Sir Michael Wilshaw: Teachers leaving for classrooms abroad is “brain drain” on talent

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has called for urgent action to plug the flood of teachers leaving the UK to teach abroad – fuelled by a “worldwide boom in international schools”.

A Schools Week investigation in September revealed that around 100,000 full-time teaching staff from Britain left to teach abroad in 2014-15. It was more than the number of teachers who qualified through a university PGCE route in the same year.

Sir Michael, writing in his monthly blog today, highlighted these figures, asking if it is “fair the offspring of overseas oligarchs are directly benefiting from UK teacher training programmes at the expense of poor children in large parts of this country?”

teachers aborad ragout
Schools Week revealed the number of teachers leaving the UK to teach abroad

He said a worldwide boom in international schools – some set up by prestigious UK institutions – is fuelling the exodus.

Sir Michael said the lure of tax-free salaries and sunnier climates is contributing to a teacher “brain drain” from the country that is threatening to “undermine the well-intentioned reforms to school structures, curricula and assessment regimes.”

He said the number of “overseas franchises” had risen from 29 to 44 in two years, with more campuses due to open.

He also highlighted International Schools Consultancy figures which show the number of international schools is projected to double to more than 15,000 by 2025.

“It would seem that my plea of a couple of years ago for our top independent schools to put more effort into supporting the education system closer to home – “more Derby, less Dubai” as I put it then – has not been heeded.”

But Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said it is wrong to imply overseas expansions are the cause of shortages, he instead pointed to too few trainees and those leaving the profession early.

Chris King, chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference and headmaster of Leicester Grammar, also disputed the claim independent schools have neglected the UK’s education system, saying schools do a “great deal to help both Derby and Dubai”.

That means Barnsley not Bangkok

But Sir Michael is now again urging the government to consider “golden handcuff” payments so teachers start in classrooms within areas they are most needed, and are “kept in the state system that trained them”.

“As far as I’m concerned, that means Barnsley not Bangkok, Doncaster not Doha, and Kings Lynn not Kuala Lumpur.”

It is an idea that has traction from other in the sector, too. Leora Cruddas, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (right), said more can be done to incentivise leora cruddasteaching.

“We would suggest that government undertakes to write off, over a period of time, the undergraduate tuition fees of students who become teachers, as long as they remain in the state system in this country during that period.”

A critical National Audit Office investigation into teacher recruitment published this month accused the Department for Education (DfE) of not doing enough to train new teachers.

It also revealed the department hadn’t met its teacher recruitment target for the past four years – despite an annual £700 million spend.

But the DfE has maintained its stance that teaching is an attractive career choice – far from being in crisis.

A spokesperson said: “It is disingenuous to suggest our approach is not working – despite the challenge of a competitive jobs market, the proportion of trainee teachers with a top degree has grown, faster than in the population as a whole, and there are more teachers overall.”

They said the number of former teachers returning to the classroom has increase year-on-year, and highlighted research showing the number of teachers leaving the profession to work abroad is only one per cent. But added: “But we are determined to continue raising the status of the profession.”

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  1. Abolish The Nanny State

    Personally OFSTED should be de-funded and disbanded, along with others incompetent regulators OFGEM (Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) and OFCOM (Office of Communications).

  2. He needs to look closer to home! As well as the ridiculous workload and unrealistic targets, the constant threat of an Ofsted inspection and the stress that brings is what sends teachers abroad. There is a clear political agenda to kick schools and teachers in the teeth – he is constantly warning about poor standards in virtually every region. Wilshaw is clearly a Cameron puppet, a tool to keep all public service workers in their place – if it’s not the BMA’s fault, it’s the teachers’ unions causing the problems. NO! It is a government hell-bent on ruining every facet of health and education. Teachers are not going abroad because of better weather or better pay. They are leaving because they are being choked of every breath of professional judgment, forced to entertain pupils to keep them onside, make them learn how to learn rather than making them actually learn, deal with parents who side with their children, with SLT demands for ever better results from students who don’t necessarily have the academic skills to do better, cope with underfunding, being asked increasingly to spend lunch time, after school and even give up holiday time to provide extra “intervention” classes. Most of the teachers I know are in school from 7am until at least 5:30pm and then start an evening shift of more marking, planning, writing documents…
    Wlishaw is wrong to suggest that these schools offer a British education. They offer something like how it USED to be – common sense, professionally respected, students learn and accept responsibility for their learning as do their parents. Get rid of Ofsted, targets and league tables and we will see a huge surge in morale among teachers and students more engaged, willing and far less stressed – ever wondered why UK children are among the unhappiest in Europe, why the number of stressed and depressed kids keeps increasing?

  3. Joseph Dunn

    I have replied to Schools Weekly on this several times.I was a teacher and later an administrator in the UK for almost 20 years but gave it up to come to Western Canada years ago and was astounded at the difference in salary as well as the respect Canada has for British teachers.It has been a joy to teach here with a standard of living which has been nothing short of terrific.Teachers here make an average of $100,000 per year after less than 10 years teaching and their starting salary is around $60000 which is excellent for someone in their early twenties.It is no wonder teachers are leaving in huge numbers and I can say categorically that I am much more financially secure here than I would have been had I stayed.Society in the UK needs to cherish their teachers and pay them substantially more so it time for the government to waken up and do something about this.Failure by them will only make the situation worse than it already is.