Brexit could have “serious ramifications” for the teacher recruitment crisis in Scotland and “seriously impede” the drive to close the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils, the Scottish government has warned.
It is now calling for the UK government to make it easier for primary teachers and a wide range of secondary specialists from overseas to get visas, saying “recruitment of teachers remains a key challenge”.
European Union rules made it easier for teachers from the continent to work in Scottish schools but post-Brexit the rules would no longer apply, the Scottish government said.
It would ensure that the 523 teachers from EU countries currently registered to teach in Scotland could “continue to practise in Scotland post-exit from the EU”.
However, the Scottish government added that “uncertainty about Brexit” was already impacting on attracting European teachers to come and work in Scotland and should the 500-plus teachers from the EU leave “it would almost double the pressure on teacher recruitment”.
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The warning forms part of the Scottish government’s submission to the UK government’s Migration Advisory Committee about the range of occupations which are officially classed as suffering from a shortage of staff.
The government said: “There are currently 523 EU nationals registered with the GTCS [General Teaching Council for Scotland], working as teachers in Scotland. The current permanent vacancy statistics show [in September 2018] 606 vacancies and should these EU teachers leave Scotland it would almost double the pressure on teacher recruitment.
“These serious ramifications on filling teacher posts would have a negative impact on the learning and teaching for all our young people and seriously impede our ambitions for closing the attainment gap and achieving excellence and equity in Scotland’s schools.”
The Scottish government also warned that student teacher intakes – which were already failing to hit target – could suffer further.
It added: “Early indications from university student intake figures for 2018-19 suggest that around 400 secondary places may be unfilled at this stage, out of a target of 1,750. Any restrictions on the ability to recruit from EU and international countries would further impact on student intakes.”
The Scottish government said it wanted primary teachers to be included on the shortage occupation list, which gives higher priority for visas each month, as well as English, home economics, chemistry and modern languages teachers. It also made “a special request” for Gaelic teachers to be included.
Maths teachers, physics teachers, computer science teachers, Mandarin teachers and general science teachers are already on the shortage occupation list.
The Scottish government said: “The latest statistics for student intakes into Initial Teacher Education and teacher vacancies…are evidence of the continuing pressures on local authority employers to recruit sufficient teachers for their schools. Recruitment of teachers remains a key challenge in both primary and secondary schools: the latter particularly in Stem, English, home economics and modern languages and we would request that special consideration be given to the addition of Gaelic onto the Scottish SOL [Shortage Occupation List].”
Last year, Tes launched its #LetThemTeach campaign, calling for the entire teaching profession to be added to the shortage occupations list. The campaign received support from across the education system and was also backed by the Scottish government.
Under the current immigration system, there is a monthly cap on the number of “tier 2” visas handed out to non-EU skilled workers.
When the monthly cap is hit, a points-based system comes into play which is heavily weighted towards applicants’ salaries.
For more than half of 2018 the cap was severely oversubscribed, which sent the salary threshold to qualify for a visa sky-high. This threshold peaked at £60,000 for several months of the year – an amount that exceeds the vast majority of teachers' salaries.
However, professions which are listed by the Home Office as a “shortage occupation” receive a large number of points and are therefore prioritised for visas each month.