The government must give thousands of European teachers working in UK schools a guarantee that they can remain in this country after Brexit, a headteachers' union is demanding.
Without this guarantee, professionals may leave – worsening teacher shortages – according to the NAHT heads' union.
Around 4 per cent of staff in UK schools are thought to be Europeans. And nearly 4,700 individuals who gained qualified teacher status (QTS) in 2016 were already qualified in another European country, compared with 31,064 who earned QTS through post- and undergraduate degrees in the UK.
The NAHT has urged the government to make an explicit guarantee, confirming the right to remain for serving teachers, and their families, who come from Europe. The demand is included in evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee's investigation into employers' attitudes to European workers in the UK.
"Swift action is required to ensure that these valued colleagues are retained for the benefit of Britain’s schools and British pupils," the NAHT's response stated.
It added: “Teachers from Europe make a positive contribution to our schools and to our young people. We welcome them. Were they to leave Britain, either because they no longer felt welcome or because they lost their right to live and work here, it is British pupils who would be the losers.”
Meanwhile, the Association of School and College Leaders warned that European members felt “less secure of their future working in the UK” – and some had already quit.
It added: “One member quoted losing their head of languages, a French national, who went back to teach in mainland Europe together with his wife, a Spanish national, who was teaching in a different school.
“Another reported losing two Slovenian maths teachers, who also went to teach in another European country because of uncertainty of their future in the UK.”
And the NEU teaching union said members had reported an increase in racist incidents as a result of the rhetoric around immigration.
The Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the government on migration issues, today published an interim report summarising employers’ attitudes to European workers in the UK. It has been asked to provide evidence for a new migration system following Brexit.
A briefing paper on European immigration published by the committee in July 2017 set out possible criteria for selecting migrants, including occupation, age, sector and region.
'Difficulty for schools'
The NEU pointed out that, in England, there is already a large proportion of young teachers, and said in its evidence: “What schools currently lack are experienced teachers”.
The Independent Schools Council (ISC) pointed out that its members not only employed European teachers but also had teaching support assistants, catering staff, maintenance staff, administrative support staff, IT, science and technology technicians and school nurses from Europe.
“We are concerned therefore that any change to free movement will exacerbate this shortage and cause difficulty for schools, both maintained and independent, in recruiting suitably qualified staff,” the ISC stated.
Last year, the MAC said that the national shortage in maths, physics, computer science, general science and Mandarin teachers justified schools recruiting from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
The committee's report today states: “The vast majority of employers do not deliberately seek to fill vacancies with migrant workers. They employ European migrants when they are the best or, sometimes, the only available candidates.”
But it adds that the perspectives of employers were not the only factor that mattered, and that its final report, due in September 2018, would consider a wide range of factors when considering how European migration impacts on UK residents.