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Big Apple offered to British teachers

As ministers ponder the recruitment crisis a further threat to staffing emerges from the US. Anat Arkin reports

They may or may not be over-sexed and over-paid, but the Americans are definitely coming over here to recruit British teachers.

New York City has launched its first teacher recruitment drive in the UK, and is holding employment fairs in London, Scotland and Ireland later this month.

A spokeswoman for New York City's department of education said it was too early to say how many teachers would be recruited in the UK. But with many of its teachers approaching retirement and new regulations banning unqualified staff from teaching in publicly-funded schools, New York needs another 11,000 recruits by next September.

There are vacancies in several shortage areas, including special education, maths, science, physical education and English. British teachers filling these vacancies will be expected to stay for at least two years - and will be well rewarded for their efforts. Teachers' salaries in New York range from $39,000 (pound;24,375) to $81,000 (pound;50,625).

TimePlan, the London-based recruitment agency, has also started to lure teachers to the United States, where the federal Department of Education estimates that more than two million extra teachers will be needed over the next 10 years. That is around 200,000 more than the country is likely to produce during the same period. TimePlan recently placed two advertisements in The TES inviting teachers to work in the United States, and received more than 600 replies. The teachers who contacted the agency, many of them Australians and New Zealanders currently teaching in the UK, generally want to work in America's "sunshine states" or in vibrant cities such as Seattle or Boston.

"The preference seems to be very much for the sorts of places where you'd want to go on holiday, although we have had jobs in Alaska," said TimePlan's managing director Tish Seabourne.

Stressing that the transatlantic traffic is two-way, she said that her company, which started recruiting in the US two years ago, now has more than 100 American teachers in British schools.

The UK and the US are not the only countries that are poaching each other's teachers. The New Zealand government is offering a NZ$ 3,000 (pound;1,000) relocation payment to British teachers who decide to work there for at least 20 weeks, while returning Kiwi teachers will get NZ$5,000 (pound;1,650).

"Increased student numbers, along with a recent government initiative to reduce teachers' workloads by funding additional posts, means we have stepped up our recruitment efforts," said Irene Lynch, national manager for teachNZ, the agency responsible for teacher supply in New Zealand.

Select Education, the recruitment agency running teachNZ's campaign in Britain, aims to recruit at least 70 secondary teachers to New Zealand by May.

As an importer of teachers, Britain should not be surprised if other countries are now tempting its own teachers away, said David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers. "But having said that, we are having great difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers as it is, and to face the prospect of other countries trying to recruit our teachers is something that policy-makers should be quite worried about," he added.

However, Professor Alan Smithers of Liverpool University, who studies teacher supply, argues that some interchange between different education systems is healthy. He says that one reason young teachers leave their jobs is to see the world, and while many have traditionally gone to Australia and New Zealand, it seems that America may now become a favoured destination. "Those who return to this country will enrich our system, and those who don't will be a warning to the Government about improving conditions for teachers here," he said.

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