From education to employment

Finding a solution to global teacher recruitment and retention crisis

New qualification aims to preserve the UK’s world leading position in high-quality education and research

A recognised global teacher recruitment and retention crisis has led to the creation of a new qualification which aims to stablise a significant threat to international education systems.

As a key member of the Department for Education’s (DfE) Expert Working Group, Professor Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society at the University of Sunderland, has worked with colleagues in both the UK and overseas to develop a new internationally recognised qualification – iQTS (International Qualified Teacher Status).

The qualification is built on evidence-based English methods and standards of teacher training, with consideration of the wide variety of settings trainees may be in. It is intended to provide opportunities for accredited English Initial Teacher Training (ITT) providers to expand into the growing international teacher training market and make high-quality training accessible around the world.

The University of Sunderland has been one of the iQTS pilot providers. Professor McKenna says:

“There is a recognised recruitment and retention crisis internationally in teaching. The supply of qualified teachers continues to be unstable, which poses a significant threat to global education systems.

“In England, the Department for Education (DfE) has not met targets for teacher recruitment in key subjects such as physics. Alongside the worrying increase in the number of experienced teachers leaving the profession, school leaders will have a difficult job ensuring that sufficient subject specialist teachers are in front of classes this September.”

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) revealed that Primary ITT applications are 15% lower than the same time last year, while secondary applications are only 2% higher despite increases to some secondary bursaries.

Alongside this, Professor McKenna highlighted the growth of international schools across the world and the number of students attending them. A new report from ISC Research, on behalf of the Independent Schools Council, records that in the last 10 years, the number of international schools has increased by more than 50%, with the figure now at 13,190. There has also been a 53% rise in student enrolments to 6.5 million.

“The international schools’ sector is flourishing. However, the sector is struggling to attract and retain high-quality teachers,” says Professor McKenna.

She added, “The UK is recognised across the world for its high-quality education and research. Education exports make an important contribution to the UK economy as well as helping us build global relationships. With international competition increasing, it is increasingly important that we take steps to preserve the UK’s world leading position.”

As a pilot provider of the new IQTS, the University of Sunderland has drawn on 24 years’ experience of training teachers in the international sector through its innovative distance learning provision. From September 2023, there will be 15 UK based providers of iQTS, with Sunderland expecting to train over 200 students through this route.

During 2022/23, the University is training 881 teachers in the UK. Worldwide, the University has 944 teacher training students in 60 countries and 350 teachers studying on its Masters’ programmes in education.

Professor McKenna explains:

“This new qualification will prove to be attractive to the international schools’ sector. It is intended to support schools outside the UK to recruit, retain and develop local talent and increase the pool of quality teachers and support global mobility within the teaching profession.

“For international school leaders, investing in the new iQTS qualification for staff and prospective staff in international schools demonstrates a commitment to retaining and valuing staff and an investment in the qualification itself.

“We know that staff who are offered the opportunity to achieve qualifications and to continue with their professional development are more likely to stay in the profession”.

Professor Lynne McKenna has recently returned from a Department of Business and Trade Great Education Teacher Training Mission to Malaysia (20th-21st February 2023) where she met with officials from the British High Commission, Malaysia Ministry of Education officials, teacher training providers and leaders from large international schools’ groups. In all her meetings, Professor McKenna was able to present on the value of the new iQTS qualification.

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