Thursday, 30 May 2013

There's a brain drain coming - the battle to attract and retain talented educators has begun.

As educators we have long seen it part of our responsibility to prepare our pupils for careers working in the global economy. Like many Headteachers a regular theme of my assemblies is to remind the school that they are going to be competing in a marketplace for top jobs not only against the brightest and best in the UK but against the cream of the crop from around the world.The interesting development is that the same arguments now also apply to the staff room. 
With the explosion of new top quality independent schools in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, there are now unprecedented opportunities for teachers abroad too. In a recent conversation at the ISBA conference, one CEO of a schools group backed by venture capitalists put estimates of the number of additional English-speaking teachers required in the Middle East in the next ten years at 300,000; Dubai alone needs 100,000. Given the relative tax regimes, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that many of these will come from the UK. Ten years ago having overseas schools experience on the C.V. was viewed at worst with suspicion ("Something must have happened for him to have to go abroad") and, at best, as a rather colourful deviation from the best practice we have in the UK. Soon it will be an essential component of any aspirational teacher's career.
Government and School Governors take note: there is going to be an enormous battle ahead to attract and retain our best educational talent. (I acknowledge that it is a generalisation, but) it is most likely that this will impact most on those at the the beginning and end of their careers, for, on the whole, it will be the under 30s, who are yet to start families, and the over 50s, whose families have left home, who are more likely to be free to move abroad.

A global market in NQTs

In a world where young teachers are starting work burdened by student debts and with little prospect of getting together a deposit for a mortgage on a house, how will UK schools in independent sectors continue to recruit the best talent when schools in the Middle and Far East are offering competitive packages with  tax-free salaries teaching highly motivated students? Here at Berkhamsted we have one solution that is making a great difference and that is that we are able to offer subsidised accommodation to recent graduates which enables them to save enough for the first deposit to get them onto the housing ladder. More schools need to look to initiatives like this, if they are to maintain high standards of graduate recruitment.

A global market in Senior Leadership
It is not just teachers who will be heading abroad: Headteachers, Senior Leaders and School Inspectors will get in on the act too. Indeed we have begun to see it already: Vicky Tuck, former head of Cheltenham Ladies and President of GSA, is now Director General of the International School of Geneva; Dr Helen Wright, former Head of St Mary's Calne and GSA President, is now Headmistress of Ascham School in Sydney Australia; Dr Chris Ray, High Master of Manchester Grammar and Chairman of HMC is moving next year to be Principal of The British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi, and Frances King, Headmistress of Roedean is moving to be Director of the Coll├Ęge Alpin Beau Soleil, Switzerland. And it's not just senior school heads, Paul Brewster, Head of the Beacon Prep School and one of the driving forces behind the Prep IB, is moving to become the Chief Education Officer for Repton International. All leading lights in the UK independent sector wooed abroad. The brain drain has begun.
Retaining the very best Senior Leadership talent will be more of a challenge for Independent Schools. Ultimately there is little more Governing bodies can do than to offer very attractive remuneration packages; thus it is highly likely that we will see salary levels for top Senior Leaders rise sharply over the coming decade as a consequence

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