Thursday, March 27, 2008

Response to reader question: Good English language academies in Madrid

Here’s a recent question I received about finding good work as an English teacher in Madrid:

"from what i have read so far, landing a good job at a good academy seems to be to key to doing well in spain. how can i avoid all of those language academies that take advantage of english teachers? can you suggest any specific language academies that will treat & pay me well? i live in the US and don't have my TESOL yet. but i would like to find a decent academy first, then maybe find a TESOL school that has ties to that academy, so i can get my foot in the door. what do you think? is this a viable plan?”

The only way to find reputable English schools in Madrid that pay well and treat their employees well is by talking to other English teachers. Usually, things won't change from year to year, since as I said in an earlier post, directors of studies rarely leave their cushy jobs. Here’s a list of the English language schools in Madrid where I have personally worked or where friends of mine have worked:

Astex (Mixed feelings – the pay was less than some other academies, but getting paid was never an issue. It’s a fairly big academy with a good name, plus they often have summer work opportunities. The downside is slightly lower pay [though this may have changed – I’m talking about five years ago] and bad communication [almost always given the wrong time or address or student info for classes].)

Atlas (Mixed – the pay was as good or better than other academies, they always paid extra for classes outside the city, and the owner is Canadian, so he's sympathetic to North Americans. The downside was that MANY of the classes were outside the city – while you get paid more, it’s still a major hassle to travel there.)

Berlitz (Not recommended – although this is a big name, it’s not a great place to work. The pay is significantly lower than other academies, probably because it is such a well-known place and they can always get teachers. One positive is reduced and/or free Spanish classes, but I don’t think it’s worth it in the end.)

English Centre (Mixed – the pay was pretty bad compared to other academies, and the overall feel of the place was very impersonal. Only the woman who hired me knew my name, and there was no contact between teachers. The positives were that they had a lot of classes, lots of materials, and being paid on time and correctly was never an issue.)

One-to-One School (Positive – the pay is about average, maybe a bit less, but classes are conveniently located in the city center, and friends tell me they treat their teachers very well.)

Thamesis (Not recommended – one of the bigger academies in Madrid, but one of the worst in terms of how they treat teachers. The pay is about average, though a select few teachers are invited to do intensive courses that pay several hundred euros for one week. Becoming one of those select few is difficult, though. Although they have plenty of classes to go around, getting paid for the classes is sometimes a hassle. I know several teachers who’ve had problems getting paid the correct amount, and they don’t give finiquitos to the teachers at the end of the year.)

Transfer (Positive – the owner can be a bit difficult at times, and the in-academy classes are not paid that well, but otherwise this is a great place to work. The pay for company classes is as good or better than other academies, they always pay for classes outside the city, they give finiquitos to contract teachers at the end of the year, and they have an ample number of classes in or near the city center. Everything is done correctly in terms of pay [you sign off on your hours and pay sheet before getting your money, so there are no issues]. One downside is that there’s not much contact encouraged between teachers, but it’s such a small space that you are bound to meet the others anyway.)

Windsor (Not recommended – the pay is not as good as other academies, and they seem to be pretty unorganized. While people I know who worked there didn’t hate it, they didn’t like it either – but if you search on the Web, you’ll find pages dedicated to this place. Apparently some people really hate it.) Update 6/15/2008: See comments

In terms of finding a TEFL training program in Madrid with ties to a language academy – that’s up to you. Any TEFL school in Madrid should have connections to at least a few English language schools in the city. You won’t have trouble finding work anyway. One thing you could do is just pick any TEFL program in Madrid, and towards the tail end of the course start going around to the academies to drop off your CV.

I hope this helps. Good luck!


Barbara said...

Allow me to add the name of Chester. I haven't worked there myself, but have a couple of friends who were there for some years and spoke well of it. The only downside seemed to be that you had to work alternate Saturdays in your first year there. I believe it's pretty well-known in Madrid.

Janice said...

Hi, this is Janice from Windsor Idiomas.

I was interested to read your comments about Windsor Idiomas and would be grateful to get some feedback about the areas where it was considered we're not performing. I'm sure everyone and every place has room for improvement and if we can make changes we definitely will.

By the way, the "other side" ie. running a school is equally as frustrating as your side. Quite frankly the TEFL sector is in a mess. I haven't seen any blogs by academy owners. I'll be starting one shortly so I'll let you know when it's up and running so readers can at least see balanced views.

eslhell said...

Hi Janice,

Thanks for leaving a comment. It's nice to see that at least one academy out there is actually interested in hearing what their teachers think and how to improve things!

As I said in my post, the complaints I heard personally about Windsor concerned the pay and organization. In all fairness to your academy, these complaints probably apply to many of the English academies in Madrid. However, I only included in my post academies for which I or friends of mine had worked.

I think starting a blog from the "other side" would be extremely useful for EFL teachers in Spain, and I hope you will share the URL with us when it's up. For my part, tomorrow I'll be posting a list of common complaints EFL teachers have regarding their academies in Madrid and examples of really good things some academies do for their teachers.

I am not going to modify my initial post on good/bad academies in Madrid because, quite frankly, I'm opposed to people going back and revising things they've already published. Nor do I have any way of knowing whether the conditions at Windsor are the same or different as when my friends worked there. However, I would suggest to readers that they take into account Windsor's interest in improving things about which teachers are not happy -- I know of few academies in Madrid who would do that.

Thanks again, Janice!

Janice said...


My blog's now up and running. The URL is, so there you go,posts from "the other side".

Once I get my links stuff sorted out I'll put you there with the Wandering Brit", but still need to get my head round that as this is still quite new for me.

Janice, Windsor Idiomas

val said...

Interlang was by far the best school I worked for in Madrid. Decent money, decent hours. Fantastic timetable.

Astex wasnt bad either. The only gripe with them was that they never told me when classes were cancelled - very rarely anyway. This was annoying as you often have to hang around for classes so waste more than just the travel time.

Unpaid said...

Beware of PopEnglish located by Metro Retiro.
They are very unprofessional- late class cancellations, rarely respond to e-mails and phone calls, and often pay late. When I finally put in my months notice to quit they stopped paying me altogether and they now owe me over 800 Euros. Meanwhile, the director refuses to contact me back other than calling me last month to cuss me out for leaving.

On a better note though, I worked at Telephone Teaching for 9 months and they were amazing. They always pay on time and they are wonderful about giving notice on cancellations. They also always respond very quickly to calls or e-mails and were very helpful and accomodating when it came to organizing my schedule.

musica said...

Thanks for the info, Unpaid. I also heard good things about Telephone Teaching from an American girl I met in Madrid about 5 years ago. I believe one of my Spanish friends was taking telephone-based classes through them as well and always had positive things to say about the teachers.

1Kate1Theoandnospanners said...

while this maybe an old post, it's undoubtedly still coming up on searches, so I'd just like to add a second thumbs up for Chester. very good place to work. My wife and I both worked there this year and really enjoyed it. very supportive boss - our first child was born in January, and rather than being pissed off at the inconvenience our boss was amazingly helpful, helping us sort out maternity and paternity leave and so on. great timetable too - you might have to work alternate saturday mornings, but you don't work fridays, so every other weekend is 3 days long.

Also, a good word for Cambridge House - again supportive and organised, with regular staff socials and paid meetings.