A global talent pool
Addressing the need for teachers in the UK

Andrew Wigford suggests an answer to the shortage of British trained teachers.

UK teacher shortage

Britain is currently facing a teacher shortage, which is predicted to get progressively worse as student numbers increase. There are insufficient undergraduates and post-graduates entering teacher training in Britain, and many dissatisfied teachers are leaving UK state education.

In addition, there are currently more than 4,300 British schools overseas and many other English-medium international schools seeking the skills and knowledge of British-trained teachers.

Research published by the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) in May found that international schools may well be attracting British teachers away from Britain, but that they are also playing an active role in alleviating this shortage. Not only are they attracting new people to the profession, they are also renewing enthusiasm in those who were considering leaving teaching all together before moving overseas as an interim solution. Frequently this goes unnoticed.

What the British government and British state sector need to do, is value the global pool of teaching talent that international schools are helping to fuel.

The benefits of moving overseas to teach

The COBIS research, which collected responses from 1,600 international school teachers and leaders, found that the experience of working overseas can prevent dissatisfied teachers from leaving the profession. Nearly a third of teachers in the research were considering giving up teaching before accepting a position at an international school, and 47% of teachers listed dissatisfaction with the UK state education system as a reason for going overseas.

The research also found that an international experience also renews enthusiasm for teaching. 81% of new international teachers reported that they were happy or very happy with their experience at an international school. At TIC Recruitment, we see this year after year. After a few years of international teaching, a significant proportion of teachers return to the UK hoping to continue teaching, armed with a variety of additional teaching skills, knowledge and energy to face the British classroom.

British teachers repatriate with a wealth of skills

The research cited a range of skills gathered while teaching in good and outstanding international schools. Many international schools, with their freedom from bureaucracy, government requirements, and rigid curriculum expectations, deliver high calibre education, achieve excellent accreditation and inspection standards and deliver some of the highest standards of teaching and learning in the world. Expertise is gained from working in such schools, alongside qualified a cosmopolitan group of teachers, from teaching through a range of curricula, from extensive EAL experiences, and from time to develop professionally.

In additional, repatriating teachers always tell how they return to the UK classroom loaded with knowledge and narratives of international and cross-cultural value which enhance their teaching content.

Changing the mindset

It’s no surprise that the COBIS research found that international schools want to increase their recruitment of British-trained teachers: the calibre of their training and qulaity of their pedagogy is valued worldwide. But instead of being a drain on the UK, international schools can fuel it too. According to the research, 41% of British international schools want the ability to act as Teaching Schools for British-trained undergraduates, and 36% of British international schools want conversion courses available (to British QTS and PGCE) for internationally-trained teachers.

British universities could help too, providing more degree and conversion courses for international students wishing to become British-trained teachers, and delivering PGCE and BEd degree courses specifically designed for overseas postings.

If more teachers from the UK decide to move overseas, then valuing rather than restricting that choice is the approach that British government and UK state schools could take in order to create a global talent pool that works both ways. To achieve this, repatriating teachers need to be welcomed, valued and supported back into the UK system, with recognition of their time teaching internationally when assessing their salary scale. Not only that, but wherever they are, British teachers need to have continued access to association, union and pension support.

Schools have influence too

Schools themselves have the power to nurture a global talent pool. Whether you are an international school with a British ethos, or a UK state school, you can do this by enabling a collaborative community of global talent. British teachers working together not only enhance your classroom content and inspire students and staff,  but connect British teaching and learning wherever your school may be in the world.

This is already being achieved in a range of ways by some schools and school groups including teacher exchanges, participation in workshops and summer schools that involve teachers from all types and locations of schools, the sharing of cultural and geographic narratives in learning through skype collaborations between classes in different countries, and embracing the benefits of a global talent pool; valuing teachers wherever they have taught.

Far from being an ‘us’ and ‘them’ scenario, the only way to build the British teaching brand is to value it worldwide.

Andrew Wigford spent 16 years teaching and leading in international schools before launching Teachers International Consultancy (TIC) in 2006. TIC specialises in providing personalised, professional teacher and leadership recruitment strategy and support for international schools.

Read the original article and similar in International Teacher Magazine here

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