In a report released at its annual conference, COBIS relay that “teacher recruitment poses a challenge,” and set out three recommendations for both the sector and government to aim for and redress the balance.
“There is a virtuous cycle going on here”
COBIS works closely with the UK government on the state of the popular English-medium international schools worldwide, and Graham Stuart, UK minister for investment was at the conference for the launch of the report.
The paper has been “welcomed” by Westminster, and Stuart confirmed to The PIE News that COBIS “have a point”, and the Department for International Trade would be supporting the sector.
Teacher recruitment is a problem in the UK as well, with DfE figures showing a shortfall of nearly 10% in recruitment targets to initial teacher training for this academic year.
COBIS posits that the UK and the international schools system could collaborate more closely to solve the issue.
COBIS research tracked teachers’ movements and motivation to work abroad. It found that the international schools sector can benefit the wider education sector by attracting good teachers, offering them an enriching professional experience abroad, and most importantly encouraging them to stay in education.
About a third of the teachers surveyed were thinking of leaving the profession before entering the international school sector – 71% leave the sector within 10 years, many returning to the UK with a positive international experience.
Four out of five said they were very happy with their international experience, while about half said it had rekindled their enthusiasm for teaching.
“There is a virtuous cycle going on here,” COBIS chair Trevor Rowell told The PIE News.
COBIS set out three recommendations in a bid to solve the teacher recruitment impasse both at home and overseas. They involve a closer collaboration between the UK and the international education system to achieve a seamless teacher mobility.
Firstly, COBIS suggests collaborating more closely with the DIT to promote teaching as an international career option, which will increase attractiveness and help with retention.
Then, it suggests overseas schools could play an increasing role in training teachers in their locality by expanding provision for initial teacher training.
Finally, the Council calls for measures to facilitate entry 0r re-entry into the UK schools system for teachers with an international experience.
According to Rowell, if teacher supply between domestic and overseas schools is in competition, everybody loses. That’s why COBIS wants to strengthen its collaboration with the DfE and DIT, he explained.
“People like to move around and we are not making it easy for them – this means we are compounding our own problem”
“If we promote teaching as this highly attractive international career, both domestically and overseas… it’s something that can encourage people to come into teaching and encourage them to stay,” he said.
Deborah Eyre, chair of the COBIS Teacher Supply Committee, said that putting barriers to teacher mobility causes problems both in the UK and overseas.
“At the moment there is a kind of sense that there are teachers that are being trained for the UK and teachers that are being trained for overseas.
“But what comes out of our research is that people like to move around and we are not making it easy for them – this means we are compounding our own problem,” she explained.
Eyre added that the demand for British education is expanding overseas and with it the need for British trained teachers. COBIS is advocating for the expansion of UK-recognised teacher training programs overseas.
For example, Eyre said, UK HE institutions with branch campuses in Asia could offer more teaching qualifications under the British system and with UK accreditation.
Another factor to take into consideration, Rowel added, is that the cost of teacher training overseas would not fall on the UK government.
“That’s why it’s a win-win for the government,” he said.
The 37th COBIS Annual Conference took place in London and was attended by more than 700 delegates and guests from more than 65 countries worldwide.
Participants enjoyed a number of networking receptions, including the Monday Annual Dinner.