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Rebekah Riddell
29th July, 2015

Teaching agencies having to look abroad

London Cityscape

Teacher supply agencies in the UK have to look to countries such as Canada, Singapore and the US to fill the nationwide skills gap caused by a lack of fully-trained teaching staff, The Independent reports.

Recruitment in the teaching profession has been dealt a number of blows over the past year or two, explains Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers. At the same time as pupil populations are rising, the improving economy has created more opportunities for employment in sectors other than teaching.

As well as this, increased workloads are causing more people to leave the profession – annual workforce figures show that the number of teachers aged 50 plus fell by 10,000 between 2010 and 2014 – and the pay system has also been affected; "We're facing a freeze limiting rise to one per cent over the next four years - and they've stopped automatic progression through the pay scales," Courtney explains.

In order to resolve the situation and fill staffing gaps, supply agencies are looking abroad to find qualified staff; however, limits on work permits have resulted in some 60 US teachers being denied permission to work in the UK.

With around 1,200 teachers signed to its account, teaching job agencies have been looking as far afield as Canada, Australia and New Zealand to find candidates. TimePlan’s managing director, Tish Seabourne, told the publication that while it had always looked abroad for teachers, this approach had become more prevalent in light of the current skills shortage.

She has also written to education secretary Nicky Morgan asking to have the work permit restrictions lifted. Responding to the request, Morgan stated that "no sector should be automatically turning to immigration to resolve workforce difficulties."

Morgan also argued that there were "record levels of graduates" entering the teaching profession, and that no workers on the list of shortage occupations – including maths, chemistry and physics teachers – had been denied entry to work in the UK.

Courtney expressed his concern that the staffing gaps were being filled by teaching assistants, commenting: "I think we're not at an absolute crisis yet but I think there will be a significant number of unqualified teachers filling vacancies."

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