Thursday, 14 January 2016

Letter from Dubai: The Teacher Recruitment Crisis: the UK cannot compete in a Global Marketplace

Teacher recruitment is top of the agenda for the senior leadership teams in most schools in the UK.
What hasn't been recognised in the debates in the UK media is that Britain is now competing for teachers in a global marketplace. Britain is not alone in struggling to find suitably qualified school leaders and teachers to stand in front of classes. There is a worldwide teacher recruitment crisis at every level: from classroom teachers through to school Principals. Schools are chasing the top talent; middle and senior leaders are in short supply; and specialist teachers in STEM subjects are at a premium.

Britain's immigration policies and tax regime means that Britain is simply not equipped to compete in this global market place.  Britain makes it difficult for talented teachers around the world to move to the UK; and the levels of taxation and the cost of living mean that teachers' salaries in the UK are unattractive.
Allow me to illustrate,
  • Experienced teachers in the England and Wales (ex. London) on the Upper pay range (U3) earn £37,8713; even with a Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR1), they earn £50,641 (Source: NASUWT website)
  • Experienced teacher in Inner London on the Upper pay range (U3) earn £46.365; even with a Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR1), they earn £58,635 (Source: NASUWT website)
By comparison:
  • An experienced classroom teacher in a top school in Dubai earns £69,000 [AED 370,000] in salary and allowances; and medical care is provided by the employer. That's the equivalent pre-tax salary of over £100,000 in the UK. Granted that living in Dubai is expensive, but no more expensive than living in London.
  • The key differences between working in London and working in Dubai
  1. that there is limited job security (one-year and two-year renewable contracts are common);
  2. there is no state-guaranteed teachers' pension scheme (instead an end of service gratuity equivalent to three weeks' salary for every year worked is paid); 
  3. teachers with children may have to pay/contribute to school fees;
  4. the sun shines every day!
Working overseas is no longer the hardship posting that it was 20 years ago. The international schools market is much more mature. There have always been outstanding British schools overseas (JESS and Dubai College in Dubai; Tanglin in Singapore etc.), but the marketplace has exploded in the past ten years as commercial school chains (such as Nord Anglia and GEMS) have spread their reach, and as Independent Schools from the UK (and elsewhere) establish franchise schools (Repton Dubai) or establish subsidiary companies (Dulwich InternationalHarrow International) around the world . These factors have meant that working abroad has never been a more attractive career step for teachers.
There are 21 schools set to open in the UAE in 2016 (National 29/09/2015). They will all be looking to attract top senior and middle managers and to recruit top teachers from around the world. This will mean that there is likely to be a significant short-term recruitment crisis in the UAE, but laws that actively attract immigration and an advantageous tax regime mean that it is unlikely to last long!


  1. Mark thanks for this. I has rained ceaselessly here since September, so I can see the appeal!

  2. Interesting comparisons Mark. It's a pity that in some instances married women are not afforded the same remuneration package as men. Some time back when I had a swift look at what was on offer, the small print concluded that married women were salary only. Unfortunately, that makes it an expensive move for some. Lesson: read the small print! :0)