Teacher shortage: The Brexit effect
Rob Grays, managing director of Prospero Group, which includes Prospero Teaching, discusses the impact of Brexit on teaching in the UK
For the past 20 years membership of the EU has been at the forefront of the political debate, whether it be parliamentary sovereignty, open borders or bendy bananas. However one side of this debate that has gathered less fanfare has been how leaving the EU will affect the teacher shortage and as a result how education recruitment agencies will evolve their businesses and business practice.
One response is to branch out into countries where demand for teachers is high for example, UAE Asia pack region where the demand for teachers and especially those trained in the UK is extremely high. On average a UK teacher will earn £10,000 P/A more (tax free) than their UK based counterpart would. Dubai specifically aims to promote development by investing in education and the development of knowledge in the region. In a statement H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai said, "We must believe in people. Human beings – their ideas, innovations, dreams, and connections – are the capital of the future. In this sense, the ‘brain regain’ is not so much an achievement in itself as it is a leading indicator of development, because where great minds go today, great things will happen tomorrow."
This investment in people-to-people exchanging doesn’t end in the Middle East. In a phone call between Hwag-Kyo-Ahn prime minister of the republic of Korea and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc on the 12th of January to discuss their 25th year of bilateral ties they also discussed how to expand on their free trade agreement into education and culture; a rather different position to the one Britain is pursuing with Brexit.
With other nations seemingly moving forward with bilateral education investment EU teachers in the UK and vice versa are left in the dark until a decision is made between the two during the divorce-like proceedings. Here are some numbers that illustrate just how many teachers are currently in limbo
• 5,000 teachers from EU countries qualified to teach in 2015 a big increase from just over 2,000 in 2010
• 1 in 6 new teachers in England qualified overseas
• The largest numbers came from Spain, Greece, Poland and Romania.
• The number from Greece has shot up more than six fold – from 88 to 572 – since 2010
Department of Education Failings
In my 17 years of experience of providing quality staff we are inundated by schools with vacancies they can’t fill. Prospero would love to be able to fill every position but the UK just lacks the necessary number of qualified teachers. As a company we have had to look further afield. Australian and Canadian teachers have become almost a regular feature of our UK schools. These overseas teachers are very happy to travel to start and develop their careers and use this opportunity as temporary working holiday. In fact 30% of Prospero’s London teachers are originally from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Anyone involved in education knows that there is a chronic teacher shortage and issue that has been insufficiently addressed over many years, so much so that a recent national audit office report.
“Public Accounts' Committee stated in 2016 that ministers have "no plan" to meet the growing teacher shortage” and “assumed that head teachers will deal with gaps."
Furthermore it also states:
• The Department has missed its targets for filling training places over the last 4 years with secondary training places particularly difficult to fill.
• The Department finds it difficult to recruit enough trainees in most secondary subjects.
• The Department’s short-term approach means providers do not have a clear, stable basis on which to plan for the long term
Despite the £40 billion investment in education this still falls short bearing in mind growing population bigger classes and demand for more schools the impact of this means there is additional demand on EU teachers.
One of the many things this does is put additional demands on teachers, increasing the pressure on them and their stress levels which is leading to increasing numbers of them leaving the profession. This in turn leads to lower pupil attainment and the increased need to find teachers from overseas.
Brexit Delaying Policy Change
UK government action in recruiting UK teachers may remain stagnant throughout the next few years due to focus on Brexit negotiations. Therefore the UK must remain hiring as heavily from overseas as possible.
UK Teachers Abroad
Compliance is a huge part of the education recruitment business process and agencies are used to incorporating new legislation into their practice. We believe that this experience will be hugely valuable to the sector as and when it has to deal with the new visa arrangements that will undoubtedly arise post Brexit.
Both business and political spheres will remain unsure of the effects of Brexit until the final details are hashed out.
The current UK teaching shortage may not be fixed anytime soon due to political emphasis placed on negotiating Brexit and in the short run the status quo will likely carry on. For now UK schools must take advantage of saturated markets abroad. In the long run Brexit may prove advantageous on the proviso that EU national teachers are granted the same rights as before.
Leaving the EU we are no longer beholden to EU’s immigration and working policies. Upon leaving, the British government should look to establish further inroads and freer movement with Commonwealth countries. Thus making it easier for teachers to move to the UK and take further advantage of these saturated markets. Early reports suggest non-EU governments are very willing to discuss formal trade deals with the UK upon our departure from the bloc. This is promising as it will open further markets to help fill positions in UK schools. We hope a Brexit government moves to make inroads with countries with a hunger for British teachers in the ever growing number of international private schools in Dubai and Singapore, creating an environment conducive to exporting British teachers abroad. This in turn will lead to a global teaching market meeting Britain’s demand for high calibre teachers.
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