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Education recruitment crisis as new teachers take talent abroad

England’s chief inspector of schools says teachers flocking abroad is doing nothing solve the staffing shortages facing schools in this country

Sir Michael Wilshaw is warning that the teaching sector is at risk of a ‘brain drain’ as a result of the lure of overseas working, exacerbating problems already being faced by recruiters at schools in England as pupil numbers rise and vacancies prove difficult to fill.

The inspector claims that newly-qualified teaching staff are being attracted by a wealth of benefits in the far east, the Gulf states and other overseas locations, including free accommodation; tax-free, competitive salaries; and the lure of life in a warmer climate.

Ofsted head Sir Michael says it is noticeable how many of this country’s elite public schools have chosen to open international branches, with a major focus placed on the far east and Gulf states. The number of such overseas franchises amounted to 29 two years ago; however, this had risen to 44 by the close of 2015 and more campuses are set to open in the near future.

Sir Michael says there is an increasing demand for what is deemed to be ‘traditional’ English education, leading to institutions such as Brighton College, Shrewsbury, Marlborough and Harrow branching out to make the most of the opportunities on offer.

This has led to some English schools having to look to countries such as Australia, South Africa, Canada and Jamaica to recruit staff, with experts predicting that pupil numbers will rise by a further one million over the next five to six years.

Sir Michael claims that Britain was the largest teaching talent exporter in the world in 2014/15, with around 100,000 UK-trained teachers working full time in other countries; meanwhile, predictions see international school numbers almost doubling from the 8,000 currently in existence to over 15,000 in less than a decade.

Sir Michael wants to see more financial incentives in a bid to keep newly-trained teachers in England and to prevent children in other countries benefitting more from British teacher training programmes than domestic youngsters. He advocates a ‘golden handcuffs’ system to prevent new teachers taking their talents overseas in the first instance.

Teaching bosses have backed Sir Michael’s comments and have called on the government to offer to write off university tuition fees for teachers staying in England. The Association of School and College Leaders’ director of policy, Leora Cruddas, says a golden handcuffs idea deserves further examination, alongside other ways of incentivising new teachers to work in England.

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby claims that handcuff deals are unnecessary, however, and what is really needed is a move to rectify core issues such as funding shortages, pay freezes and overworking.

A spokesman for the Department for Education (DfE) said the government was committed to investments totalling hundreds of millions of pounds to fund teacher recruitment and allowing schools the financial freedom to attract the best possible staff.

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