New immigration rules will hit schools, heads warn

Headteachers have raised fears that “significant numbers” of overseas teachers will be forced to leave the country under the government’s new immigration rules.

Under the regulations brought in by home secretary Theresa May, any non-European workers will be made to leave the UK after six years if they are not earning more than £35,000.

Concerns were raised this morning by the Royal College of Nursing, which stated that the directive would drain the NHS of experienced nurses at a time of ever greater demand.

The feelings were echoed by the headteachers’ union the NAHT, which questioned the wisdom of deporting well-trained staff during a major teacher recruitment crisis. The union said that “significant numbers” of overseas-trained teachers fell below the £35,000 settlement pay threshold.

“Headteachers everywhere are struggling to recruit. Pupil numbers are rising. Budgets are being squeezed all the time. In the face of these challenges, it seems counterproductive to force out valued members of staff for the sake of meeting a migration target,” the NAHT’s general secretary Russell Hobby said.

The Home Office said the changes would not impact on occupations where there was a shortage, meaning that maths, chemistry and physics teachers would be exempt from the rules.

A spokesperson for the government department said the changes brought in by the prime minister aimed to reduce the demand for migrant labour. “We changed the settlement rules in 2011 to break the link between coming to work in the UK and staying here permanently,” they said.

“From 2016, non-EEA [European Economic Area] workers will need to earn at least £35,000 to settle in the UK for longer than six years. There are exemptions to this threshold for occupations where the UK has a shortage – maths, chemistry and physics teachers are on the shortage occupation list and are therefore exempt from the settlement pay threshold.”

The spokesperson added: “Employers have had since 2011 to prepare for the possibility that their non-EEA workers may not meet the required salary threshold to remain in the UK permanently.”

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