Recruitment crisis brings influx of international staff

17th October 2014 at 01:00
Teachers flock from around the globe to plug gaps in profession

Scottish schools have recruited teachers from Canada, New Zealand and Spain in a bid to fill vacancies, new evidence has shown.

Figures reveal that the number of teachers from outside the country registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) increased by 23 per cent between 2012-13 and 2013-14, from 390 to 480.

Applications to the Scottish teaching register from outside the country have traditionally been made by teachers in England. Some of the recent increase can be attributed to a rise in applications from south of the border - from 231 in 2012-13 to 260 in 2013-14. But the number of teachers applying to work in Scotland after qualifying in countries such as Canada, Spain, Poland and Ireland has also risen significantly.

The figures are evidence of the trend, reported in TESS last year, of councils being forced to recruit teachers from further afield because of staff shortages. Last summer, TESS revealed that Aberdeen City Council had approved cash bonuses for teachers willing to relocate to the city from England (bit.lyAttractingEnglish) - although the scheme was also open to Scottish applicants. In its English advertisements, the council highlighted "the wonderful new curriculum in Scotland" and described the system as "education-led" and "remaining true to its principles".

Aberdeenshire Council, meanwhile, cast its net beyond the borders of the UK and interviewed 30 Irish and Canadian probationer teachers in a single month. The package offered by the council included a full induction and conversion to Scottish education standards, a temporary work visa, accommodation and travel costs.

John Stodter, general secretary of school leaders' association ADES, told TESS that the increase in applications from outside Scotland was because of a "lack of teachers available for work".

"A number of authorities are recruiting from outwith Scotland and some are offering incentives to come and also to stay," he said. "The government has increased the intake of student teachers this year so it is hoped the gap can be closed quickly."

A spokeswoman for the EIS teaching union confirmed that the Scottish education system had been "attracting increasing positive international attention, in terms of both curriculum and also professional standards".

"An increased interest in working here, therefore, is not surprising, especially from teachers in England where UK government policy has been particularly damaging for professional educators," she said. "Education policy in England, with its increasingly narrow focus and preference for deregulation, may be influencing those interested in a career delivering high-quality education to apply for registration in Scotland."

The spokeswoman added that some areas, like Aberdeen, had struggled to recruit teachers and had therefore been "dependent on recruitment from abroad, actively recruiting from furth of Scotland".

"It is good for Scotland's school pupils to be taught by teachers from beyond Scotland, who are able to bring their different experiences to the classroom to enrich the learning process," she said. "The EIS has confidence in the GTCS as the gatekeeper of professional standards in Scotland."

Mike Corbett, a national executive member of the NASUWT teaching union, said that conditions in applicants' home countries could also play a part in their decision to relocate. He said that the shortage of supply teachers, particularly in rural areas, was "a key reason why we should welcome an increase in the numbers of teachers coming from overseas".

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: "It is important that anyone who works in Scotland meets the standards set by the GTCS to ensure that we can deliver the best possible outcomes for our children and young people."

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