Teacher Supply in British International Schools (2020)
COBIS has published the second iteration of its research on Teacher Supply in British International Schools, delivered in partnership with ISC Research Ltd. This research, based on more than 1,100 survey responses from senior leaders, incoming teachers, and outgoing teachers, provides concrete data about the profile and motivation of teachers entering and leaving the British international school sector, the quality of their experience, the movement between sectors, and the current teacher recruitment climate in international schools. This research shows the benefits of experience in the international school sector – enriched experience for teachers, improved teacher retention, repatriation of skills developed in an international context, and increased recruitment to ITT.
- Positioning teaching as a global profession would enrich the professional experience of teachers, allow UK schools to benefit from the repatriation of skills developed in an international context, improve teacher retention, and enhance the attractiveness of the profession to increase recruitment to Initial Teacher Training.
- Teachers move in both directions between the UK and international school sectors, with many teachers returning to the UK with valuable transferable skills.
- More consistent recognition of service overseas is needed to ensure teachers with international experience are welcomed, encouraged and supported to enter or return to the UK school sector.
- Teaching in a British international school gives teachers the opportunity to develop personally and professionally and supports teacher retention.
- Teachers in the international sector have positive perceptions of their experience including workload and work/life balance.
- Teacher supply continues to be a challenge, but the international sector is contributing to the growth of the global teacher workforce, in part by engaging with Initial Teacher Training.
- Increasing international training opportunities and growing the workforce in a scaleable way could reduce stress on domestic supply if barriers to training new teachers internationally and teacher mobility were removed.
There are currently c.6,000 British international schools operating worldwide, representing a significant proportion of the global international schools market.1 The international school sector – including both British and non-British schools – has been growing at a rate of c.6% annually with, on average, more than 550 new international schools opening each year. Conservative estimates suggest that, in the next ten years, British international schools will need more than 175,000 additional teachers to meet their staffing needs.2
In England, pupil numbers in secondary schools continue to grow, and while more teachers will clearly be needed, the number of full-time equivalent secondary teachers in England has fallen for six consecutive years,3 and targets for recruitment to Initial Teacher Training in England continue to be missed.4 Recent TALIS data also suggests 29% of teachers in England want to leave the profession within the next five years.5
It is clear that recruiting and retaining enough teachers continues to present a challenge, both at home and overseas. Current provision is insufficient – failing to attract and retain enough graduates into the profession. Alongside the situation in the UK, the growth of British schools overseas brings influence and export success, but also demands the development of more quality teachers. Innovative solutions and approaches are required to meet the staffing needs of schools in the UK and abroad.
COBIS has now published the second iteration of its research on Teacher Supply in British International Schools, delivered in partnership with ISC Research Ltd. This research, based on more than 1,100 survey responses from senior leaders, incoming teachers, and outgoing teachers, provides concrete data about the profile and motivation of teachers entering and leaving the British international school sector, the quality of their experience, the movement between sectors, and the current teacher recruitment climate in international schools. COBIS contacted more the 2,500 British international schools between January 2020 and March 2020.
- Teachers choose to work internationally for a number of reasons. The main motivations are travel and cultural exploration (72%) and enjoyment and challenge (62%). Other contributing factors include salary (49%), career growth (47%) and dissatisfaction with the home education system (42%).
- More than a third of teachers entering the international school sector (36%) were thinking about leaving the profession before taking an international job (up from 32% in 2018).
- Overall, teachers are positive about their international school experience. 82% of new international school teachers are happy or very happy with their experience; 75% of incoming teachers feel their work/life balance has improved since moving to the international sector; 74% feel they have an acceptable workload; 75% feel valued and respected as a teacher.
- 80% of senior leaders, 67% of incoming teachers, and 47% of outgoing teachers in responding international schools think workload is not a problem or not a very serious problem.
- Many teachers return to the UK after teaching in a British international school, with family commitments (28%) and a desire to return home (37%) cited as the main reasons. 43% of incoming teachers are intending to return to teaching in the UK. 68% of outgoing teachers were leaving the international sector within a period of 10 years.
- Teachers are happy to move between the UK and international school sectors. 39% of outgoing teachers were leaving to take up a teaching or school leadership job in the UK and 16% were planning to work in the wider education sector in the UK. 82% of outgoing teachers would consider returning to work in the international sector in the future.
- Returning teachers bring with them a wealth of experience and skills including cultural awareness (81%); global outlook/international mindedness (71%); EAL experience (62%); adaptability (61%); and resilience (60%).
- 88% of British international school leaders find recruiting quality teachers ‘somewhat’ or ‘very challenging’ (down from 94% in 2018).
