Last week Tes launched its #LetThemTeach campaign in response to the problem of non-EU international teachers being refused visas to work in this country or being told that their visa will not be renewed. The campaign, backed by England's major education unions, is calling for the entire teaching profession to be added to the "shortage occupation list" so that international teachers can gain visas and help to mitigate the recruitment crisis.
Below, one teacher describes how she is being forced to leave the job she loves, and her headteacher explains her frustration with the visa system.
The teacher's story
I’ve worked at The Brakenhale School and lived in Berkshire for the past two years: my life in England is fully established. Recently, I was promoted to head of year and I truly believe it's my dream job.
Unfortunately, the current immigration policy is putting me in a position where I may be forced to give all this up. Facing this reality is beyond difficult and brings tears to my eyes every single time.
Surprisingly, it’s not the logistics of having to arrange another international move, or trying to find myself another teaching position, that is causing me distress. Instead, it’s the thought of leaving my students and not being there to support them in the next stage of their academic journey.
As an educator, I strive to provide a high-quality education for students in order to prepare them for their lives as adults. It's unfair that the quality of any child’s education will be negatively impacted on account of a government policy that no longer reflects the needs of the current job market. From a pastoral angle, I will not be there to support and guide my students through the difficult times that may lie ahead of them.
You don’t enter into this profession for recognition, but over this past week, I have had dozens of children approach me to tell me about the positive impact I have had on their lives. This is a true testament to the relationships I have formed with them and my ability to help them.
Yes, there are billions of children in the world. But the children at The Brakenhale School hold a special place in my heart. I want to be helping them. I don’t want to be on the other side of the world to them. I don't want to be forced to leave them, or England, forever.
Cassandra Loj is a head of year at The Brakenhale School in Berkshire. Her visa expires on 8 August 2018
The headteacher's story
I appointed Cassandra Loj as a history teacher in June 2015. When she joined us I knew that after two years we would need to apply for a tier 2 visa in order for her to remain in the country. At the time there was no indication that there would be a problem in her being granted this.
The warning signs came in December 2017 when I had to apply for a tier 2 Visa for another member of my staff, and it was rejected. It was rejected on four further occasions and, as a result, the teacher had to return to Australia in March.
It was – and still is – an absolute travesty. Not only was she a great professional whom the young people admired and made progress with, she was also committed to the school and the local community.
I was unable to fill her position and, as a result, class sizes grew and other staff in the department have been teaching over their allocation. When the government removed the visa cap for health professionals, we really hoped that teachers may be considered more favourably.
Clearly, this has not been the case – for two months Cassandra’s visa has been rejected. We are devastated by this decision.
The basis upon which this policy has been devised is both nonsensical and inaccurate. According to the government, there is a cap on visas to ensure that UK nationals have first access to jobs. And yet we have had no applicants for Cassandra’s post in the past three months, despite it being advertised in numerous publications. The teaching community is in the midst of a recruitment crisis and for us at The Brakenhale School, to lose an excellent teacher because of ill-thought-out and misguided government policy is criminal.
Jane Coley is the headteacher at The Brakenhale School in Berkshire