Wilshaw warns of teacher “brain drain”

26 Feb 16

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has warned that the England’s education system is facing a teacher “brain drain” and that staff shortages may reach “situation critical”.

In his final annual report as chief inspector, Wilshaw urged policy makers to consider “some form of golden handcuffs” to stop the UK’s newly qualified teachers moving abroad when there was indications teacher shortages would continue to present a major challenge for at least the next decade.

“England has a serious teacher recruitment and retention challenge on its hands,” he warned. “As a nation, we are simply not attracting enough new entrants into the profession and those we do attract are not applying to schools where they are most needed.”

While schools across the country are feeling the detrimental impact of staff shortages, it is those located in more deprived, unfashionable and isolated areas suffering the most, he pointed out.

He stressed that at a time of such “well-documented shortages” the UK should be putting more effort into holding on to teachers who have been trained here, particularly as “much of this training is subsidised by the taxpayer in the form of bursaries”.

He said recruitment agencies are actively targeting both Britain’s newly-qualified and more experienced teachers, with “enticing offers” of competitive, usually tax-free salaries and free accommodation.

“In 2014/15, there were thought to be 100,000 full-time teachers from the UK working in international schools – making us the world’s biggest exporter of teaching talent,” he highlighted.

The demand for UK-trained teachers abroad is also increasing as a booming international school market hunt for staff best placed to teach the schools’ British-style curriculum.

While good for UK companies, who dominate this lucrative market, and in turn the UK economy, he stressed that England should examine the cost this has for its education system.

Wilshaw called on the government to gain a better understanding of the scale of the exodus of teachers. “I would once again urge policymakers to consider the idea of some form of ‘golden handcuffs’ to keep teachers working in the state system that trained them,” he added.

“The daunting challenge of matching teacher supply with demand will only become more acute in the coming years as a result of rising pupil numbers.

“We have to act now to address this growing imbalance. If we do not, all the well-intentioned reforms to school structures, curricula and assessment regimes, of this and previous governments, will be undermined.”

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