- More than a third of senior leaders (34%) have increased recruitment of local staff (up from 27% in 2018).
- Schools are also engaging with training new teachers in their locality. Nearly two thirds of schools have supported teachers to gain UK teaching qualifications through programmes such as PGCE, IPGCE, or Assessment-Only QTS in the past two years.
- According to senior leaders, the services that would most help the international school sector with teacher supply in the coming years are: ability to act as a Teaching School delivering school-based ITT (64%) and conversion courses (to QTS/PGCE) for internationally trained teachers (57%). Other responses included: ITT programmes to train local and international staff (50%) and ability to deliver NQT induction (50%).
The international school sector is well established, and can provide a tremendous opportunity for teachers to develop themselves personally and professionally. COBIS continues to believe that erecting barriers between domestic and overseas teacher supply would be counterproductive, and that a co-operative approach, which recognises international experience as part of a well-rounded teaching career, will benefit both the UK and international education sectors and enable the growth and retention of the global teacher workforce. On the back of this research, COBIS is making the following recommendations:
Position teaching as a global profession – The opportunity to work both at home and abroad makes teaching a highly attractive career. Positioning teaching as a global profession, with the UK and international sectors working co-operatively to promote global opportunities and recognise the value of international experience, could have a positive effect on teacher supply both domestically and internationally. 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.
Value and recognise overseas experience – In order to facilitate the movement of teachers between the domestic and international sectors, more consistent recognition of the benefits and merits of international experience is needed. A more centralised approach, with clear support from UK Government and education bodies, would benefit both the domestic and international sectors. Teachers could move in both directions with greater confidence, leading to an increased pool of prospective teachers for senior leaders and recruiters. Recognition of service overseas is needed to ensure teachers with international experience are welcomed, encouraged and supported to enter or return to the UK schools sector.
Increase international training opportunities (including Initial Teacher Training) – International schools could play an increasing role in training teachers in their locality as a means of growing the global teacher workforce. This can include increasing recruitment to ITT programmes overseas for candidates within the wider community of international schools, such as Teaching Assistants, Support Staff, alumni, parents, and spouses, as well as local staff. Growing the workforce in a scaleable way could reduce stress on domestic supply. To enable this, barriers to training new teachers internationally and teacher mobility need to be removed. Broader access to NQT induction overseas, increased opportunities for accredited schools to offer training leading to QTS, and better acceptance and transferability of overseas qualifications (e.g. International PGCE) in UK schools would have a positive impact on the growth and mobility of the workforce.
1. Figures on the current and projected size of the international school market are courtesy of ISC Research Ltd. British international schools are schools located outside the UK that teach a curriculum (wholly or in part) that would be recognised in the UK (such as the National Curriculum for England) and have a British orientation/ethos (which can include high-quality pastoral care, a range of extra-curricular opportunities, and reference to British values, freedoms and culture). Where ISC Research figures for British international schools are cited, these represent schools categorised as having a ‘UK national orientation’ in the ISC Research database.
2. Estimates from ISC Research Ltd were prepared before the 2019/20 Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent school closures. At the time of writing, it is not yet clear what the impact on international school numbers may be over the coming years.
3. School Workforce in England: November 2018 (DfE, June 2019) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/811622/SWFC_MainText.pdf
4. Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Census for 2019 to 2020, England (DfE, November 2019) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/848851/ITT_Census_201920_Main_Text_final.pdf
5.TALIS 2018 Results (Volume II) (OECD, March 2020) http://www.oecd.org/education/talis-2018-results-volume-ii-19cf08df-en.htm
Teacher Supply in British International Schools (2018)
In 2018, COBIS undertook a large-scale research project looking at Teacher Supply in British International Schools. The initial findings and interim report were presented at the COBIS Annual Conference on 14 May 2018. The final report has now been published, along with a series of supporting case studies.
There are currently more than 4,300 British International Schools worldwide – representing 45% of the international schools market worldwide (2). British international schools are now a leading export, valued at more than £1billion (3). In addition to contributing to the UK economy through franchises, use of educational goods and services, and repatriation of salaries, these schools send students to UK universities, and generate ‘soft power’ of incalculable value, educating thousands of global political, economic and professional leaders in scores of countries. The international school sector is growing at c.6% annually, with more than 450 new international schools opening around the world every year. In the next ten years, British international schools will require up to 230,000 more teachers to meet their staffing needs (4).
In England, secondary school pupil numbers are projected to increase by more than 530,000 by 2026, and more teachers will be needed (5). DfE data shows an overall shortfall of nearly 10% in recruitment targets to initial teacher training (6), and in the DfE Analysis of teacher supply, retention and mobility (Feb. 2018), 76% of schools reported "significant difficulty" with teacher supply with many considering there was a "serious shortage of teachers", and the majority feeling it was "getting worse" (7).
