Overseas teachers help take the strain

Unemployment in Europe may have been been driving teachers to work in England. Figures released today by the DfE as part of the ITT statistics for 2015/16  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-trainee-number-census-2016-to-2017 show that record numbers of teachers from Spain (1,977), Greece (572) and Romania (431) were awarded QTS. There were also 545 teachers from Poland, although that was a small drop on the record number (580) of teachers from Poland recorded as being awarded QTS in 2014/15. Interestingly, only 274 teachers were recorded as being awarded QTS from the Republic of Ireland despite this group of teachers often being cited as helping solve the recruitment crisis.

Of course, being granted QTS doesn’t mean a person is actually teaching in a state-funded school or even a school and no figures have been published for those that originally trained in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland where school systems are increasingly different to those in England.

Although numbers from the Commonwealth countries, with a right to convert a teaching qualification into QTS, were higher in 2015/16 than the previous year, they only totalled 1,652 plus a further 379 that had qualified in the USA and gained QTS under the Gove changes. There may, however, be others teaching on a temporary basis that haven’t bothered to obtain QTS. Overall, 5,032 teachers from overseas were shown as being granted QTS in 2015/16. There isn’t a breakdown by either primary or secondary, or by subject, or where in the country they were teaching. All potentially useful facts to help understand the use of overseas teachers.

Many of these teachers will be subject to visa restrictions once the UK leaves the EU, if free movement of people is restricted. It would have been interesting to have seen the data on tier 2 visas issues by the Home Office as a part of this statistical bulletin. As far as I am aware, the Migration Advisory Committee has yet to rule on the future of teaching and tier 2 visas.

The data issued today in the ITT census will make it more of a challenge to retain either biology or chemistry in the list of eligible subjects, as biology exceeded recruitment targets by 15% and chemistry recruited to 99% of their target. Physics, although more trainees were recruited than last year, remains a challenge with 19% under-recruitment. In mathematics, the target was increased by 500, so although more trainees were recruited there was still a 16% shortfall against target. Whether this is enough to keep the subject as a Tier 2 visa subject depends upon whether the evidence on vacancies and trainee numbers indicate a shortfall in numbers. I guess everyone agrees there are issues to do with quality and there are clearly regional shortfalls. However, the MAC usually only considers the national picture.

As recruitment for 2017 has already started a decision on any changes to visa regulations is really needed quite soon if there is not to be confusion for September 2017. The influx of teachers from overseas is the other side of the coin of teachers from England going to teach elsewhere in the world. On these figures the outflow is likely to be larger than the numbers recruited from overseas.

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