Government admits immigration plan could hit teacher recruitment

White Paper highlights teaching as a skilled occupation that 'may face labour market adjustment difficulties'

Martin George

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Teacher recruitment could be hit by proposals for a post-Brexit immigration system, the government has admitted.

Today's White Paper, The UK’s future skills-based immigration system, models the possible impact that the 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”.

It adds: “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.”

In the 2017-18 financial year, 3,525 QTS awards were made to qualified teachers from the EEA. 

The White Paper also 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) had recommended a £30,000 threshold, but home secretary Sajid Javid today said the government would consult further on what the level should be.

Speaking in a debate this afternoon, Labour MP Emma Hardy told Mr Javid the starting salary for teachers is £23,000, and asked: “Will he look at lowering the £30,000 threshold to ensure that our children have the expert teachers that they desperately need?”

In response, the home secretary told her: “It’s clear that we have committed to make sure when the threshold is set it is one that we believe is right for the needs of the country and all parts, whether it is our schools or otherwise.”

He added that it was also important that the immigration system gives employers an incentive to invest in the skills of local people, and “immigration should never be thought of as a substitute to investment in local people”.

The White Paper holds out hope 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 on nationality, and so 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”.

Earlier today, the NAHT headteachers’ union called for the teaching profession to be exempt from the proposed salary threshold.

Its general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “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.”

The White Paper 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”.

This summer, Tes launched the #LetThemTeach campaign calling for the entire teaching profession to be added to the list, which gives higher priority for visas each month.

It followed a Tes investigation revealing that desperately needed international teachers are being forced to quit their jobs and leave the country at short notice because they cannot renew their visas.

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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