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Anti-poaching law mooted

Developing countries are expected to be able to block the recruitment of their teachers to more affluent ones under an agreement being discussed by Commonwealth countries this week.

As The TES went to press education ministers from 27 Commonwealth countries were negotiating a new code of practice to prevent the exploitation of overseas teachers in developed countries and help developing countries to maintain their teaching force.

Under the protocol, if an agency wishes to recruit from a developing country, discussions will take place between the two countries involved. It could lead to compensation for the developing country, although it was not expected to be specifically mentioned in the code.

Compensation might include assistance with teacher training or extra resources for education.

But if none can be agreed then the developing country will be able to refuse the recruitment either for all teachers or for particular types.

Recruitment will only be allowed to take place outside the school year. If agencies in England break the code of practice then they could, for example, expect to lose the quality marks awarded by the Department for Education and Skills.

Steve Sinnott, National Union of Teachers general secretary, said: "Past failures to tackle teacher shortages in developed countries, such as the UK, has damaged vulnerable education systems across the world.

"Teachers have been poached to come to the UK undermining children's education in many small states."

The problem is particularly acute in Africa where to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015 an extra five million teachers are needed. But the continent is currently a net exporter of teachers.

The conference was held at National Union of Teachers' training centre in Stoke Rochford, near Grantham.

A separate meeting of education ministers from small Commonwealth states examined how education policy could prevent teachers and pupils being lost to the Aids pandemic.

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