The recent announcement by one supply agency that it was importing teachers from India adds one more name to the list of Commonwealth countries whose teachers are working in schools in England. Many pupils, especially in London, are already familiar with teachers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and more recently Canada, taking them on a regular basis.
While the net for teachers is cast ever wider - Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are still possibilities - the tide of teachers from the more traditional foreign sources may be under threat. Questions are being asked as to why Canadian taxpayers' dollars should be used to train teachers to work in Britain. Last summer, the New Zealand government was advertising open evenings for teachers wanting to work there, since they face shortages. This year Australia may face widesprad teacher recruitment problems, if the predictions from a government report issued two years ago prove to be correct.
Of course, the flow of teachers is in two directions. Many British-trained teachers are serving overseas in schools as distant as Buenos Aires and Tokyo. The growth of the private international school sector has been one of the phenomenons of the past two decades.
The demand created by these schools is nothing when compared with the possible effect of a teacher shortage in the United States. Commentators have predicted a need for up to two and a half million new teachers by 2008. If American state and school boards look overseas to fill even a small proportion of their vacancies, then just a 1 per cent exodus by teachers could create 2,000 more teaching vacancies a year in Britian.