- 77% of outgoing teachers are happy or very happy with their international experience; 81% of new international school teachers are happy or very happy with their experience.
- Teachers choose to work internationally for many reasons. The main motivations are travel and cultural exploration (71%); and enjoyment and challenge (63%). Other contributing factors include: dissatisfaction with home education system (47%); career growth (45%); salary (44%).
- Many teachers return to the UK after working abroad, with family commitments (44%) and a desire to return home (45%) cited as the main reasons. 26% of returning teachers worked internationally for 3-4 years; 71% of outgoing teachers leave the international sector within 10 years.
- 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 EAL experience, resilience, and professional development opportunities.
- Nearly a third of teachers entering the international school sector (32%) were thinking about leaving the profession before taking an international job.
- British international schools are already being proactive in improving recruitment: 57% with enhanced professional development and 51% with improved marketing in the last 2 years.
- Nonetheless, 94% of British international school leaders now find recruiting quality teachers ‘somewhat’ or ‘very challenging’ (31% very challenging).
- 93% of school leaders indicate that recruiting internationally-trained teachers is important, and yet more than a quarter of schools (27%) have increased recruitment of local staff. This could present an opportunity to upskill local teaching staff with UK teaching qualifications.
- According to responding international schools, the services which would most help the international school sector with teacher supply in the coming years are:
- Ability to act as a Teaching School for UK trainees (41%)
- Conversion courses (to QTS/PGCE) for internationally-trained teachers (36%)
- Initial Teacher Training (ITT) programmes to train local staff (31%)
All of these could additionally have a positive effect on UK teacher supply by increasing the pool of qualified teachers.
The opportunity to work both at home and internationally makes teaching a highly attractive career.
Teachers in British schools overseas work in some of the best schools in the world – schools that are high performing, up-to-date and well-resourced. Erecting barriers, or a conflict between domestic and overseas supply, would be counterproductive. COBIS is proposing a new, co-operative approach, which will benefit both the UK and international education sectors:
1. Promote attractive professional opportunities – positioning teaching as an international career option: A co-operative enterprise among UK and international sector representatives, the DfE and DIT to promote the opportunities of teaching as a career, both in the UK and in British international schools located overseas. In addition to enriching the professional experience for teachers as they move and return home, this can enhance the attractiveness of teaching as a profession to increase recruitment to ITT at home and abroad, and support teacher retention.
2. Increase international training opportunities – overseas teaching schools and recruitment overseas into ITT: International schools could play an increasing role in training teachers in their locality as a means of increasing the teacher supply pool for British curriculum schools and upskilling existing teachers. This could include fresh solutions for recruitment of teachers to ITT programmes overseas to attract graduates including teaching assistants and support staff, alumni, spouses and local staff of proven quality, as well as expanded provision for ITT in the many high quality and accredited British international schools, with opportunity for teaching school status and QTS.
3. Value overseas service – facilitate return to the UK: Ensure that teachers with international experience are welcomed, encouraged and supported to enter or return to the UK schools sector through recognition of valued and accredited service overseas.
The findings of the research and proposed solutions now form the basis of a new COBIS strategy to support teacher recruitment and training, both internationally and domestically. On behalf of COBIS schools and the wider sector, COBIS has recently shared these proposed solutions with the Department for Education and the UK Prime Minister’s office. These proposals have been well-received, and positive discussions are ongoing.
(1) This research project has been delivered in partnership with ISC Research Ltd with further support from C3 Education.
(2) Figures on the current and projected size of the international school market are courtesy of ISC Research Ltd. British international schools are schools located outside the UK that teach a curriculum (wholly or in part) that would be recognised in the UK (such as the National Curriculum for England) and have a British orientation/ethos (which can include high-quality pastoral care, a range of extra-curricular opportunities, and reference to British values, freedoms and culture).
(3) UK revenue from education related exports and transnational education activity in 2015 (DfE, Feb. 2018; SFR12/2018) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/683043/SFR12-2018_Text.pdf
UK revenue from education related exports and transnational education activity 2010-2014 (DfE, July 2017)
(4) Figures on the current and projected size of the international school market are courtesy of ISC Research Ltd.
(5) National pupil projections – future trends in pupil numbers: July 2017 (DfE, July 2017, SFR 31/2017) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/627388/SFR31_2017_Projections_Text.pdf
(6) Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Census for the academic year 2017 to 2018 (DfE, November 2017, SFR 68/2017)
(7) Analysis of teacher supply, retention and mobility (DfE, February 2018)