The lure of foreign climes, set against the crumbling UK education system, could prove too tempting to resist for many leaders, one leading independent headteacher has warned.
Gwen Byrom, who will end her tenure as president of the Girls Schools’ Association this month, says that we are running the risk of a headteacher “brain drain” as more leaders leave the UK for international teaching posts.
Byrom is one of those leaders. She has quit as head of Loughborough High School and is moving to Bangkok to become the founding principal of the Thai capital’s new North London Collegiate School International. Byrom said that leaders moving overseas was exacerbating the already growing shortage of teachers who are willing to step into senior roles in the UK. “Sometimes there is sadly such a feeling of negativity surrounding teaching in the UK that people think, ‘I want to be free of that,’” she told Tes.
“There are more and more of us that are heading towards retirement, and it has been hard to make headship look attractive at times.”
This is perhaps no surprise after numerous studies have brought the growing strain on school leaders in Britain to the forefront. A report by the Education Support Partnership charity revealed late last year that 80 per cent of heads described themselves as “stressed”, and the proportion of senior leaders showing signs of depression had risen from 25 per cent in 2017 to 40 per cent.
While our model for work-life balance in teaching may not be popular, the British style of education certainly is. A record number of UK independent schools are currently expanding overseas to meet this growing demand for British-style education, in particular in Asia and the Middle East.
More than 100 new international schools opened in 2018 alone, including 18 in China, 12 in Malaysia and five each in Vietnam and Thailand, according to ISC Research.