This year England faces a significant shortfall in the number of trainee teachers, with only 13,102 out of the targeted 26,360 registering for the secondary teacher training places available (DfE). Moreover, on current trends, at least a third of these trainees are likely to leave the teaching profession by 2030.
This teacher shortage is not unique to England; it is a global issue, with the international schools sector alone needing an additional 158,400 more teachers by 2028 (ISC Research 2023), and a staggering 44 million teachers required by all education systems worldwide by the same year (UNESCO 2023).
In England this crisis is driven by various factors, including low pay, poor working conditions, discontentment with Ofsted and a lack of respect for the teaching profession.
“The lack of flexible working for teachers creates a competitive disadvantage.”
Furthermore, since the Covid pandemic, education is one of the largest employers globally, along with health and medical services, that has so far been unable to offer flexible working arrangements for its workforce at scale. Compared to a number of other graduate professions, this lack of flexible working for teachers creates a competitive disadvantage for the education sector.
This teacher supply crisis has been like a grey rhino in the distance, waiting to charge at us for at least a decade. Bearing in mind this impending crisis and the Mckinsey report (2007) that ‘the quality of a school system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers,’ British School Muscat implemented a succession of comprehensive 3-year employment strategies starting back in 2015.
With the objective of maintaining our ability to attract, recruit, and retain quality teachers, our most recent 3 employment strategy has 5 key strands:
- Competitive pay and conditions;
- An attractive professional development offer;
- A substantial investment in staff well-being;
- A commitment to clear and empathetic communication;
- Creating an innovative coaching culture where dialogue and trust inspire growth.
However, despite our best efforts, like many schools in the UK and international sectors, we are continuing to experience challenges in recruiting specialist teachers, particularly at the secondary level.
How will schools in the UK, the international sector and education systems around the world recruit the teachers they need as the supply of qualified staff fails to keep up with the demand?
“We are continuing to experience challenges in recruiting specialist teachers.”
One option is to phase-out some subjects from the curriculum for which teachers cannot be recruited. That might be a solution, albeit unpopular with students and parents, for a small number of minority subjects such as German, Latin and Law.
More radically, some schools have turned to innovative solutions such as hybrid learning models. For instance, at our partner school in Dhofar, 1000 km from Muscat, British School Salalah (BSS) has been offering ‘FlexEd’ since 2019.
In FlexEd, students at Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 study a third of their courses online, a third face-to-face, and a third through independent study supported by the AI powered personalised learning platform Century. FlexEd reduces the number of face to face teachers required to staff the GCSE and A Level curriculum. This approach has been a catalyst for the expansion of the secondary school from 15 students at Key Stage 3 to 80 students at KS3, KS4 and KS5 and at an affordable price point for parents.
“Students learn Spanish with a teacher in France and computing with a teacher in Muscat.”
The FlexEd model not only provides flexibility for students, it also offers an opportunity for teachers to work anytime, anywhere. This approach enables BSS to access an increasing worldwide talent pool of educators who still want to teach but maybe not in a bricks and mortar school for five days a week.
For example, students learn Spanish with a teacher based in France and computing with a teacher based in British School Muscat. In both cases, as the teachers are highly experienced and committed to online teaching, the learning experience for the students is very positive indeed.
“The global teacher recruitment crisis presents an opportunity for flexible learning and working.”
Every week we see the emergence of another online school or programme; with ever more powerful artificial intelligence driving the quality of online learning. Amongst the most notable hybrid pioneers is the indefatigable Melissa Mcbride, founder of Sophia High School, the first DfE accredited online school. Melissa is creating a dynamic, supportive and rapidly expanding network of like minded innovators to reimagine education through the #DisruptEd brand of events and webinars.
In light of these developments, the global teacher recruitment crisis, while posing significant challenges, also presents an opportunity for flexible learning and working arrangements, as well as a greater diversity of educational options to meet more needs of more students more fully than before.
In conclusion, the global teacher recruitment crisis is a pressing issue that requires attention and innovative solutions. While traditional recruitment and retention strategies are important, the education sector must also be open to embracing flexible working models and alternative forms of educational provision.
By doing so, it can not only address the immediate challenges posed by the teacher shortage but also pave the way for a more diverse and adaptable education system that better serves the needs of students in the years to come.