The government’s Migration Advisory Committee has urged against expanding the list of subjects for which schools can freely recruit teachers from outside Europe, after it ruled that the profession’s vacancy rate is “around average”.
The MAC, which advises ministers on migration issues, has recommended that while secondary maths, physics, general science, computer science and Mandarin teachers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) will continue to receive special treatment in immigration rules, no further subjects should be added to the so-called “shortage occupation list”.
However, today’s announcement still leaves schools in the dark about how recruitment from within the EEA will work after the UK leaves the EU.
Teachers from Europe currently make up 2.6 per cent of primary school teachers and 3 per cent of secondary school teachers in the UK, but the MAC ruled last year that unless a UK immigration policy is included in any agreement with the European Union, there should be no preferential treatment for EU citizens after Brexit.
The shortage occupation list sets out which professions are entitled to exemptions to certain immigration rules, making it easier for them to come and work in the UK. It was last changed two years ago to add Mandarin, general and computer science teachers, while chemistry teachers were removed.
The decision not to expand the teaching element of the list at this stage comes despite concerns about the recruitment of modern foreign language teachers.
The MAC review received “some evidence of recruitment difficulties for teachers of MFL”, but found teachers of MFL subjects weren’t generally being recruited from outside the EEA.
“Given this reliance on EEA recruitment, we do not believe it to be sensible to include MFL teachers on the SOL under the current system of free movement,” the report stated.
According to the MAC, secondary teaching ranked low (93rd) in its shortage indicators and “the vacancy rate was around average” apart from in some specific subjects.
Primary and nursery teachers will also not be added to the shortage occupation list at this stage, because the vacancy rate in that part of the profession is deemed to be “below average”.
The MAC concluded that “while there are clear problems with the occupation which may lead to shortages in the future”, the evidence received “does not undeniably demonstrate the presence of a national shortage”.