International applicants prop up flagging teacher recruitment

One expert said the analysis suggests teaching profession is ‘shifting towards becoming increasingly dependent on immigration’

One expert said the analysis suggests teaching profession is ‘shifting towards becoming increasingly dependent on immigration’

Teacher recruitment this year is being propped up by a huge rise in applications from outside of the United Kingdom, new analysis suggests.

Sam Freedman, a former advisor to the Department for Education, said it shows the teaching profession is “shifting towards becoming increasingly dependent on immigration, just as has happened with healthcare. And, just as with healthcare, it is a function of pay being held down.”

Analysis shows recruitment figures this year are similar to last year, which was one of the worst on record with just half of the required secondary trainees recruited.

Overall, the proportion of primary recruits was 11 per cent lower compared to the same time last year, while secondary was 13 per cent up.

Jack Worth
Jack Worth

But Jack Worth, education economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research, said the growth has been “dominated by international recruitment” amid “limited growth in interest in teaching from anywhere else (especially domestically).

Physics is up by 141 per cent in terms of accepted applications and nearly 300 per cent in applications compared to this time last year, he noted in a thread on X, formerly Twitter.

There has been a 57 per cent rise in accepted applicants to initial teacher training from the ‘rest of the world’, compared to this time last year. Meanwhile applicants from England are static and those from the rest of the UK are down 16 per cent.

Worth noted “domestic numbers of placed applicants for physics are up by 40%, but international placed applicants are up by 330% on last year”.

He told Schools Week: “There’s been an increase in applications internationally both due to an increase in people wanting to apply to the UK… but also due to policy measures introduced by the government.

“This time last year, the international relocation payment, and bursary eligibility were increased for physics and MFL. A big increase has been in physics. It looks like it’s related to policy factors.”

‘Policy measures seem to be feeding through’

The government has launched a £10k ‘relocation package’ trial to attract overseas teachers. It has also hiked bursaries on offer to trainee teachers, although the total amount spent is still less than pre-Covid.

Incentives were heavily slashed when Covid prompted a spike in interest in teaching, which turned out to be shortlived. 

But Worth said it’s “promising to see that some policy measures seem to be feeding through into increased recruitment”.

Schools Week revealed last year teacher trainers had been told by the Department for Education’s top civil servant to stop turning away so many applicants amid “significant rejection rates”, even in shortage subjects.

Susan Acland-Hood, the DfE’s permanent secretary, told providers a 7 per cent jump in applicants last year had not led to an equivalent rise in offers for courses. 

“This is concerning when we know we have need of teachers,” she wrote in a letter seen by Schools Week. “This is not explained by the subjects or phases being applied for – we are seeing significant rejection rates even for subjects we know are in shortage.

However, the DfE said in December it was helping schools “be on the front foot” dealing with an influx of applications from overseas teachers, which take longer to process and have much higher rejection rates.

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  1. I just wanted to add one more point. It is true that international applicants have high rejection rates, but not because of their ability, because majority of international applicants are those students who have double masters (one from their country, one from the UK) along with significant work experience, which makes them stronger among any local applicant. The reason is the compulsory teaching license, all countries in the world don’t have a license requirement, but they are still trained to teach and have taught for years as well. I belive if somebody has a relative experience, they should not be rejected just because of this tiny little requirement. Anybody who can pay for their full time masters in the UK, can also pay for the license. However, acquiring license is a year long process which is most frustrating especially when you know that you are getting repeated training, for which you already have experience.
    Kindly inform QTS or GTCS or all the schools, colleges, etc. to simply take a demo test of their teaching style and then allocate license to become a teacher.

    Secondly, I know many PhD and local people who no doubt have somewhat of subject knowledge, but have no idea on how to teach, but are still recruited by the schools and universities. As a result, statistics already showcased a degrade in student performances.
    Also, the interview was held with 1 person, but they need to teach a group later (a large group), which they feel a daunting task. However, for international teachers, it is easy as they come from high population countries.

    Seriously, the system of teacher recruitment needs an upgrade. Must be offered fast track training courses to familiarise them with UK school education ecosystem which lasts not more than 1 month for every subject.

    I am Educational Neuroscience researcher of teaching and learning with 8 years of teaching experience in which I got multiple awards at national and international level, have taught students from 40+ geographies. After coming to the UK, my applications keep on getting rejected and people less educated, less experienced than me are getting selected. I think teacher recruiters must also be given a training on how to recruit logically.

    • Madhu Kiran Kans

      Teacher recruitment and agency recruitment is in need of an upgrade. I have a British Masters degree in Political Science but this does not open up doors to teach in the public sector here. It’s quite frustrating.