Tes has today launched a campaign to stop non-EU international teachers from being turned away from Britain.
The campaign – "Let Them Teach" – follows a Tes investigation which revealed 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.
To stop this from happening, we are calling for the entire teaching profession to be added to the "shortage occupation list", which gives higher priority for visas each month.
Currently only teachers in four subjects – maths, physics, computer science and Mandarin – are on the list.
To launch the campaign, the editor of Tes, Ann Mroz, has written a letter to the education secretary, Damian Hinds, and the home secretary, Sajid Javid.
The letter – which you can read here – has been signed by the leaders of England's major teaching unions.
Ms Mroz said: “Tes decided to launch the 'Let Them Teach' campaign following an investigation which exposed how non-EU foreign teachers have been unable to obtain visas.
“At a time when schools are grappling with a recruitment crisis, heads are being prevented from hiring talented teachers from abroad – having already found it impossible to fill vacancies via domestic recruitment.
“Worse still, valued teachers in British schools are being forced to leave their jobs – and the country – because they cannot get their visas renewed. Teachers spoke to us movingly about how they had been left ‘heartbroken’ by having to abandon jobs that they loved, and pupils with whom they had formed a special bond.
“Under the current salary-based system, teaching – as a modestly paid public sector occupation – is missing out in monthly visa allocations. To address this situation, we are calling on the government to support adding the whole profession to the shortage occupation list, which gives higher priority for visas.
“We believe that our international teaching colleagues – and our children – depend on it."
'Not enough teachers in this country'
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools need to be able to recruit from overseas because there are simply not enough teachers in this country.
"The last thing they need is an obstacle created by the Byzantine bureaucracy of the immigration system which blocks this supply line.
"ASCL has argued for some time that there is a national shortage of teachers and that teaching as a whole should be placed on the shortage occupation list. We wholeheartedly support the campaign launched by Tes.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT heads' union, said: “School leaders across the country are reporting that they have unfilled vacancies for September and it, therefore, seems ludicrous that we should exclude highly qualified candidates from other countries from filling some of those roles.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said: “The NASUWT has long made it clear that the impact of a salary threshold on migrant teachers would create serious problems for schools, unfairness for migrant teachers and deny children and young people the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of these highly skilled professionals.
“Given the current recruitment and retention crisis, the introduction of needless barriers to the employment of overseas trained teachers makes no sense.
“The NASUWT is supporting the Tes campaign to make it clear that teachers across all subjects and sectors should be added to the shortage occupation list.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “Teacher recruitment and retention problems are growing and impacting on children’s education.
"Many heads are now facing having to lose teachers from overseas who have to leave because their visa has run out. This makes no sense. The government needs to change the regulations.”
And Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, added: "The fact that schools cannot keep on valuable members of staff because they can't get visas when there's no replacement is just a nonsense."