New visa rules for immigrants have been announced, but low salaries in teaching mean that many desperately-needed international teachers will still not be eligible to teach in the UK.
Teacher pay too low to qualify
A new government white paper proposes an ease of the UK VISA rules for non-EU immigrants with the intention to maintain a vital flow of talent to Britain after our departure from the EU. However, the new rules include a salary minimum of £30,000, which precludes a high proportion of immigrating teachers, who are typically young or single people within the first 5 years of their teaching career.
The UK national teacher pay scale does not reach the £30,000 threshold until a teacher has 5 years’ experience. Only teachers moving to central London can earn this by their second year of teaching.
Currently, international workers are required to be “highly skilled” which is to be changed to “skilled”. The term, “skilled” is not defined in the paper, but skilled workers will still have to have a minimum qualification of A-Level equivalent or above as well as a valid job offer before they arrive.
Luna Williams, Political Correspondent from IAS immigration services comments: “While the immigration white paper does offer some clarification as to how the UK immigration system will change after Brexit (assuming a deal is agreed), there are certain issues which have still not be clarified. The minimum salary threshold of £30,000 is particularly concerning, as many necessary international skilled professionals would not come close to meeting this figure, including many of those placed in the education sector. With Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teachers already named on the UK shortage occupation list, limiting the number of teachers who can enter the UK from the EU could add even more subjects to it.”
Despite being a known problem, a solution was not reached as part of the White Paper drafting, which states: “Some higher skilled occupations may be affected, such as IT and telecommunications professionals and teaching and educational professionals where a relatively large share of employees within the occupation currently earn below £30,000”.
Positive news for experienced international teachers
The changes are be good news for teachers from countries like Australia and Canada whose teaching qualifications can be commuted to the UK.
‘Skilled’ non-EU immigrants like Australians, who are attracting a salary of more than £30,000, will be able to secure their work visas more quickly and in a less complicated way from the end of 2020. Additionally, the current monthly quota of permissible entries from ‘low risk’ countries like Australia will be lifted in December 2020, to bring in international labour such as doctors and engineers, until 2025. Currently, teachers from outside the EU and Switzerland have to wait for several months to apply for a "Tier 2" general work visa that lasts for 5 years.
The White Paper quotes: “At present, we have a dual system of admitting only highly skilled workers from outside the EU, and workers of all skill levels from the EU. We will replace this with a single route which gives access to highly skilled and skilled workers from all countries. Those coming to the UK on this route will need an employer to sponsor them. We propose to allow individuals who meet the requirements to bring dependents, extend their stay and switch to other routes, and in some cases, settle permanently.”
There will also be a 12-month visa version for lower-skilled workers as a "transitional measure". People from "low-risk countries" from both in and outside of the EU to come to the UK even without a job offer and spend up to one year looking for a job. Currently, social care and construction are industries strongly reliant on the international workforce.
- Should teaching be paid more, as it falls so far below other ‘skilled’ professions?
- Should we be investing more into home-grown teaching talent (particularly for subjects like languages?
- Should the teaching profession be exempt from the minimum salary threshold for visas all together?
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About the author
Katie Newell BA(Hons) PGCE is an ex-primary school teacher, Head of Maths, Head of Year five and languages specialist. Katie qualified in Psychology at Liverpool then specialised in Primary Languages for her PGCE at Reading. Before teaching, Katie was a financial commentator and is now the Content Manager for eteach.com and fejobs.com. Katie feels passionately that teachers are the unsung heroes of society; that opening minds to creative timetabling could revolutionise keeping women in teaching, and that a total change to pupil feedback is the key to solving the work life balance issue for the best job in the world.