She said: “We have a different system in Cyprus and don’t advertise jobs as you do here. We are given a number in a catalogue by the Ministry of Education and wait for our number to come up to be employed.

“It is difficult to be employed in the public sector right now, although there are opportunities in the private sector because we have many international schools in Cyprus. Hopefully, after this programme I’ll be able to pursue something.

“It’s a tiny island and most young people are well educated with two or three degrees. Most employers demand experience and that’s why I came to England.”

Valentina says it has been easy for her to adapt to life in south Lincolnshire, despite the fact that she has had to adjust to so many new things.

She says: “In spite of the fact that Spalding is a small and peaceful town – to be honest it is as small as the area I live in, Kato Polemidia in Limassol – the status and the number of the students and teachers is quite high.

“Young people love new ways of doing familiar things and the people I work with are very understanding. They quickly realised that English is not my first language and that it might take some time to memorise many new names!”

However, she adds: “The biggest shock for me was the weather because in Cyprus we enjoy about 300 days of sunshine a year.”

In terms of culture, Valentina eats most of the food here, but says: “I think there is not as much variety as in Cyprus. I miss Greek Cypriot food.”

Everyone at the Grammar School has been very supportive, says Valentina who, as well as acting as an assistant, is also teaching Greek – sadly, to just one pupil.

“It’s a difficult language to learn,” says Valentina, “and of course ancient Greek is even more difficult. I think at the beginning I had 12 students but I am just left with one. It may be because they find it difficult, but it’s also because it is during lunch time.

“I am trying to be involved in everything because it’s my job. I am trying to make the most of it, that’s the most important thing for me, and I am travelling a lot, using the train.”