The Scottish government has thrown its weight behind the Tes 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.
As in England, professionals from overseas are struggling to secure visas to take up posts in Scottish schools that are crying out for staff.
Amanda Choffe from Canada qualified as an English teacher in Scotland in 2016 but faces having to leave later this month because she cannot secure a work visa.
Meanwhile, Haley Palmer from the US completed the primary PGDE at the University of Strathclyde last month but faces having to leave Scotland in October when her student visa runs out.
Now – as the recruitment crisis plaguing schools looks set to continue, or even worsen – the #LetThemTeach campaign is calling for the whole teaching profession to be placed on the “shortage occupation list”, which gives higher priority for visas.
Currently, only teachers in four subjects – maths, physics, computer science and Mandarin – are on that list.
But, according to the SNP, the status quo is “not meeting Scotland’s needs”, which is having “a negative impact on our public services, our economy and our communities”.
The Scottish government said it had lobbied in the past for more secondary subjects to be added to the list – but to no avail.
In recent years, the Scottish government has introduced 11 new routes into teaching, increased the number of universities teachers can train in, and funded more places on teacher education courses, all in a bid to address the teacher shortage.
It said it appealed to the Migration Advisory Committee back in 2016 to include more secondary subjects on the shortage occupation list – including English, home economics and design and technology.
But that plea was rejected, with the committee finding there was “not sufficient evidence to conclude that these teachers are in shortage”.
Now – like Tes – the Scottish government is pushing for all teaching jobs to be placed on the list so that teachers from overseas who are keen to work in Scotland can stay.
“We support the Tes campaign on visas,” a Scottish government spokeswoman said.
“The current migration system is not meeting Scotland’s needs and this is having a negative impact on our public services, our economy and our communities.
“There is a clear case for the Scottish government, accountable to the Scottish Parliament, to set the rules for a migration system tailored to Scotland’s needs. While teaching remains an attractive career in Scotland, we know there are challenges in rural areas and in some specific subjects.
"It is disappointing that the Migration Advisory Committee did not respond to our call for more secondary subjects to be added to the shortage occupation list.”
The leaders of Scotland’s key professional associations are also lending their support to the #LetThemTeach campaign – including the EIS teaching union, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association and heads’ organisations School Leaders Scotland and the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said that the growing recruitment and retention problem facing Scottish schools was no longer confined to specific subjects or geographic areas but was nationwide.
Restrictive visa rules that deterred qualified international teachers from working in Scotland “only add to the problem”, he said.
Jim Thewliss, general secretary of SLS meanwhile said progress on closing the attainment gap would only be made when there were “the right number of people in front of classes”.
A Home Office spokeswoman said the UK government fully recognised “the vital contribution that international professionals make to the UK”. Decisions about immigration were based on evidence and the independent Migration Advisory Committee had been asked to review the shortage occupation list, she added.
“The Migration Advisory Committee will look at which posts are in national shortage, and should therefore be given priority when allocating tier 2 places,” the spokeswoman said, adding that there were no current plans to introduce a devolved immigration system.
Tes has created a parliamentary petition to stop non-EU international teachers from being turned away from Britain.
If the petition hits 10,000 signatures, the government is obliged to formally respond to it. If it hits 100,000 signature, it will be considered for a debate in Parliament
This is an edited version of an article in the 13 July edition of Tes Scotland. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here.