Teachers ‘sick of the system’ set their sights abroad

17th June 2016 at 00:00
International school teachers set to double
Staff working in international schools set to double as demand for English-speaking education booms

The number of teachers needed to work in English-speaking international schools across the globe will double in the next decade, experts have said, prompting new fears over UK teacher recruitment.

The boom is leading to a growing number of overseas schools offering experienced British teachers free education for their children in a bid to tempt them away from the UK.

And TES understands that British universities are considering introducing “international elements” to teacher training courses as the demand for a more global outlook grows among their students.

New projections suggest that the number of teachers needed in international schools teaching in English or offering an English-medium curriculum will balloon from 402,000 to 800,000 teachers by 2026 – and many of them are expected to come from Britain.

The International School Consultancy (ISC) data also predicts that the number of international schools will grow from more than 8,000 now to 16,000 in the same timeframe.

Richard Gaskell, the ISC’s director for international schools, warned that the shift could pose problems for UK teacher recruitment.

“The demand for British teachers by international schools, and the desire of many British teachers to work internationally, is both a challenge and an opportunity for UK education,” he said. “Teachers who work overseas tend to return to their home countries with many new, valuable skills and experiences to draw from. UK schools could see this as a benefit.”


Marketing drive

Andrew Wigford, director of Teachers International Consultancy, which recruits teachers for international schools, said that 50-100 teachers a week were now approaching his company seeking work abroad.

The majority were from the UK, and the Middle East was the most popular destination, he added, explaining that the trend was growing partly as a result of a marketing drive that encourages teachers to work abroad from early on in their education career.

But, he added, some teachers also chose to go abroad because they were “sick of the system as it is” in England. “They don’t want to be told what to do and when to do it. They are also talking about the challenging behaviour”, he said.

International schools were increasingly offering to waive fees for teachers’ children, in a bid to entice more experienced staff with families, Mr Wigford said.

He added that he was aware of a number of teacher training colleges that were “considering putting international elements” into their programmes.

Bernard Trafford, headmaster of the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle upon Tyne, warned this week that the overseas demand had “the makings of a crisis” for UK schools.

Writing for the TES website (bit.ly/TraffordTES), he said that teachers were being driven overseas by “heavy-handed, brutal accountability and a hostile inspection system that, more often than not, leave teachers feeling bullied and devalued”.

His comments came just months after Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw warned of a “teacher brain drain” of staff who were leaving the country in order to work in the foreign branches of elite independent schools (bit.ly/WilshawDrain).

New teachers should be given “golden-handcuff” deals to prevent them going abroad too soon, Sir Michael said.

According to the latest annual census from the Independent Schools Council, UK private schools now run 46 campuses abroad.

But speakers at a Westminster Forum event last week did offer some crumbs of hope for recruitment in the face of teacher-hungry international schools. Experts said that the sheer quantity of teachers required in international schools meant that countries would have to start training their own.

Mr Gaskell said: “There will have to be a need for local teacher training colleges, but somebody is yet to crack that. It’s going to have to happen sooner or later.”


One expat’s view: ‘The lack of red tape is liberating’

Molly Stones is a chemistry teacher from Hastings, who now lives and works at Lanna International School in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“My main motivation for teaching internationally was to experience a different culture in more depth than by simply going on holiday,” she said. “I was also, at times, very frustrated with the restrictions in UK state schools. I was curious to see if working in an international school would afford me more freedom in how I teach.

“I’ve found it extremely liberating that there is less red tape here than back home. I don’t spend as much time doing admin tasks, so have the opportunity to create lots of resources that I can continue to use throughout my career.

“I also teach smaller groups here than in the UK. This has given me time to really focus on Assessment for Learning and I’ve been able to design my lessons to meet the individual needs of my students.

“I’ve gained a global perspective from teaching in an international school. I now have a greater appreciation of how pupils’ cultural identity can affect how they learn.

“If I were to return to a UK classroom, I would definitely bring back elements of my experience here – for example, I think my chemistry lessons would have a stronger focus on sustainability and global issues.”

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