Teacher shortages in the UK: a summary of the MAC’s recommendations

10 Feb 2017



On 26 January the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) released their report on Teacher shortages in the UK. It recommends which type of teachers should be included in the government’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL).

The SOL identifies roles which are difficult to fill due to skills shortages, and which need to be addressed with migration from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) via Tier 2 (general) visas.

Roles included on the SOL can be offered to non-EEA migrants without first being advertised to UK residents. This is important for recruiters and employers operating in sectors where skills shortages are rife, because it removes a barrier when trying to bring in talent from abroad to fill vacancies.

Assessing skills needs in education

When the committee was tasked with investigating skills shortages within education, physics, chemistry and maths teachers already appeared on the SOL.

The MAC has now recommended that chemistry is removed from the SOL, and that general science, computer science and mandarin should be included.

While the addition of these subjects is to be welcomed, our members have indicated a number of other subjects where there are continuous difficulties in finding suitable candidates. These include design and technology, foreign languages, geography and business studies.

In our consultation responses to the committee, the REC has emphasised that as well as assessing the raw number of teachers in the market, government should consider that not all teachers are suitable candidates for vacancies. It is difficult to quantify, but there is a proportion of the teaching workforce that does not meet the standards set by schools, meaning that the available talent pool could be smaller than it appears on paper.

Bringing in temporary resource

Another interesting finding from the report, based partly on REC member feedback, is that employers are making extensive use of the temporary Tier 5 (youth mobility scheme) visas to bring in talent from Canada, New Zealand, and Australia in particular.

Tier 5 visas are the preferred route for many agencies as they do not require sponsorship from prospective employers. For some of our members, a Tier 2 visa will only be pursued if the Tier 5 route is unavailable. The REC will continue to monitor these developments in the sector.

Working with government

During the consultation period the REC hosted the MAC and provided access to members in the education sector who could give an ‘on the ground’ assessment of skills needs.

Time will tell if the recommendations are enacted by government, and if these help to address the shortage of suitable teachers. The REC will continue to make the case for a flexible migration system which allows the UK to source talented teachers from around the world.

For more information on this and all the latest policy and legal developments, please attend our upcoming education sector meeting on 1st March.

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