I can teach, but the Welsh government won't let me

10th August 2012 at 01:00
Trained overseas? You can work in England, but not in Wales

In a teaching career spanning more than a decade, Australian Jordan Livingstone has gained a wealth of experience, including a three-year stint as a head of year and 12 months as a deputy principal.

Now settled in the UK, he is eligible to teach in England as an overseas-qualified teacher. But despite his qualifications and extensive experience, Mr Livingstone is considering quitting the profession because he is not allowed to teach in the country he now calls home: Wales.

In April, the Westminster government changed its rules to allow teachers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US to apply for qualified teacher status (QTS) without undertaking further training. Mr Livingstone applied and was one of the first to gain a certificate.

But the Welsh government has chosen not to recognise the rule change - a decision that highlights the growing disparity between the two countries' education systems and the difficulties faced by overseas-trained teachers who want to teach in different parts of the UK.

The case also comes after new academy schools in England were told they would be free to hire teachers without any qualifications at all.

"The whole situation is ludicrous," Mr Livingstone said. "The Welsh government's decision has made me feel highly devalued and discriminated against. Their stance has made me re-evaluate my whole position. I'm now looking for jobs outside teaching."

Mr Livingstone, 33, gained a double degree in human movement science and a bachelor of education in 2000. He began his career at a high school in Queensland, first teaching health and PE and later specialising in maths. In 2010, he moved to Conwy in North Wales to live with his wife Susan, whom he met during a two-year sabbatical at a secondary in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

He struggled to find a job in Wales, as schools refused to employ him without QTS, but in March last year he started working as an unqualified supply teacher at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan high school in Conwy. Despite the support of his school, the period in which he is allowed to teach without qualifications in Wales is coming to an end.

The NASUWT teaching union, which is representing Mr Livingstone, said the Welsh government's decision cast doubt on the "equity and comparability" of qualifications achieved by teachers.

"Regrettably, narrow-mindedness appears to have won the day, with a decision that presents an affront to many fully qualified teachers from overseas," said Rex Phillips, the union's Wales organiser.

Mr Livingstone's local Assembly Member Darren Millar, the Conservative AM for Clwyd West, has been fighting on his behalf. "There's a completely un-level playing field now in the UK for overseas-trained teachers. I have made representations to the Welsh government, but they just don't want to know," Mr Millar said. "It's outrageous that someone who has an awful lot to offer the education system in Wales could be excluded from teaching."

The Welsh government says Mr Livingstone can undertake a short graduate training programme, but to apply he has to have at least a year's full-time teaching experience in Wales, something he has been unable to achieve because he does not have QTS.

A government spokesman said it had set aside additional training places for overseas-trained teachers who want to continue teaching in Wales, but it will not back down on its decision.

"We are aware that regulations in England allow for overseas teachers with full qualifications from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US to be recognised," a spokesman said. "However, these teachers are not automatically recognised as qualified teachers in Wales and are unable to teach in schools here on a long-term basis without assessment against our QTS standards."

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