Brexit and the teacher recruitment crisis

Nobody knows what the outcome of Brexit will look like, but one thing we can be sure of is that there will be an end to free movement. We’re not here to debate the politics. Instead, following the government’s post-Brexit immigration white paper, The UK’s future skills-based immigration system, we’re taking a closer look at the numbers to see what effect Brexit might have on the teacher recruitment crisis

Teacher training targets for 2018 were missed in all but four secondary subjects, according to government statistics. Overall, the number of people starting teacher training in 2018 was 29,255 – short of the government target of 32,226. This is the sixth year in a row that overall government recruitment targets have been missed; at the same time, student numbers have increased – and are set to continue to do so.

Given the figures, it’s clear that more qualified teaching staff are needed to fill the void. Where will they come from?

EU teaching staff
Department for Education (DfE) figures show that close to 5,000 teachers from EU countries qualified to teach in 2016, up from just over 2,000 in 2010; the largest numbers came from Spain, Greece, Poland and Romania. Despite this increase, government targets are still being missed.

Concerningly, figures released at the end of 2018 by the DfE show there was a decrease of 25% in EU teachers applying for qualified teacher status (QTS) in England; teachers need QTS in order to work in UK maintained and special schools. QTS was awarded to just 3,525 qualified teachers from the European Economic Area (EEA); the drop in numbers suggests a notable decline in European teachers’ desire to consider the UK in the wake of Brexit.

Added complications
In all potential Brexit scenarios, there is the chance of increased complications for EU teachers considering working in the UK. In the case of a no-deal Brexit, QTS may not be sufficient for EU teachers to qualify for teaching roles in the UK; rather, they might have to apply for further qualifications, slowing the process down.

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In relation to the current, government-proposed deal, The UK’s future skill-based immigration system white paper outlines the conditions that teachers would have to meet in order to qualify for immigration into the UK. The independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended a £30,000 salary threshold, categorising teachers as skilled workers.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union, NAHT, has warned about such a threshold. “A salary threshold for skilled overseas workers would impact on teachers, as many teachers do not earn more than the proposed minimum of £30,000, even after five years,” he says. “NAHT believes that, because of the recruitment crisis within education, all roles should be included on the shortage occupation list.”

Uncertainty and wider opportunities
In light of these figures home secretary Sajid Javid has said that the government would consult further on what the level should be for teachers. While this leaves teachers from the EEA in confusion as to where they stand in all Brexit scenarios, the white paper holds out hope that teachers from other regions will find moving to the UK easier.

The white paper makes clear that the proposed new skilled route does not differentiate by nationality and, while it would be more restrictive for EEA workers, the plan claims to ‘…loosen some restrictions that currently apply to long-term non-EEA, potentially offering greater opportunities to employers looking to source skilled labour’.

Fast figures:

  • 5,000 teachers from EU countries qualified to teach in 2016
  • 3,525 QTS awards were made to EEA teachers in 2017/2018
  • Government teacher recruitment targets were missed by 2,971 in 2017/2018

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