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Samantha Breckenridge

Samantha Breckenridge

Senior Recruitment Consultant

13 March 2024

Addressing the Teacher Shortage in the UK

Leveraging Education Recruitment Agencies, Overseas Trained Teachers and Expats Returning Home.

In recent years, the United Kingdom has faced a significant challenge: a shortage of qualified teachers across its educational institutions, in 2023 government figures showed that the target for secondary school teachers had been missed by 50%, especially in physics, where the recruitment target hit only 17% and RE only reaching a 44% fill rate. This shortage has placed strain on schools, impacting the quality of education and creating challenges in meeting the diverse needs of students. However, amidst this shortfall, education recruitment agencies, such as Education World, have emerged as crucial allies in sourcing talent, while the influx of strong overseas trained teachers and Expats wanting to return home has presented an opportunity to bolster the UK's educational workforce. For schools, the practical complexities of hiring teachers from abroad, combined with schools' unfamiliarity with conducting video conference interviews, often lead to a preference for local applicants, perceived as easier and safer. In some cases, UK Heads also have a misconception that teaching overseas will lead to a lack of up-to-date knowledge, understanding and skill set within the UK Curriculum, which is simply not the case. British international schools, adhering to stringent standards and inspections akin to those in the UK, rank among the world's top-performing institutions, with their teachers bringing a wealth of invaluable experience, including cultural awareness and adaptability, as well as extensive English as an additional language proficiency. UK Schools need to ask the question, why aren’t we jumping at the chance to utilise the skill set of OTTs as well as our home grown teachers with international experience during this teacher shortage?

Understanding the Teacher Shortage

The shortage of teachers in the UK has been a growing concern for educational policymakers, school administrators, and communities alike. Several factors contribute to this issue:

Retirement and Attrition: A significant number of teachers are approaching retirement age, leading to a steady outflow of experienced educators from the profession. Additionally, many teachers leave due to workload pressures, burnout, or disillusionment with the system.

Recruitment Challenges: Schools often struggle to attract an adequate number of qualified candidates, particularly in subjects like mathematics, sciences, and languages. The competition for qualified teachers is fierce, with many schools vying for a limited pool of talent.

Regional Disparities: The teacher shortage is not evenly distributed across the UK. Rural and remote areas, as well as schools serving disadvantaged communities, often face the greatest difficulties in recruitment and retention.

Workload and Job Satisfaction: High workloads, bureaucratic demands, and inadequate support systems contribute to teacher dissatisfaction and attrition rates.

The Role of Education Recruitment Agencies

As recruiters, we play a vital role in bridging the gap between schools and qualified educators. Agencies specialise in sourcing, vetting, and placing candidates in teaching positions across various educational settings. Here's how we support in addressing the teacher shortage:

Wide Network and Reach: We maintain extensive networks of potential candidates, including newly qualified teachers, experienced educators, and those seeking career transitions. Agencies leverage these networks to match candidates with suitable vacancies.

Streamlined Recruitment Processes: Agencies streamline the recruitment process for both schools and candidates, saving time and resources. We handle tasks such as advertising vacancies, pre-screening candidates, conducting interviews, and verifying credentials and can save schools a substantial cost rate compared to running several ads on TES.

Expertise in Matching: Recruiters possess expertise in matching candidates with positions that align with their skills, qualifications, and preferences. This ensures that schools receive candidates who are well-suited to their specific needs and requirements.

Continuous Support and Development: It is in our name, we are Recruitment Consultants, we are here to give ongoing consultative advice and provide support to both schools and teachers, fostering positive working relationships and facilitating professional development opportunities.

The Influx of Overseas Trained Teachers

In response to the teacher shortage, there has been a notable increase in the recruitment of overseas trained teachers to fill vacancies in UK schools. Many of these teachers bring valuable skills, experiences, and perspectives to the British education system. Here are some key points regarding their contribution:

Diverse Perspectives and Cultures: Overseas trained teachers enrich the educational environment by bringing diverse cultural perspectives, languages, and teaching methodologies into the classroom. This diversity benefits both students and colleagues alike.

Subject Specialisations: Some overseas trained teachers possess expertise in subjects where there is a particularly acute shortage of qualified staff, Maths, Science, English and Humanities. Their specialised knowledge helps schools maintain a robust curriculum and meet the demands of the national standards.

Global Best Practices: Teachers trained overseas often bring insights and best practices from their home countries or international teaching experiences. This exchange of ideas promotes innovation and continuous improvement within the UK education system.

Professional Growth and Development: OTTs have opportunities for professional growth and development within the UK context. They may engage in further training, pursue advanced qualifications, and contribute to the broader educational community.

Questions That The Decision Makers May Have

Cost to Schools for OTTs in need of Sponsorship: For a Sponsorship License for a small school or charitable sponsor the fee would be £536, whilst medium or larger schools would be up to £1476. You will usually be considered as a small sponsor if your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less, total assets are worth £5.1 million or less and if you have 50 or fewer employees. Once you have submitted your application, the UKVI may visit your school/trust site and applications will be dealt with within 8 weeks. In some cases, schools can pay another upfront fee of £500 to get a decision within 10 working days. Multi-academy trusts are charged a single fee for each skilled worker licence (not a fee per school within the trust).

Will an OTT have QTS: At Education World, we have a strict vetting process with our OTTs and carefully handpick candidates that will be successful at applying for QTS. For OTTs in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US teachers from most specialisms can apply for QTS via the GOV website. Our Jamaican and South African teachers have been chosen for their subject specialisms in Maths, Science and Languages, with a qualification to teach 11-16 year olds, and can apply via the GOV Website. OTTs with a teaching certification can work in the UK without QTS as an unqualified teacher under the 4 year rule. 

What is the 4 year Rule: The four-year duration during which an OTT may work as an unqualified teacher commences on the initial day the OTT teaches in a state-maintained school or a non-maintained special school in England. It concludes precisely four years later, irrespective of whether the OTT has been continuously teaching throughout this period. In academies and free schools, there is no legal requirement for teachers to hold QTS, at any point in their employment.

How do agencies support: We at Education World have vigorous vetting standards for OTTs and will be supporting both schools and candidates from first initial call to the teacher’s first 12-week appraisal. This includes, ensuring candidates apply for QTS (if able to), organise Visa’s and send all ID documents and overseas police checks before even being sent to our schools for video interviews. For schools we work on an executive search basis supporting schools with their specific needs with weekly check ins, longlists of exclusive candidates and market feedback. 

In conclusion, the teacher shortage in the UK presents a multifaceted challenge that requires collaborative efforts from stakeholders across the education sector. Here at Education World, we play a pivotal role in connecting schools with qualified candidates across the world, working tirelessly with home grown teachers, as well as OTTs to ensure valuable expertise and diversity is at the forefront of the British education system. By leveraging these resources and fostering supportive environments for educators, the UK can address its teacher shortage and ensure that all students have access to high-quality education.