One of the country’s leading academy trusts flies staff on a 9,000-mile round trip to recruit specialist teachers from Jamaica.
Sir Dan Moynihan, the chief executive of the Harris Federation, said the recruitment crisis meant schools “have to be creative” to find quality teachers and people.
He said Harris had recruited more than 150 specialist teachers, mostly in maths and science, since launching its scheme five years ago. It recruited about 50 this year.
Staff visit for four days over a long weekend and interview prospective candidates “from dusk till dawn”, Moynihan told Schools Week.
“We run really good schools, a good reputation [and we] pay more than average. Each year … we recruit Jamaican teachers who are fantastic people, but we are having to do that because we can’t find teachers here.”
He said the real-terms salary reductions for teachers were a “real problem. There is a crisis out there – although schools may have teachers, sometimes they aren’t the specialists they want.”
Analysis last year by the National Foundation for Educational Research found nearly half of secondary schools had used non-specialists to teach at least some maths; 39 per cent in physics.
“They are doing the best job they can,” said Moynihan, but added: “Is that what we want? You’ve got 93 per cent of a population using a public service, it has to be fixed.”
‘Not enough good teachers in the system’
He floated the idea of paying some specialist teachers more, but said flexible working opportunities in other sectors were also having a big impact.
“What can we offer to make teaching attractive? … There aren’t enough good teachers in the system so we need a proper strategy to develop and improve supply.”
Analysis suggests just 50 per cent of the required number of secondary teachers will be recruited this year. It will be the tenth time in 11 years that the government has missed it secondary teacher target.
Ministers have pledged to refresh the 2019 recruitment and retention strategy this autumn.
By the end of this year, trained teachers in every country will be able to gain qualified teacher status (QTS) without having to retrain. This used to apply to teachers in just 39 countries.
It follows the numbers of overseas teachers gaining QTS nosediving from 3,868 in 2019-20, to 2,002 last year.
Since Brexit, EU staff now need sponsorship, face costly visa and NHS fees and no longer qualify for capped tuition fees, loans or bursaries.
However, government analysis shows widening QTS will lead to an extra 619 teachers – a sixth of the number lost since the Brexit vote.
Ministers have also set aside up to £4 million to offer 400 relocation payments of £10,000 to entice overseas teachers in languages and physics.
Moynihan said his federation had chosen Jamaica because of its good universities.
Recruits also did not have to pay tax here for two years, although many had stayed and been promoted.
Harris runs three webinar inductions that cover topics such as how to open an English bank account and find accommodation. Jamaican recruits who have been at the trust for five years or more also give advice.
“We’ve got a community of people now, [some have] risen through the ranks – it’s working,” Moynihan added.
He also said the recruits had gone into some of the trust’s “tough, white working-class schools and sometimes they might be the only person from an ethnic background those families come into contact with. It’s eye-opening for them. ‘Actually they’re just the same as me’.”
A Google search brings up a host of agencies that advertise jobs specifically for Jamaicans, but they charge schools for their link-up services.
According to the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), staff in the country earn about $3 million Jamaican dollars, equivalent to just under £16,000. Teacher starting salaries in England are £30,000.
Leighton Johnson, president of the JTA, said that teacher migration from the country would reach a “chronic” level in three years if current rates continued.
Over the past two years, 10 per cent of its teaching workforce left to go overseas, mostly to the United States.