The announcement that the government is to launch a new international qualified teacher status (iQTS) qualification is one that there is much to be positive about – for both the international teaching community and schools in the UK.
Internationally, we know teacher supply and recruitment can be tricky for schools, so the iQTS could be a major breakthrough in helping to ensure there is a ready supply of talented graduates with the skills required to apply for jobs in international schools.
This would then have a host of knock-on benefits. Firstly, as noted, it would help to increase the pool of talented teachers that international schools can choose from.
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Perhaps more notably, though, it would also help to increase the cultural diversity and representation in international schools, ensuring pupils are even more properly immersed in the region in which they are studying.
The importance of having local staff in international schools is something most teachers have long understood. However, due to the lack of suitable qualification they can achieve in-country, local staff are often found mostly in administration or maintenance roles.
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But with the iQTS, it would mean talented local graduates would be on an equal footing when applying for a job alongside a teacher from the UK.
Economically, this could also work out well for international schools, as it could cut costs around things like flights home and paid-for accommodation.
Of course, though, international schools would also have to ensure parity in pay between any local teacher or overseas teachers with similar experiences. But with the iQTS set to be equivalent to the QTS, this should avoid any confusion around this and provide clarity on where pay ranges begin.
Finally, for overseas teachers that secure the iQTS, it means the option to move to the UK and live and work there becomes a lot more viable – which could go a long way to solving the teacher shortage crisis there, too.
All this is a little way off right now, though – the qualification needs to be launched and the initial teacher training (ITT) providers chosen.
Will international schools be involved in training?
It remains to be seen who those providers are but I certainly hope that the requirements set out would provide the opportunity for international schools to get involved directly in this. Several have already asked me if that will be the case, so the appetite is there.
This is no surprise. Many schools are already involved in helping to train teachers in their local regions, often working with universities or education ministries to provide experience in the classroom.
As such, formalising training and development within the iQTS would probably be fairly straightforward for many.
Furthermore, having worked with many schools through the COBIS accreditation process, I have seen first-hand the talent in British international schools – and no doubt other regional associations, representing the best of British international schools, will share a similar view.
As such, I hope the requirement for the iQTS gives international schools the opportunity to achieve this accreditation so these talents can be unleashed.
Taking things further
Doing so would be a major step forward and could even pave the way for more high-quality, externally quality-assured British international schools to offer Early Career Teacher/Newly Qualified Teacher (ECT/NQT) training, whether or not they have been accredited against the British Schools Overseas (BSO) inspectorate.
After all, if they become a dedicated iQTS provider and start turning out quality graduates, there would seem to be no reason for them not be able to take this further and on to the next critical stage of teacher training.
There is much support from within the sector to diversify access to ECT/NQT training, but not to the detriment of high-quality provision. This is all about harnessing innovation and expertise – the lifeblood of global British educational exports.
That, though, is perhaps a debate for another time.
Right now we can put some optimism into the iQTS and hope that it delivers on what currently looks like a positive development for the international sector – which, after the difficulties of the past 18 months, is definitely to be welcomed.
Colin Bell is CEO of the Council of British International Schools (Cobis).