Exclusive: DfE attempt to keep thousands of foreign teachers ‘likely to fail’

The Department for Education probably won’t succeed in its bid to overturn an immigration clampdown that will lead to schools losing significant numbers of non-EU teachers, TES can reveal.

The Home Office is about to explore the possibility of exempting teachers from new restrictions on non-EU workers amid warnings that this is a “disaster waiting to happen” for schools struggling to recruit staff.

But sources within the DfE have told TES that, despite the review, it is “highly unlikely” that the profession as a whole will be included on an official “shortage occupation list”.

“There will be certain subjects where we are identifying there is a challenge in recruiting, but there is not going to be, across the board, every single teacher included,” a high-level source said. “We will be fighting our corner, of course, but in reality it is highly unlikely that teaching will be placed on the list.”

In March, nursing was retained on the list amid concerns over staffing shortages.

Controversial reforms

Unions have warned that schools will lose thousands of teachers because of controversial reforms introduced by home secretary Theresa May in April. The new rules prevent any non-EU worker from staying in the UK for more than six years unless they earn more than £35,000 a year. The change has sparked uproar among schools trying to cope with the worst teacher shortages in more than a decade.

Geoff Brown, managing director of Hourglass Education, which specialises in bringing teachers from abroad to work in the UK, said: “It is a disaster waiting to happen unless somebody, somewhere, starts to investigate the impact of this rule on education.

“We have teacher shortages and the government is finding ways of getting rid of people.”

Unions are blaming education ministers whom, they argue, are failing to make an adequate case against the new rules because of a desire to play down teacher shortages.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, warned that the longer ministers denied there was a crisis in teacher recruitment, the “greater the crisis will become”.

She added: “If they are going to delude themselves when giving evidence, all they will do is exacerbate the problem, particularly in schools in London and the South East that are the most reliant on these teachers [from non-EU countries].”

Haphazard teacher training

The news cames as the Public Accounts Committee today warned the DfE over its “haphazard” approach to teacher training, which it said was adding to concerns around teacher supply that the department was “woefully aloof” about.

Further signs of a teacher supply crisis emerged this week as initial teacher training providers revealed they have been “inundated” with requests by schools for staff in previously “easy to recruit” subjects, such as English and history.

A DfE spokesperson said that it was considering its response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s review.

“We want all schools to be able to recruit the teachers they need, but we recognise that there are challenges in some subjects – that’s why we are investing over £1.3 billion up to 2020 to attract new teachers into the profession, including generous bursaries in key subjects,” they added.

This is an edited article from the 10 June edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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