UK Reeling From Teacher ‘Brain Drain’ Exodus Abroad


Many of the UK’s teachers, especially the young and newly-trained, are moving out of their home country to seek professional opportunities elsewhere.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of England’s education watchdog Ofsted, has spoken about how many of the country’s teachers have moved abroad, to the detriment of the UK’s education system.

Many are leaving because they are offered better pay in schools overseas. Often, they receive a tax-free salary and free or subsidized accommodation in countries that have a higher standard of living than the UK.

Other teachers are looking to avoid the immense pressure and constant criticism of the UK working environment. Schools abroad often require fewer working hours, a more forgiving workload, and less strict adherence to standardized testing.

The warmer climate in popular destinations likely also plays a significant part in decisions to move abroad.

This loss of teachers to other countries is exacerbating an existing crisis in the UK– there aren’t enough qualified teachers for the rapidly expanding number of students.

Wilshaw said:

We have to act now to address this growing imbalance. If we do not, all the well-intentioned reforms to schools structures, curricula and assessment regimes… will be undermined. A school, and a school system is only ever as good as its teachers.

18.000 teachers left the UK to work elsewhere last year compared to the 17.000 who took postgraduate training, reports the Daily Mail.

Rozina Sini of the BBC compiled interviews from teachers who left the UK to teach abroad. Adrianna Boden and her husband Andrew, both teachers, moved from London to Qatar in 2014, citing twelve-hour days and mountains of paperwork as reasons for leaving. When they didn’t have the energy to enjoy their weekends, they decided to move to Qatar.

Boden said:

The package we were offered in Qatar was good, and the pay is much better than in the UK. Our bills and accommodation are paid for, and the standard of living is superior.

David Draper, a head teacher in Surrey, left the UK in 1998 to teach in Turkey, where he was the head of a British School, and then went on to open the first British School in Azerbaijan. He left the UK because:

… the pressure and workload were so much that I saw many colleagues suffer breakdowns.

The number of international schools is predicted to double to 15,000 in the next decade because of an increase in global relocation and more families desiring an international education for their children.

England in particular is subject to this drain because English is the most widely-used language and its curriculum is the most common at international schools, reports Nick Morrison of Forbes.

According to Sally Weale of the Guardian, Wilshaw suggests creating financial incentives and contractual obligations to keep teachers in the country.

Leora Cruddas, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, proposes a system in which the government gradually writes off the undergraduate tuition of teachers as long as they teach in the UK.

Russel Hobby, general secretary of the school leaders’ NAHT union, suggests instead that the workload could be scaled back and teachers could be treated with more respect, thereby elevating the profession’s status and preventing teachers from seeking opportunity elsewhere.