Teachers flee UK for sunnier future

19th March 2010 at 00:00
Staff working in international schools soar by nearly 30,000 as cold weather, budget fears and Government interference contribute to mass desertion

The freezing winter and the prospect of post-election funding cuts in education are contributing to a mass exodus of teachers to schools abroad, it has emerged.

Increasing Government interference in the classroom has also been blamed for a doubling in the numbers of British-trained teachers seeking jobs in international schools.

New figures show that around 70,000 British primary and secondary teachers are now working in international schools, compared to only 41,500 in 2005.

The scrum to jet off to sunnier climes has also been fuelled by a huge boom in the number of teaching opportunities, particularly in Central and East Asia.

British private schools, and global chains such as GEMs, are now targeting the children of increasingly wealthy local families, as well as their traditional ex-pat base.

The number of English-medium international schools has leapt from 1,700 to 5,400 in the past decade, according to ISC Research, which monitors international school data.

But analysts have warned that the "brain drain" to a booming international sector could force the Government to rethink its decision to reduce the numbers it recruits for secondary teacher training.

Otherwise, Britain could be forced to import teachers from countries such as South Africa and Jamaica, as it has done in the past.

Recruitment experts have warned teachers going abroad not to be seduced by higher wages or sunny weather because other aspects of pay and conditions, such as pension provision, may not be the same.

A lack of regulation could also mean teachers and school leaders could find themselves in tricky situations if they have disagreements with their employers.

Professor John Howson, a recruitment analyst who has worked closely with international schools, said: "Post-Cold War the export drive for British education has increased, with significant growth in places such as Moscow, Warsaw, Prague and Kazakhstan. There has also been immense growth in Dubai and on the Indian subcontinent.

"The British education system overseas has a very good reputation and is seen as a good way of preparing for a university education in the USA or Britain."

He added that some teachers who fled abroad never came back, as carving a career in English-medium schools allowed them substantial freedoms.

"We are in a global economy, so it isn't surprising that teachers want to go abroad to somewhere where the climate is more guaranteed and the pay might appear better. Cuts in education following the general election are also making the British job market uncertain.

"Working abroad, you're also not going to have to undergo a sudden unexpected Ofsted inspection. You're also more likely to face better-behaved children and have less chance of facing a false accusation."

Hannah Brunton, a primary teacher from London, recently moved to China to teach at Harrow Primary School.

She said: "I was looking to use my skills as a teacher to open up opportunities for experiencing a different culture.

"Also, having lived and worked in central London since graduating, I found my bank balance to be no healthier than when I was a student. International schools can offer the chance of saving money while offering a better quality of life."


- There are 5,600 English-medium international schools.

- There are 2,578 international schools in the Middle East and Asia.

- The total value of the international schools market, based on fees income: #163;11.5bn.

- Biggest growth areas: India and Pakistan, UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore.

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