Brain drain 'works both ways'

9th April 2010 at 01:00
Education Secretary refutes claim that Scots-trained teachers are flocking south of the border

The government has hit back at suggestions that more Scots-trained teachers are heading for work in England, because jobs have dried up at home.

Figures from the General Teaching Council for England indicate that more than 1,000 teachers from Scotland have been approved to work south of the border during the past four years. There was a 25 per cent rise last year alone, from 248 to 307.

Irked by claims that this pointed to a waste of money and talent, given the annual pound;85 million bill for training teachers in Scotland, Education Secretary Michael Russell quickly released figures which revealed that even more teachers from England have been registered to teach in Scotland in the past four years - 1,585 from 2006 to 2009.

Mr Russell, who has been on a ministerial tour of North America to promote Scotland Week, said: "Even Ontario, with its highly successful education system, trains more teachers than it uses. There will always be a flow of this kind north and south of the border, and I wouldn't want to disrupt it. Indeed, it would be illegal to do so."

Government figures also show there are fewer teachers on benefit in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK - 5.6 per 1,000 claiming jobseeker's allowance. This compares with 8.8 in England, 10 in Wales and 12 in Northern Ireland. And the number has more than halved from 720 last August to 295 in February.

Mr Russell's visit to Ontario appears to have provided him with further confirmation, following his Scandinavian visit, that his watchwords of "excellence and equity" in education are the correct ones.

"This is exactly what Ontario does," he told The TESS, "and it promotes these values by raising individual attainment, closing the gaps in attainment and increasing confidence in the system - through collaborative efforts and by investing in and supporting teachers."

Ontario was "statistically significantly above the OECD average" in maths, science and reading scores for 15-year-olds, according to the Scottish Government's analysis of the 2006 figures from the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).

And pupils in the Canadian province also outshone their Scottish counterparts at both P5 and S2 levels in maths and science, the Scottish analysis of the 2007 Third International Mathematics and Science Studies (Timss) found. Pupil scores at these levels have "significantly increased" between 1995 and 2007.

Mr Russell was given further food for thought when he visited Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, the fifth-poorest city in the US, which he said had "reinvented itself educationally - mainly through the public education system".

He also visited Bayview Academy in the city, part of the Knowledge is Power Program network in the US, which is credited with turning round schools in deprived communities.

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