COBIS: British schools overseas can help UK teacher shortage

Research shows that 93% of school leaders indicate that recruiting internationally-trained teachers is important

COBIS proposes new, innovative and positive solutions to the current teacher supply challenge in the UK and abroad as findings of major research project show that international schools can offer the opportunities, experiences and training needed to attract new graduates into teaching and encourage teachers to stay in the profession.

There are currently more than 4,300 British International Schools worldwide – representing 45% of the international schools market worldwide. British international schools are now a leading export, valued at more than £1billion. In addition to contributing to the UK economy through franchises, use of educational goods and services, and repatriation of salaries, these schools send students to UK universities, and generate ‘soft power’ of incalculable value, educating thousands of global political, economic and professional leaders in scores of countries. The international school sector is growing at c.6% annually, with more than 450 new international schools opening around the world every year. In the next ten years, British international schools will require up to 230,000 more teachers to meet their staffing needs.

In England, secondary school pupil numbers are projected to increase by more than 530,000 by 2026, and more teachers will be needed4. DfE data shows an overall shortfall of nearly 10% in recruitment targets to initial teacher training, and in the DfE Analysis of teacher supply, retention and mobility (Feb. 2018), 76% of schools reported “significant difficulty” with teacher supply with many considering there was a “serious shortage of teachers”, and the majority feeling it was “getting worse”.

At the 37th COBIS Annual Conference, COBIS published preliminary research data on the movement of teachers into and out of the British international schools sector. This, for the first time, provides data about why teachers go overseas, how long they stay, why they return, and the quality of their experience. It shows that teaching is a truly global profession, with teachers moving overseas for personal and professional fulfilment, and that teaching offers a rich and exciting career both at home and internationally. International service attracts good recruits and benefits the wider education sector, encouraging teachers to stay in the profession, often returning to the UK with valuable skills and experience.

Using this new research as a starting point, COBIS is now proposing innovative and positive solutions to the supply of teachers in order to ensure continued success for schools at home and abroad. COBIS contacted 2,000 British international schools during February-March 2018 as part of a major research project designed to analyse the flow of teachers in and out of the British international schools sector7. The published findings are based on more than 1,600 responses from school leaders, and incoming and outgoing teachers.

Commenting on the experience of teachers in the international sector, Professor Deborah Eyre, Chair of the COBIS Teacher Supply Committee, said: “Teachers who work overseas can acquire valuable additional skills including experience of EAL and dealing with pupil mobility. They develop international understanding and a global outlook.”

“These teachers have the opportunity to work in some of the best, high-performing schools in the world to enhance and refine their British pedagogy,” continued Deborah. “We know that this can motivate some to stay in the profession rather than to leave, and for others it provides a chance to renew their enthusiasm and love for teaching. Many return to add immense value to the UK education sector. This is now an exciting, challenging and seamless international profession.”

Key Findings

  • 77% of outgoing teachers are happy or very happy with their international experience
  • 81% of new international school teachers are happy or very happy with their experience.
  • Teachers choose to work internationally for many reasons. The main motivations are travel and cultural exploration (71%); and enjoyment and challenge (63%). Other contributing factors include: dissatisfaction with home education system (47%); career growth (45%); salary (44%).
  • Many teachers return to the UK after working abroad, with family commitments (44%) and a desire to return home (45%) cited as the main reasons.
  • 26% of returning teachers worked internationally for 3-4 years; 71% leave the international sector within 10 years.
  • Returning teachers bring with them a wealth of experience and skills including cultural awareness (79%), global outlook/international mindedness (76%), adaptability (58%), and renewed enthusiasm for teaching (53%) as well as EAL experience, resilience, and professional development opportunities.
  • Nearly a third of teachers entering the international school sector (32%) were thinking about leaving the profession before taking an international job.
  • British international schools are already being proactive in improving recruitment: 57% with enhanced professional development and 51% with improved marketing in the last 2 years.
  • Nonetheless, 94% of British international school leaders now find recruiting quality teachers ‘somewhat’ or ‘very challenging’ (31% very challenging).
  • 93% of school leaders indicate that recruiting internationally-trained teachers is important, and yet more than a quarter of schools (27%) have increased recruitment of local staff.