In the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, the last thing needed in the education sector is further complications when it comes teacher recruitment. That’s exactly what’s on offer, however, in the government’s post-Brexit immigration White Paper, The UK’s future skills-based immigration system
The white paper models the possible impact that a mooted £30,000 salary threshold for skilled workers could have on immigration from countries in the European Economic Area (EEA); it highlights teaching as a skilled occupation that ‘may face labour market adjustment difficulties’.
Along with nurses and midwives, teaching professionals fall into a category described as ‘high wage and public sector contribution, heavy reliance on long-term EEA migrant labour and hard to adjust’. ‘These occupations have high economic or public value, have been heavily reliant on long-term, EEA migrant labour and may find adjustment to labour market changes difficult,’ it states.
In the 2017-18 financial year, 3,525 QTS awards were made to qualified teachers from the EEA. The white paper states that ‘some higher skilled occupations may be affected, such as IT and telecommunications’ professionals and teaching and educational professionals where a relatively large share of employees within the occupation currently earn below £30,000’.
The independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended a £30,000 threshold, but home secretary Sajid Javid has recently said the government would consult further on what the level should be.
The white paper does hold out hope, however, that, while recruitment of teachers from the EEA could fall, it could rise from other parts of the world.
It says the proposed new skilled route will not differentiate by nationality and, while it would be more restrictive for EEA workers, the plans ‘loosen some restrictions that currently apply to long-term non-EEA, potentially offering greater opportunities to employers looking to source skilled labour’.
The white paper also says that its analysis does not ‘account for the impact of a ‘shortage occupation list’, which could lower the salary threshold for occupations that the MAC finds are in shortage’.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, has warned about the threshold. “It is now accepted wisdom that there is a recruitment and retention crisis in teaching, across all phases and regions. To their credit, the government have acknowledged this and will be putting forward a recruitment and retention strategy. This should include provision for highly qualified candidates from other countries to continue to make a valuable contribution.
“This would help plug the leaky pipeline that exists in education, with too few graduates choosing teaching as a career and too many experienced professionals leaving prematurely.
“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. NAHT believes that, because of the recruitment crisis within education, all roles should be included on the shortage occupation list.”