October 2018


  • Renewed optimism
    New terms always begin with a mood of optimism, says Geoff Barton. Even when we worry about results, about looming inspection or about setting achievable budgets and plugging unforeseen staffing gaps, there's something that makes education distinctively upbeat each September. More
  • Cuts - The real impact
    Following his open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton surveys the impact of funding cuts, highlighting examples from around England of how diminished budgets are chipping away at the very fabric of education. More
  • Best of both worlds
    Positioning teaching as a global profession could have a positive impact on the current teacher supply crisis, both at home and abroad, says Dr Fiona Rogers from the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). More
  • Girl power
    Former teachers Charly Young and Becca Dean founded The Girls' Network with a mission to inspire and empower girls from the least-advantaged communities and help them achieve their goals. Here, Charly explains how the network is helping to change the lives of thousands of girls across the country. More
  • A flexible approach
    Could flexible working provide a major boost in helping to retain teachers? Jack Worth, Lead Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), looks at their latest findings and says school leaders and teachers need to work together on this. More
  • Double act
    Having survived their first year as Co-Headteachers of The Holt School in Wokingham, Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce reflect on one year in post in this unusual but not completely untested model of headship. More
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Positioning teaching as a global profession could have a positive impact on the current teacher supply crisis, both at home and abroad, says Dr Fiona Rogers from the Council of British International Schools (COBIS).

Best of both worlds

By now, most of you will be familiar with the well-rehearsed statistics about shortfalls in recruitment targets to Initial Teacher Training (ITT), increasing pupil numbers and teachers leaving the profession. There is undoubtedly a teacher recruitment challenge, but this is not exclusively a domestic issue. There are currently more than 4,300 British international schools operating worldwide, and the sector is growing by about 6% annually (figures courtesy of ISC Research www.iscresearch.com). Our research, which explores the movement of teachers into and out of the British international school sector, has shown that teacher supply is a growing concern for the sector, with 94% of senior leaders indicating that they find recruiting quality teachers challenging (see www.cobis.org.uk/research). Teacher supply is a global challenge, for which global solutions will be needed.

Supporting teacher retention

Our research shows that international experience supports teacher retention (nearly a third of teachers who moved to a British international school were thinking about leaving the profession) and that many teachers who move abroad return to the UK, bringing with them a wealth of valuable experience and transferable skills as well as renewed enthusiasm for teaching. Furthermore, promoting the international opportunities of a teaching career could increase the attractiveness of the profession at a time when recruitment to ITT is proving difficult. This requires a cultural shift – rather than perceiving the movement of teachers to the international sector as a drain on UK teacher supply, the value of international experience should be recognised, with teachers encouraged to broaden their horizons and bring their new skills and renewed enthusiasm back into the UK.

When teachers were asked about their reasons for moving to the British international schools sector, the top responses were travel and cultural exploration (71%), and enjoyment and challenge (63%); factors such as salary and savings potential were less important. Teachers are choosing to move abroad to develop themselves both personally and professionally, which should be encouraged in a sector that is committed to helping people to reach their potential. Nearly half of responding teachers (47%) cited dissatisfaction with the home education system as a reason for moving abroad, and nearly a third of teachers (32%) were thinking of leaving the profession before taking a job in a British international school. More positively, case study interviews show that many of those who moved abroad have renewed their enthusiasm for the profession.

There are ongoing discussions in the UK about how to improve teacher retention, often focusing on factors such as workload, salary and flexible working. High-quality international experience needs to be included in that list and incorporated into any retention strategy.

Transferable skills

Teachers who move to the international sector do not necessarily stay abroad indefinitely. Many will return to the UK, with returning home (45%) and family commitments (44%) cited as the top reasons for leaving. A total of 71% of outgoing teachers were leaving the international sector within a period of ten years. Teachers were also asked about the skills they had developed while working abroad. Responses show that returning teachers bring with them a wealth of experience and skills, including cultural awareness (79%), global outlook/international mindedness (76%), adaptability (58%) and renewed enthusiasm for teaching (53%) as well as English as an additional language (EAL) experience, resilience and increased classroom confidence. These are skills that would be tremendously valuable in any UK classroom.

Having completed a PGCE, Gary Hellyer decided during his newly qualified teacher (NQT) year that he was going to leave the profession for a job with a more manageable workload, so he decided to explore international opportunities. He moved to the British School Muscat for three years.

After three years abroad, Gary is now returning to teach in a state school in the UK, bringing with him a wealth of experience, including significant professional development. He said, “I have seen practice around me that you don’t get to see if you aren’t working in an outstanding school… I have done my three years abroad; I’m more accomplished as a teacher. This is a great opportunity to take what I’ve learned abroad and bring it to the UK… I am coming back more motivated… Now I am inspired to do more and start stepping up the ladder in teaching.”

Chrysta Garnett worked in the UK for more than 15 years as a Teacher, School Improvement Coordinator and Assistant Head before moving to a school in Taiwan. After five years working in Taiwan as Deputy Head and Headteacher, she was ready to step away from headship and look at a role that would allow her to use her skillset in a more varied way. She returned to the UK and took up the role of Head of School Partnerships with Bristol City Council, supporting more than 150 schools.

Chrysta thinks international experience is hugely valuable for teachers, providing more informed cultural understanding, and stretching teaching skills. Working as part of an international community, with excellent professional development opportunities, is tremendously valuable. She said, “I learned a huge amount from my international colleagues. They brought with them their knowledge of their own curricula and practices. It can only be a good thing to have a global perspective of learning and pedagogy.”

Innovative solutions

The opportunity to work both at home and abroad makes teaching a highly attractive career. Positioning teaching as an international profession, with the UK and international sectors working cooperatively to promote global opportunities and recognise the value of international experience, could have a positive effect on teacher supply. The professional experience of teachers would be enriched, UK schools would benefit from the repatriation of skills developed in an international context, teacher retention could be improved and the attractiveness of teaching as a profession could be enhanced to increase recruitment to ITT.

Teacher supply is a global challenge that requires innovative solutions. Rather than regarding the domestic and international sectors as being in competition for teachers, both sectors will benefit from viewing international experience as a valuable part of a teacher’s development as a professional, recognising the value of skills gained in an international context, encouraging teachers to embrace international opportunities, and supporting and facilitating the return of those teachers to the UK when they are ready for their next challenge.

Dr Fiona Rogers
Director of Professional Development and Research, COBIS