EXCLUSIVE: More teachers left to go abroad, than did a university PGCE

More teachers left the country last year to teach in English international schools than qualified to become a teacher through the university PGCE route.

Data from International School Consultancy (ISC) Research shows there were about 100,000 full-time teaching staff from Britain in English-medium international schools in 2014-15.

That compares to about 82,000 in the previous year – meaning 18,000 teachers left the UK to join their ranks.

That is more than the 17,001 postgraduates who gained qualified teaching status (QTS) in universities, according to the latest figures for the 2013-14 academic year.

The figures shed further light on what may be fuelling a teacher recruitment crisis.

Anne Keeling, media relations officer at ISC Research, the leading provider of market intelligence on international English-speaking schools, said: “The number of international schools and students attending international schools has risen dramatically in recent years… Demand for places in many countries is growing at a pace.”

According to ISC Research, nearly 8,000 schools now employ some 390,000 staff to teach 4.2 million internationally schooled pupils – compared with fewer than 2.75 million students five years ago.

The company said 41 per cent of international schools used a UK-based curriculum. “It is why British teachers are so popular in international schools,” Ms Keeling said.

“UK teachers and leaders are respected for their experience of the national curriculum as well as high standards of teaching and school management, and they speak the language that international schools demand.”

Data compiled exclusively for Schools Week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the long-term migration of “teachers and research professionals” was 16,000 in 2014 and 15,000 for the previous two years, which is a more static picture.

But the ONS was unable to separate the two occupational categories, meaning shifts in teacher numbers alone could be masked.

Schools Week also spoke to other recruitment agencies who gave anecdotal evidence that more teachers were moving to work abroad.


Steve Fitzpatrick (pictured right), branch manager of the Worcester office of independent teaching supply agency, Class People, said teachers often moved abroad for a better working environment and better pay.

“I have a friend who moved to Dubai, he has doubled his salary and it’s tax-free.”

Andrew Wigford set up Teachers International Consultancy, a specialist recruitment company for international schools, ten years ago.

The former headteacher, who taught abroad for 12 years, said teachers were now more aware of the possibilities of teaching abroad.

“I think there is a momentum – lots of teachers know people who are teaching abroad. Teachers are also looking at these schools in terms of career development, which is normally much faster.”

When asked if international schools paid better, he said not always but “the money goes further – accommodation is usually paid for, some salaries are tax-free and the cost of living is usually cheaper”.

It was reported earlier this month the Department for Education (DfE) had launched a programme to attract teachers from abroad, which could involve advertising in other EU countries as well as China and Singapore.

But Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, told Schools Week: “When the DfE has a new programme to get teachers from abroad, it’s ironic that if more effort was put into keeping teachers we have got, it wouldn’t have to be running this programme.”

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  1. Can anyone really blame them. You only need two years practice to go abroad. Outer London pay on two years training is about 27k. Schools abroad are offering around 30k tax free, free accommodation, and a bonus gratuity when you finish your service. Kind of a no brained, I’m considering going abroad too next year

  2. I am a UK trained teacher. Brow beaten, intimidated, overworked (70-80 hour weeks). The children aren’t the problem, it’s the ridiculous bureaucracy, the ludicrous administrative work load (much greater than the teaching load) and the micromanaging and the CONSTANT government interference by non experts. I work in China now. British teachers are judged world class anywhere other than Britain. I earn 1/3 more, work 2/3 less and have 100% more appreciation and support.

    • Helen Rees-Bidder

      I did some teacher training in China recently. One UK teacher told me that she returned to the UK after 4 years in Chine but was so appalled by her experience in the UK that she came back to China after one year. She couldn’t believe how much pressure was placed on UK teachers in terms of data and meeting unrealistic targets.

      • Problem with this is (and I also worked in China), the large number of foreign teacher applications has seen jobs get more competitive and decrease in salary expectations even in the smaller cities. The only guaranteed jobs these days are in science (surprise, surprise).

        This isn’t exactly like doctors or other professions wherein we are struggling to replace teachers, most subjects have enough applicants. Basically I don’t see this getting better in the UK and I only see it getting worse abroad. Eventually for educators there is going to be no place left to run.

  3. Debra Kidd

    I work regularly with International School teachers and my overarching impression is that they are really happy. Pay and conditions are good, the children are, on the whole, joyful, the curriculum is more humane and facilities excellent. Of course, it depends where you go and some schools are better than others. But I know very few who have returned and those who have came back to work in international schools in the UK. Yes, they exist – you don’t even have to leave the country.

  4. Mark Garside

    Couldn’t agree more with the contributors above. I ditched the UK in 2005, and have subsequently taken up high school posts in Taiwan, Myanmar, and now China. I’m still only 37 years old, and I have absolutely zero intentions of returning to 70-hour weeks in Birmingham and London, let alone the outrageous costs of living in these cities. The pay is superior in so many of the international schools hiring, the students significantly more deferential, and the travel opportunities abound. Teaching overseas really isn’t for everyone, however, and the disbenefits do include being separated from loved ones for extended periods. With Skype to the rescue in this area, though, it’s easy to stay well connected with UK family and friends. On the whole, there’s so much going for entering the international teaching circuit that I’m not surprised more UK teachers are making this choice.