By Fiona Rogers
Good schools need good teachers. But the fact is that teacher supply presents a significant challenge for the international sector. In a recent COBIS research project on Teacher Supply in British International Schools delivered in partnership with ISC Research, 91% of British international school leaders said they found recruiting quality teachers ‘somewhat challenging’ or ‘very challenging’; 40% of school leaders reported a lower volume of applications for each post, compared with two years ago; and only 19% of senior leaders reported that they were always able to recruit candidates that meet their expectations.
There are various familiar reasons for this challenge: the continued growth and popularity of the international school sector; a shortfall in recruitment to teacher training in the UK and difficulties with teacher retention; and, particularly in some regions, the impact of the pandemic, with recruitment affected by travel restrictions, and difficulties with visas.
The pandemic has also had an impact on the wellbeing, workload and job satisfaction of teachers, which has a knock-on effect on teacher retention. 94% of senior leaders felt that the effects of COVID-19 – school closures and the delivery of remote or blended teaching and learning – had had a negative impact on teachers’ wellbeing. And 66% of senior leaders reported that their school was offering enhanced staff wellbeing initiatives to improve teacher retention. For an example, see the recent ISL article on Marlborough College Malaysia’s strategic approach to wellbeing in an international school community.
Changing recruitment practices
Returning to recruitment, the research shows that schools are adjusting their practices (compared with two years ago) to respond to the changing environment with increased use of remote/virtual interviews, earlier advertising of vacancies, increased recruitment of local staff and increased focus on training new teachers within the school.
Initial teacher training routes
There is a growing number of ways in which international schools can engage with training new teachers, including routes such as iPGCE, Assessment-Only QTS and the new international Qualified Teacher Status (iQTS) being piloted by the UK Department for Education from September 2022.
Many schools and school groups have also developed their own bespoke programmes to provide training opportunities to teaching assistants, parents, spouses, local staff and others within the wider community of the school.
Braeburn Schools Limited works in partnership with local universities in Kenya and Tanzania – The Catholic University of Eastern Africa and University of Dar es Salaam – to deliver an international education course, which gives trainee teachers the chance to learn about how international schools operate within a national context.
The course is offered as an elective unit to bachelor of education students in their third year, and is delivered on a voluntary basis by Braeburn staff. The units cover a range of topics, including differences between national and international schools, curriculum in international schools, ICT in teaching and learning, behaviour management, inclusion, lesson planning, assessment, PSHE and safeguarding.
While it is not expected that all those who complete the course will go on to work in the international sector, the skills developed during the course can be practised in any classroom. And for Braeburn Schools, the course also has the advantage of identifying a pool of prospective teachers with an interest in and understanding of the international education system, some of whom may then be good candidates for additional training or employment.
Teaching together in Europe
A group of COBIS training schools in Europe has just completed the first year of a new project – Teaching Together in Europe – which provides opportunities for UK-based trainee teachers to undertake placements in British international schools. The English College in Prague, The British School of Brussels and St George’s British International School Rome developed this project, in partnership with three UK-based School-Centred Initial Teacher Training providers, to offer trainees the chance to gain experience in an international context, mentored by expert teachers from around the world.
While this project was designed to deepen connections between UK teacher training and British international schools, as well as developing professional learning communities and sharing new perspectives, it also raises awareness of international opportunities with teachers at an earlier stage in their professional journeys, which is valuable given that international experience has been shown to play an important role in teacher retention (43% of incoming teachers were thinking about leaving the profession before taking up an international job).
A need for scalable strategies
These are two examples of groups of schools that are addressing the challenge of teacher supply at a fundamental level. Advertising vacancies earlier or making your school’s offer to teachers more attractive may be effective short-term solutions. But in the long term, the sector needs more scalable solutions to teacher supply – attracting more people to the profession, from a range of backgrounds, and increasing training opportunities internationally.
Teaching is a global profession, and the opportunity to work both at home and abroad continues to make teaching a highly attractive career. By engaging in training new teachers, and raising awareness of opportunities in the international sector, schools are making an important contribution to the growth of the global teacher workforce.
Growing the global teacher workforce
- Consider the wider school community. Are there people within the wider network of the school (teaching assistants, administrative staff, parents, spouses, governors, alumni) who might be interested in training as a teacher? Are they aware of the opportunities?
- Consider existing, formal teacher training routes. A wide range of school-based training routes are available, from various providers, depending on the trainee’s experience/qualifications and desired outcome
- Consider bespoke programmes. International schools have a huge amount of expertise – what are the opportunities to share this more widely with prospective or trainee teachers? What impact could this have on the local education system?
- Consider partnerships. What opportunities are there to work with local schools or training routes in your location?
- Consider capacity. How can you build mentoring capacity within the school to support trainee teachers?
Dr Fiona Rogers is Deputy CEO; Director of Professional Development and Research at COBIS Connect with Fiona on LinkedIn