British teachers are among the best paid teachers in Europe. The numbers don’t lie; British teachers have a starting salary of around £22,000, with teachers in inner London starting near £28,000.
UK teachers are paid well — nearly twice as much per hour than their peers in France — and work for fewer hours than their colleagues throughout Europe. But if this is the case, what is the reason behind the recent migration of British teachers from Britain to Gulf countries? Some of our country’s top policy makers are warning that there is a possibility for teacher ‘brain drain’ in the UK, and there are a few explanations behind a possible future staffing crisis in British schools.
There is a tendency by our government to wait a while before increasing salaries for our teachers; the 1% increase in 2014 took almost one year to go into effect. Whenever our teachers raise the issue of salary and remuneration, the government is quick to point at the statistics that our teachers are well-paid compared to other countries. This might be true, but the cost of living and taxation policies are different, so they aren’t comparing compensation in real terms. British teachers may start with more money, but after the taxman takes his cut and a higher cost of living are taken into account, there isn’t much left.
While our teachers work for shorter hours and are reasonably well-compensated hourly, they also tend to deal with larger classes. This means that they have a higher work load than teachers elsewhere, and schools with many students are forced frequently to stretch their budgets.
In 2015, policies changed to allow schools to determine how much of a salary increase our teachers would have depending on their individual performance. While this provides an opportunity for teachers to be rewarded for excellentwork, it also closed the door for sufficient remuneration. British schools can only increase salaries if those increases fit school budget. This means that even the highest earning teacher can only see a salary increase of 2%, which is very low compared to the Far East and Gulf countries in which teachers can receive salary boosts of more than 5%.
Finding a job in a timely fashion also plays a role. After graduation, British university grads often go for more than a full year without jobs — the lure of a well-compensated foreign job can prove to be too strrong. This, combined with the fact that British schools have opened branches in countries where the basic education system has traditionally used the British model, has led to a migration of graduates. Instead of waiting a whole year to get their dream job, many of our graduates are moving to other countries to get paid immediately after graduating from school. In turn, our schools are ending up hiring a significant number of teachers overseas from countries such as Jamaica, Canada and South Africa.
There is a pressing need for all stakeholders to come together to solve the UK’s brain drain problem. It will take a mix of fiscal changes, better teacher hiring/retention, and programmes to attract the best candidates to the profession. But if the government and the education sector stall on creating efficient interventions as they have with increasing compensation, both teaching and staffing will become a major hindrance to British education in the future.