Officials are unable to say how many foreign teachers face deportation under new immigration rules that require them to earn at least £35,000 a year if they want to settle in the UK.
Since last April, workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who want to teach in England for longer than five years must prove they earn more than £35,000 to qualify for what is known as a tier 2 “settlement” visa.
The change means those who have been in the country since 2011, and now need a settlement visa to remain, will have applied under the new rules in the past year.
But the Home Office will not say how many teachers and other school staff are affected because it costs too much to collate the information.
When the new rules were announced several years ago, education leaders raised concerns about the impact on schools already struggling with recruitment.
Vic Goddard, head of Passmores Academy in Essex, said he was facing the loss of eight teachers unless he could find the money to hike salaries.
In January, the government’s Migration Advisory Committee also warned that, given the relatively low starting salaries for teachers, it was likely a “high proportion of tier 2 teachers will not be able to meet the £35,000 threshold”.
According to workforce data, 60 per cent of secondary teachers and 75 per cent of primary and nursery teachers earn less than £40,000 a year. Most if not all teaching assistants also earn far less than the cap.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, Schools Week requested data on the numbers of teachers, teaching assistants and other support staff who had been turned down for renewal of a tier 2 visa or had it withdrawn because they did not meet the £35,000 threshold.
The Home Office, however, says the reasons for refusals cannot easily be extracted from its data and providing the number would require a “manual trawl through every individual case record”. The costs for this would be prohibitive.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said she was “hardly surprised” the government would not provide figures on the impact of the cap, which she said was expected to be “significant”.
“One of our leaders said that several schools in their consortium couldn’t staff science or modern foreign language without these teachers.
“When the average teacher’s salary in England after 10 years is about £30,000, this cap is effectively sending the majority of non-EEA teachers home at a time when they’re needed more than ever.”