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

17th August 2012 at 01:00
Trained overseas? In that case, you can work in England, but not 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.

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 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."

THE POSITION IN SCOTLAND

A spokesman for the General Teaching Council for Scotland said it could not comment on individual cases.

"However," he added, "the GTCS is happy to consider applications for registration from teachers qualified outside Scotland. There is no automatic recognition of QTS (qualified teacher status) awarded in England. Instead, applicants' qualifications are assessed on an individual basis, with reference to the GTCS's academic study and teacher education requirements.

"We also require a satisfactory referee report - normally on the applicant's most recent teaching service."

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