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Understanding the STEM Teacher Crisis in UK Schools and Colleges

Posted by Ed Hull on 19-Jan-2016 02:00:00

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It would be fair to say that some schools have had to get inventive with their recruitment policies to avoid having unfilled vacancies or having to hire on the basis of ‘it’s better than nothing’ during England’s teacher shortage. A number of schools have started to look abroad in countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA; some have even gone as far afield as Jamaica for their teaching staff.  Many of these countries are currently seeing a large number of teachers graduating that are unable to find work in their home country.

Countries such as Canada currently have an excess of teachers, many of whom find it difficult to land conventional classroom jobs and find themselves in a ‘catch 22’ type situation; their lack of experience prevents them from being employed and the country’s lack of vacancies prevent them from gaining experience. Coupled with the English government leading an overseas recruitment drive aimed at plugging the skills gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), this has made England an attractive prospect for many foreign teachers who are looking to bolster their CV and experience different cultures.

Those who are qualified to teach in Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA, find transferring to teaching in England a straight forward process as their qualifications are recognised and usually, no further assessment is needed before they enter the classroom in England. The English government has also made it easier for those from outside of these catchment areas who are qualified secondary teachers in maths, physics or chemistry by flagging these subjects as ‘in shortage’.

Overseas recruitment drives by Education.gov highlight England’s need for teachers in core STEM areas, reaching out via their website by saying: “As a talented, qualified teacher, you are in demand.” Recently secondary teaching as a profession has been added to the government’s Shortage Occupation List along with Engineers, Scientists and Medical Professionals. The Shortage Occupation List is an official register of occupations for which there are not enough resident workers to fill vacancies, in short, it is set up to help fill a skills gap when England cannot.

England’s teacher shortage is at a critical point with the current government offering bursaries of up to £30,000 for students with: a 1st class degree and that are training with intent to enter certain teaching roles. Nailing down the urgency of the need for teachers, TeachFirst.org recently published figures on the deficit of STEM graduates, stating that the figure is 40,000 under what is currently needed to teach in England and that the difficulty in recruiting these individuals is felt by 95% of graduate employers.

Bringing in overseas teachers to teach in England has cultural implications. Currently, 9 out of every 10 teachers in England associate themselves with being White-British and around 5% associate themselves with either being black or Asian whereas 30% of students in state funded schools are of a minority ethnic origin (Gov.uk). The disparity has influenced many education professionals to say that the gap is too wide; by bringing in teachers from other cultures, a more diverse pool of influence is introduced meanwhile bringing in fresh ideas and approaches to teaching.

Although recruiting from abroad can seem like an attractive option, for most, the cost of travelling overseas on recruitment drives is not a viable option. Many of the countries that are being specially targeted in these recruitment drives are in The Americas or the Southern Hemisphere which require expensive plane tickets and costly accommodation. Furthermore, the logistics of finding and shortlisting appropriate candidates in unfamiliar territories is an off-putting task that usually far outstrips schools capability.

Apologies to those who thought a recruitment drive in Australia could be this year’s answer to a summer holiday, but there is an alternative; the introduction and advancement in recruitment technology has meant that hiring staff on a national level, and even a global level, without leaving the office has now become a viable option for many institutions.

Technology such as video interviewing now allows for a ‘first interview’ experience from anywhere in the world. Skills-based tests reinforce the experience applicants cite on their CVs and digital application forms make applications for potential teacher-candidates an easy click-to-send process. The introduction of this technology to schools, colleges and universities is set to remove, or at least reduce, the barriers that have been preventing foreign talent from finding work in the UK and restricting the quality of teaching that any teacher-short institutions can provide.

To find out how to overcome the problem with recruiting STEM Teachers you can download the free Guide to Recruiting Teachers HERE.

Topics: Education