Wilshaw: golden handcuffs needed to plug brain drain and solve ‘critical’ teacher shortages

Ofsted chief speaks of need to reverse ‘teacher brain drain’ from the UK

New teachers should be given golden-handcuffs deals, to prevent them from leaving the country as soon as they qualify, the Ofsted’s chief inspector has said.

Sir Michael Wilshaw warned this morning that there is “a teacher brain drain from this country, just when the supply issue is reaching situation critical”.

Writing in his monthly commentary, Sir Michael pointed out that a growing number of newly qualified teachers were leaving to work in international branches of elite private schools adding to England’s “serious teacher recruitment and retention challenge”.

International schools on the rise

He said that number of people who left the UK to teach in English-language international schools reached 18,000 last year – higher than the number who qualified from postgraduate teacher-training courses in England over the same period.

TES reported on this phenomenon in 2014 when there were 7,000 international schools worldwide. Today Sir Michael warned that it was going to get worse – citing research from the International School Consultancy, which estimated that the number of international schools is likely to reach more than 15,000 by 2025.

His comments come a week after TES a analysis revealed the failure of government attempts to tackle the teacher recruiment crisis.

Taxpayer-subsidised training

“At a time of well-documented shortages, should we not be putting more effort into holding on to those who have gone through their teacher training in England?” Sir Michael wrote.

“After all, let’s remember, much of this training is subsidised by the taxpayer in the form of bursaries.”

He argued that trainees’ bursaries should be conditional on their working in England after qualifying.

“Is it unreasonable to ask someone who has been trained in our system to make a contractual commitment to teach in that same system for the first few years of their career?” he said.

“I would…urge policymakers to consider the idea of some form of golden handcuffs, to keep teachers working in the state system that trained them for a period of time.”

The nobility of teaching

And, he said, there needed to be as much discussion of the successes of the state system as of its problems: “We need to hear more about the nobility of teaching, the impact that it has, and the particular rewards derived from improving the chances of children from poorer and more difficult backgrounds – far greater, I’d argue, than teaching the gilded offspring of the Chinese or Qatari ruling classes.”

Leora Cruddas, of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed Sir Michael’s suggestion. “More needs to be done to incentivise teaching as a career,” she said.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of headteachers’ union the NAHT said: “We welcome the chief inspector’s signal that England has a serious teacher recruitment and retention challenge on its hands; something the government still fails to prioritise.

“The government must look at why some teachers are choosing to work abroad at a time of shortages in the UK. Pay flexibilities do not work when schools have insufficient funds to use them; enforced pay freezes are making starting salaries uncompetitive. Excessive workload, poorly planned change and constant criticism drive out experienced teachers.

“We don’t need golden handcuffs to keep trained teachers in the UK. We just need to treat them with respect. It has the advantage of being cheaper, as well as being the right thing to do.”


Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInGoogle GmailShare