"See you next year, Miss!"
The chorus of voices I heard on my last day at Alperton Community School were bittersweet. Unlike other years, I wasn't excited about a well-earned holiday. I was anxious that this could be the last day at a school I've loved for two years.
And those fears seem to have come true.
I woke up in Canada on the fourth day of the summer holidays and immediately opened my email to check if the application for my sponsorship had gone through.
What I found was a message from our head of HR: "We are so sorry that Home Office changes have resulted in a situation outside of our control.” The criteria to get a Tier 2 visa under the current immigration policy had increased dramatically – this was the second time my visa had been denied. Unlike the first attempt, my school is no longer optimistic that any further attempts will yield any better results.
I know I’m not alone in this situation, I know that many immigrant teachers across the UK have also been denied their Tier 2 visas. But this doesn’t make me feel any better. I’m devastated and frustrated. This decision is mind-boggling to me: why would a country with a shortage of teachers, deny qualified, established teachers the opportunity to stay? As a Canadian, I left a country where we have a surplus of teachers; I wanted to get started right away and figured international teaching would allow me to gain experience and fit in some travelling. London seemed like the perfect choice.
With everyone’s warnings and doubts in my ears – "Are you sure you want to go teach there?" or "Haven’t you heard British children are horrible to teach?" – I arrived in the UK on a Tier 5 youth mobility visa. I figured that if I hated it, I could leave after the year. While teaching in the UK had its challenges and adjustments, I fell in love with the school and the teachers I was teaching with. One year has turned into two, and I had planned to let those two years turn into more.
If it was an issue of sponsorship, if the school was not willing to keep me on, I would understand. But that’s just not the case.
In January, our head of HR advertised my position to make sure there weren't any UK/EU candidates for the role. No qualified candidates applied, so we thought we were good to go. We applied for the DBS, and then had to wait to ensure the application was submitted within three months of the official start date. When the application was rejected for the June allotment, me and another colleague in the same situation sat down with our headteacher. He offered to fast-track our next application so that we would be back by the start of term in September. He was optimistic that we wouldn't be rejected again.
Sadly, he was wrong.
He and the rest of the senior leadership team have spent a lot of time on me these past two years: supporting me, encouraging me, and providing CPD opportunities. Now all of their effort, and mine, is being wasted. The school may be able to find other Tier 5 teachers, but it’s like starting all over again. And what's the point if in two years’ time, they are forced to leave? Why is it, when all over the country, schools are struggling to retain experienced teachers, those who wish to stay on are being punished?
I support the #letthemteach campaign because I want to continue to learn and develop as an educator. These visa requirements have left me heartbroken. My school is now in the process of having to find two new teachers for September and I am currently left without a job, with half of my life, friends and possessions in a country that I am no longer allowed to return to.
Liane Laros was a history and English teacher at Alperton Community School
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