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Teacher recruitment boosted by surge in applications from outside UK, analysis suggests

Teacher recruitment this year is being propped up by a huge rise in applications from outside of the United Kingdom, new analysis suggests.

Sam Freedman, a former advisor to the Department for Education, said it shows the teaching profession is “shifting towards becoming increasingly dependent on immigration, just as has happened with healthcare. And, just as with healthcare, it is a function of pay being held down.”

Analysis shows recruitment figures this year are similar to last year, which was one of the worst on record with just half of the required secondary trainees recruited.

Overall, the proportion of primary recruits was 11 per cent lower compared to the same time last year, while secondary was 13 per cent up.

Jack Worth

But Jack Worth, education economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research, said the growth has been “dominated by international recruitment” amid “limited growth in interest in teaching from anywhere else (especially domestically).

Physics is up by 141 per cent in terms of accepted applications and nearly 300 per cent in applications compared to this time last year, he noted in a thread on X, formerly Twitter.

There has been a 57 per cent rise in accepted applicants to initial teacher training from the ‘rest of the world’, compared to this time last year. Meanwhile applicants from England are static and those from the rest of the UK are down 16 per cent.

Worth noted “domestic numbers of placed applicants for physics are up by 40%, but international placed applicants are up by 330% on last year”.

He told Schools Week: “There’s been an increase in applications internationally both due to an increase in people wanting to apply to the UK… but also due to policy measures introduced by the government.

“This time last year, the international relocation payment, and bursary eligibility were increased for physics and MFL. A big increase has been in physics. It looks like it’s related to policy factors.”

‘Policy measures seem to be feeding through’

The government has launched a £10k ‘relocation package’ trial to attract overseas teachers. It has also hiked bursaries on offer to trainee teachers, although the total amount spent is still less than pre-Covid.

Incentives were heavily slashed when Covid prompted a spike in interest in teaching, which turned out to be shortlived. 

But Worth said it’s “promising to see that some policy measures seem to be feeding through into increased recruitment”.

Schools Week revealed last year teacher trainers had been told by the Department for Education’s top civil servant to stop turning away so many applicants amid “significant rejection rates”, even in shortage subjects.

Susan Acland-Hood, the DfE’s permanent secretary, told providers a 7 per cent jump in applicants last year had not led to an equivalent rise in offers for courses. 

“This is concerning when we know we have need of teachers,” she wrote in a letter seen by Schools Week. “This is not explained by the subjects or phases being applied for – we are seeing significant rejection rates even for subjects we know are in shortage.

However, the DfE said in December it was helping schools “be on the front foot” dealing with an influx of applications from overseas teachers, which take longer to process and have much higher rejection rates.

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