Understanding schools' attitudes towards international teacher recruitment for shortage subjects

  • Hobson, Andrew (PI)
  • Robinson, Carol (PI)
  • Bragg, Sara (CoI)
  • Castanheira, Patricia (CoI)
  • Still, Bernadette (CoI)
  • Willis, Ben (CoI)
  • Culliney, Martin (CoI)
  • Coldwell, Mike (PI)

Project Details


Teacher supply and retention is an ongoing challenge for all schools. The 2016 School Workforce Census (SWC) states that for secondary schools, the percentage of schools that have at least one advertised vacancy or temporarily-filled post rose from 23 per cent in 2015 to 27 per cent in 2016 (DfE 2017a). These national patterns do not reflect the extent of local and regional differences in teacher demand and supply, with more acute challenges in certain areas, schools and subjects - particularly maths, physics and modern foreign languages (NAO, 2016; DfE 2016a). Whilst the vast majority of teachers by schools are recruited from England, schools may also recruit teachers from overseas as a solution to filling teacher vacancies, including in shortage subjects.

In November 2016, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Brighton were commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to research schools' approaches to recruiting teachers from abroad, their motivations, behaviours and the perceived benefits and barriers to recruiting internationally. More specifically, the research aimed to help inform decisions on how the DfE might support the recruitment of international STEM and MFL teachers, and to identify key principles for the design and delivery of international recruitment initiatives.

Layman's description

Key findings fell under five headings as well as recommendations for further research and consultation:

> School leaders' decision making around international teacher recruitment

> Schools' practices and processes around international teacher recruitment

> Quality, outcomes and retention

> School support for international teachers

> Experiences of international teachers

In explaining their decision making around teacher recruitment – and international recruitment in particular – all interviewees acknowledged that teacher recruitment was either already challenging, or was likely to become more difficult in the near future. Most school leaders who had recruited internationally in the last three years described doing so as a necessary 'last resort' or an additional strategy for overcoming the local shortage of teachers, as opposed to being a desirable option. Concerns were raised around the perceived effectiveness of international teacher recruits and their ability to adapt quickly to the demands of the English teaching context. Most school leaders felt strongly that they should not need to recruit international teachers and that more should be done to ensure a sufficient supply of nationally based teachers, including taking steps to improve the retention of existing teachers.

International teachers were often contracted on a daily/supply basis through the agency for the first year. Although more costly for the school, the opportunity to terminate the contract on either side was seen as advantageous. Schools also offered fixed term or permanent contracts for recruits, depending on their requirements and confidence in the suitability of the candidate.

Assessing the quality of international recruits was described as difficult as interviews were often conducted via Skype or telephone, rather than face-to-face, and there was often no opportunity to observe candidates teach a lesson.

When asked to identify the advantages, some school leaders reported that international recruits brought different perspectives and experiences to the school, which helped to diversify the staff profile, introduce new content and texts to subjects, and broaden students’ horizons. However, these were perceived as secondary positive outcomes, rather than the primary motivators for recruiting teachers from abroad.

In general, school leaders considered that international recruits often took a long time to acclimatise to living and working in England, and needed significant support to successfully manage the demands of their teaching role, and to settle into living in England. In particular, they needed support in familiarising themselves with the content of curriculum/subject areas and examination syllabi, expectations around the planning, assessment and target setting, pedagogical approaches favoured by the school, safeguarding, and other school policies.

Experience of the QTS application process was largely positive although a lack of information/guidance on the application process was the most frequently cited barrier to working as a teacher in England. The most common reasons for leaving teaching in England were 'negative experience of English schools' and 'unsatisfactory pay and conditions'.
Short titleinternational teacher recruitment
Effective start/end date1/11/1631/03/17


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