Qualified foreign teachers sell themselves short

7th September 2007 at 01:00
HUNDREDS OF foreign teachers who are qualified to work in England have not taken up teaching jobs instead, many are being employed as teaching assistants and cheap classroom translators.

Almost 3,000 people from Eastern European countries have been awarded qualified teacher status since the expansion of the European Union in 2004, but only about a third are registered to teach with the General Teaching Council.

Female teachers from Poland form the largest group of qualified arrivals, but there are fears they may be selling themselves short.

Keith Bartley, chief executive of the GTC for England, said he hoped those with low-paid teaching assistant roles would be able to move on to full teaching jobs soon.

Recruitment agencies say that becoming a teaching assistant can be a good way for immigrants to learn the complex English system and improve their language skills.

But Debbie McGlone, manager of the London agency Education VIPs, said some who are capable of full class teaching simply lack confidence.

She said: "I always try to encourage ones who are qualified to go for teaching roles, and we have a system whereby heads can have them for a trial day in front of an easy class. But I find even those with fluent English want to become teaching assistants first."

Dagmara Miscura, 25, a qualified English teacher, is typical of many Polish migrants. She came to England in 2004 with a year's experience teaching in her own country and has done waitressing jobs and private language tutoring since.

Despite her almost perfect English accent, she is now looking for a job as a teaching assistant in the Woking area.

Her dream job, eventually, would be to teach children who do not have English as their first language.She said: "I would like to start as a bilingual teaching assistant to get to know the system. The national curriculum is very different to that in Poland and you need to get used to it."

Mrs Miscura said she was not concerned about earning less as an assistant. "I am not greedy as long as I enjoy the work," she said.

Only 265 of the 1,756 Polish teachers qualified to teach in the UK are registered with the GTC.

St Anthony's Catholic Primary in Slough, which has around 40 per cent Polish pupils, employs one Polish teaching assistant with QTS and one without qualifications.

Margaret Stacey, the head, said: "I have found that although my teaching assistants have very good English, they would not have the confidence to teach a class with it.

"I think they would find it very difficult in terms of planning, assessment and behaviour management, as their education system is much more formal and teacher-directed."

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