Recruiting teachers from overseas post BREXIT

The time left to complete the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) survey on shortage occupations is fast running out. The time limit was extended until the 14th January. The MAC is the government’s advisory body that can determine whether vacancies are sufficiently difficult to fill that in the teaching profession they should be regarded as a shortage subject and eligible for working visa arrangements.

Since the MAC’s last report on the teaching profession, published two years ago in January 2017, the outlook for the labour market for the secondary sector, where pupil rolls are on the increase, has deteriorated markedly. The MAC needs to be persuaded to look at a wider range of subjects than they accepted for their 2017 study. The MAC also needs to confront the issue of regional shortages within a national picture of sufficient supply. Is it realistic to accept shortages in London and the Home Counties just because there are no shortages in the North East or South West?

In the private sector, it can be argued that wages can be altered to encourage movement between regions. Such an argument is more difficult to sustain when there is a national pay review body setting national wage structures, as in the teaching profession. Although academies can pay whatever they like, and other schools can use recruitment incentives, it seems logical that the Treasury will use national pay norms when calculating the funding for schooling allocated to the DfE. The fact that private schools can set fees only makes matters worse, since 50% of such schools are located in and around London, just adding to the demand for teachers in that part of England.

The Data from the DfE in the ITT census of 2018, Table 10, also shows a decline back to the levels of 2012/13 in QTS awards to teachers trained in other EEA countries, with a decline of more than 300 awards to teachers from Spain, a country that has supplied nearly 2,000 teachers each year awarded QTS since 2010/11.

The MAC does need to consider the evidence they use of the demand for teachers. I will declare an interest here as chair of TeachVac. The use of data from an American company, Burning Glass, in the 2017 MAC report may have produced a slightly distorted picture, as Burning Glass seem to have counted not just ‘real’ vacancies, but also apparent vacancies. It is difficult otherwise to explain figure 4.4 of the MAC’s 2017 Report that identified several thousand vacancies being advertised in August of each year from 2014-2016. Any detailed analysis of the labour market for teachers would reveal much lower ‘real’ advertisements during that month, but lots of placed by agencies for ‘a teacher of’ not related to a specific post in a specific school. Since TeachVac only counts jobs attached to a specific school, the evidence is of a better quality. The same will be the case for the DfE’s new site and for publications such as the TES.

Better quality data might reveal a different profile of shortage subjects to those identified by the MAC in 2017, including both design and technology and business studies. The MAC will also have to discuss the fact that schools generally advertise for a teacher of science and the supply of biologists means there is not a shortage of science teachers per se, but of teachers of physics and to some extent chemistry as well.

I look forward to the MAC review and I hope that they will consider the ‘real’ evidence about teacher shortages when conducting their new analysis.

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